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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Thursday - February 17, 2011

From: Stevens Point, WI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Should I Prune Oak Trees in February in Wisconsin?
Answered by: Mike Tomme

QUESTION:

I need to cut some oak branches but am worried about oak wilt. You told an earlier questioner not to cut in February. I live in Wisconsin and it has been very cold lately. Am I okay to cut the branches?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants is not sure which earlier question you are referring to, but I suspect it may be this one that discussed pruning oak trees in central Texas. There are some important differences between Texas and Wisconsin besides the way we talk.

February in Central Texas is often more like spring than like winter. In fact, as I write this, on February 17, it is 74 degrees here in Austin. So, the insects that spread oak wilt get active earlier around here than where you live.

Here is a link to a USDA Forest Service site that discusses prevention of oak wilt in Wisconsin. This is a portion of their advice:

Do not prune or wound oaks during their entire growing season. The growing season begins when the buds swell in early spring and ends in fall when frosts and freeze-up occurs. The beginning and end dates of the growing season vary each year, depending on weather conditions in different areas of the state. Please be aware that avoiding pruning and wounding of oak trees during the entire growing season is a more cautious approach than is recommended in most publications. If an oak tree must be pruned or is wounded during the growing season, immediately cover the wound with a tree wound paint.

Mr. Smarty Plants would add to this that, whenever you cut a limb that is bigger than your thumb, you should always paint the wound and you should always disinfect your tools prior to cutting with a 10% bleach solution. Do this before you begin and again between each tree.

 

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