Do It Yourself Tips

There are countless ways to improve your trees and shrubs that don’t involve a ladder and a chainsaw. As trees begin to “relax” from the stress of summer, here are some helpful tips for getting out and getting your hands dirty:

Mulch Diagram.jpg
  • Get out and mulch your trees! Adding or re-applying a 2-3” layer of mulch around the base of your trees will pay dividends. Here are the benefits:

    • It keeps the mower and weed eater away from the base of the tree. Mechanical damage accounts for a considerable portion of stress and mortality for young trees.

    • It normalizes soil temperatures. Mulch helps keep the spoil profile warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot, which helps extend your tree’s growing season.

    • It helps retain moisture and feeds the tree. Mulch breaks down and creates the optimal food for your tree to convert into resources used to help grow. It also acts as a natural sponge that helps maintain moisture around the critical root zone.

    • Beware of the mulch volcano! Do not pile up mulch around the base of the tree. This can cause serious rot and decay that will eventually harm your tree.

    • Mulch also suppresses competitive weeds.

  • Do some pruning! Before the leaves, drop dead wood is obvious. Therefore fall is a great time to prune out dead branches and limbs.

    • Make sure to make proper pruning cuts outside of the branch collar, at appropriate unions. A detailed breakdown of proper pruning will occur in the Winter newsletter, so be ready.

    • Remember to spray cuts on Oak trees immediately with pruning seal.

    • If you have to hop on a ladder and cut above your head, DON’T DO IT!

    • Make sure and use a sharp pair of loppers or pruning shears to make a clean cut. Clean cuts seal over quicker than poor, jagged cuts.

Fall 2019 Tree Care

Here are some big things to know about your trees going into Fall:

  • Fall is an excellent time to plant trees! Trees are recovering from Summer stress and are moving towards dormancy which makes them easier to transport and plant. Throughout winter, their roots will remain active in stabilizing themselves and acquiring resources for the upcoming growing season. An additional advantage to planting in the fall is that it allows our arborists to see the leaf structure of a tree before it is planted.

Stunning Fall color from a Red Oak in the Texas Hill Country. Crew Leader, LT Quinn, is seen pruning this specimen to improve overall structure.

Stunning Fall color from a Red Oak in the Texas Hill Country. Crew Leader, LT Quinn, is seen pruning this specimen to improve overall structure.

  • Early leaf drop or fall color can be a problem. If your deciduous tree (Pecan, Red Oak, Post Oak, Cedar Elm, etc…) has begun changing color or dropping leaves already, it is exhibiting signs of stress and should be evaluated by our arborists for any underlying problems. Generally, these types of problems are a matter of drought stress, nutrient deficiency, pest damage, or many others. Schedule a consultation today if you have these concerns.

  • Fertilization is helpful. Direct fertilization aims to extend the growing season and replenish energy reserves that are used to create new growth for the next growing season. It is not uncommon to see a tree push new growth in the fall as conditions, often moisture and temperature, are optimal. A prescribed fertilizer should create an immediate growth response but will also help build an active, long term soil environment that maximizes tree health.

  • Fall color can be different from year to year! The timing and quantity of various environmental factors like precipitation, daylight, and temperature dictate the intensity of a tree’s fall color. The color, whether brown, red, orange, or yellow varies between species but occurs due to the lack of chlorophyll production as a tree slides into dormancy. As chlorophyll exits a tree’s leaves, other pigments are left to exhibit many of the colors that we associate with Fall.

  • Don’t stop watering yet! Trees are still actively transpiring (sweating) during the fall months and can experience drought damage if left unattended. While rain is more common, temperatures can still approach the 90’s during these months which means that supplemental watering for young trees is still important to ensure a smooth transition into dormancy. Adding mulch and maintaining a less frequent, deep watering cycle will help keep trees growing vigorously and extend the growing season.

Is this Oak Wilt?


This is a frequently asked question in the Texas Hill Country and if you're looking at the picture to the side, then the answer is, yes.  Unfortunately, the effects of Oak Wilt in the Hill Country have been felt for awhile now and will continue to be felt for years to come.  It's important to be educated on the subject of Oak Wilt as chances are, it will affect you in one way or another.  Let's take a look at what we know about Oak Wilt.

Facts about Oak Wilt 

  • Vascular disease caused by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum
  • Affects all families of Oak trees (Red Oaks and Live Oaks are most susceptible)
  • Oak Wilt attacks the vascular system of Oaks and ceases water/sap movement into the crown of the tree
  • Oak Wilt has killed over 1 million trees in Texas, according to the Texas A&M Forestry Service
  • Oak Wilt predominantly moves through root networks but is also transmitted via aerial vectors like the Nitidulid Beetle
  • The Nitidulid Beetle transmits the fungal spore from Spanish oak trees to Live Oak trees as its attraction to Oak sap causes it to move naturally to open wounds where sap is present
  • Infected Live Oak trees will often exhibit veinal necrosis (seen in photo above) or occasionally tip burn (seen to the right)

Oak Wilt originates in the native Texas Red Oak (Spanish Oak) and forms fungal pads underneath the the bark.  In Fredericksburg, Tx, and the surrounding Hill Country, Oak Wilt has moved aggressively killing thousands of Oak trees over the last decade.  This rapid movement is amplified by the dense, monoculture Live Oak forests that have developed throughout the region.  The formed root grafts create a "highway" system for the fungus to move from tree to tree, infecting motts at a rapid pace. When Live Oak trees become infected, they will generally defoliate from the crown of the canopy downward and the foliage will develop a reddish-brown tint.  This process can take 2 weeks- 6 months and varies in length depending on the cultivar.  During this time, a tree can be diagnosed by a Certified Arborist and a management strategy can be created.

Management & Prevention

A preventative approach to any pest or disease is always optimal, however the aggressive development of Oak Wilt throughout the Texas Hill Country has made this difficult.

Identification is the initial step in preventing the spread of Oak Wilt.  Contact a Superior Services Certified Arborist to confirm whether or not Oak Wilt is present. Furthermore, Oak tree pruning should be performed during the winter or summer months as these are the periods of least activity for Oak Wilt movement.  When trees are pruned, wounds should be sprayed with a sealing spray immediately to prevent the exudation of sap.  Equipment should also be sanitized prior to any trimming being performed.

Infected or high-value trees can be considered for chemical treatment of Oak Wilt by a licensed applicator.  The chemical applied is a propiconazole fungicide that is rated for Oak Wilt control.  If used preventatively, this treatment has proven to minimize the risk of tree mortality due to Oak Wilt.  Used in a curative fashion, the fungicide hasn't been as effective.

Trenching to quarantine an Oak Wilt center is another approach recognized by the Forest Services as an effective method of Oak Wilt control.  Trenching is done with a large rock saw that is capable of going at least 4' deep into the soil.  This eliminates any root grafts that might exist.  Back fill is applied immediately to cover the severed roots.

When trees die or become heavily infected with Oak Wilt they should then be removed and disposed of properly.  Proper removal of infected trees includes: burning on site, chipped/ mulched, hauled to licensed disposal site, processed into firewood and moved away from any other Oak trees, or left to season in a debris pile.  The stump should be sealed or removed to eliminate further transmission.

If you'd like to learn more about Oak Wilt, or would like to develop a strategy for dealing with Oak Wilt, contact Superior Services Tree Care today to meet with a Certified Arborist.