Today’s blog is a complete guide to Oak tree care. After reading this you will be fully able to sow and grow your very own Oak tree!
There are a jaw dropping 600 species of Oak across the world! This makes them one of the most prevalent trees to populate our forests. Due to the oaks’ highly adaptable nature, the species has mastered the ability to thrive in almost any climate.
Sadly, despite the oaks evolutionary talents, a decline in numbers has been recognised over the years. Local wildlife have been identified as the main culprit for this deterioration. Trees generate acorns as a way to repopulate, but many forest dwelling creatures see a tasty snack instead. This is why Oak Tree Care has never been more important!
If you have been toying with the idea of planting an oak tree yourself, take the leap! Your contribution will reinforce the effort to conserve oak trees and increase their presence once more.
Getting to know your Oak Tree
The majority of oak trees fit into one of two categories: Red Oaks or White Oaks. But how can you tell the difference? You won’t be-leaf it!
If you have spotted an oak with leaves that are pointed at the lobes and have bristly tips, you will have discovered a red oak tree. Acorns from a red oak prefer to germinate in spring so you can collect these in autumn and store them to grow later. Place your acorn and some soil in a resealable plastic bag and pop it in the fridge until you are ready to plant.
You may have stumbled across an oak tree with leaves that are much more rounded at the edges. Congratulations you have successfully identified a white oak tree! Acorns from a white oak tree can germinate in the autumn months, so unlike it’s red counterpart, it’s best to plant these acorns as soon as they fall.
Either species will make the perfect addition to your garden. So let’s get growing!
Oak Tree Care: Planting
By far the most natural way to plant an oak tree begins by gathering some acorns. This method is the most inexpensive for oak tree care considering acorns are free; and it’s a lot of fun for the whole family!
You may opt to purchase an oak tree in it’s beginning years and transplant it instead. We will jump in with details on how to achieve this a little later in our guide.
The vast majority of oak trees grow to an enormous scale. Ensure the plot you have in mind will still provide plenty of space for the tree and its roots for years to come. 3 meters apart from any other trees should provide ample room for your oak to thrive for hundreds of years.
Selecting your Acorns
Try to resist grabbing the first acorns that fall to the ground. Waiting for the second flush to fall will ensure you have the most prosperous acorns to plant. You want your acorns to be a fat, ripe and beautiful brown colour. Any that are green (unripe) or blackened (rotting) are to be avoided.
Gathering your Acorns
Be sure to gather handfuls of acorns! You may think you have gone too far, but we assure grabbing a few more is necessary. The germination achievement rate of acorns is somewhat unreliable, so help yourself to a few extra.
*Top Tip: For the ultimate oak tree care from the beginning be sure to examine your acorns for small holes that could indicate insects have been interfering. Remove the caps to inspect more thoroughly and discard any that look suspicious.
Soak them Overnight
This is a clever little trick to eliminate any acorns that may sneak through the inspection phase. Place your newly gathered acorns in a container of water and leave them overnight. In the morning you may notice some acorns are floating and others are not. The ones that surface are likely defective in some way, so be sure to fish these out of the mix.
Add to Soil
Grab yourself a small plant pot and fill the bottom with an inch of soil. Then add a couple of acorns and cover with more compost and a sprinkling of sawdust.
*Make sure your acorns face upward as you plant them!
You can plant white oak immediately after soaking. With red oak you will want to place your acorn in a sealable plastic bag, along with some soil and sawdust and leave it for 8 weeks. Only after completing this stage of oak tree care it is time to move on!
Store your plants
Be sure to place your newly potted plants in a cool room inside or out, avoiding spaces near direct sunlight. Lightly water your acorns a couple of times a week just to keep the soil moist. Continue this ritual as your seeds start to germinate. If any green shoots become visible…It’s happening!
Once your seedlings have reached roughly 25cm in height they will need transplanting to a bigger pot. Gently remove your plant from its original pot, place it in your new one, cover with soil and start the process again. We recommend continuing this process for a couple of years, at which point your tree will be ready for the outside world!
Oak Tree Care: Planting your Sapling
Those of you that opted to purchase a sapling, your journey begins here! Be Sure to have a quick read of the first section Space under the heading Oak Tree Care: Planting, before continuing.
Finally you can re-home your oak in the spot you picked out a couple of years ago. Make sure it still has a desired 3 meter distance from any other tree. Begin digging a hole deep enough in the ground to fit your plant. If you uncover any roots as you dig, you can either clear them, cut them or remove them altogether. You don’t want any other plants to interfere with the roots of your tree.
Once you have dug the perfect hole, you need to free your tree from its plant pot. You may have to tap the bottom of the pot quite a bit, but with a lot of care and some well placed force, your tree will be released. Before planting in the ground, be sure to untangle the roots and help them to point outwards. Failure to do this could be fatal for your tree.
Pop it in the ground and cover in soil. The hard work is done! Continue to practice oak tree care by watering your tree until it has established itself and protecting it from wildlife.
Oak Tree Care
We want to give you the best chance of successfully raising a mature oak. So here are some quick tips for nurturing your tree.
In order to offer your new oak the ultimate protection against wildlife, you can place small wire cages over the top of your new tree until it has grown five foot in length. Be sure not to dig these into the ground, you do not want the roots to become attached to the cage.
Keep the area around your oak weed free!
Step away from the fertiliser! Oak trees take their time to grow, trying to speed things up will only rush a delicate process and weaken your tree. This will lead to splitting wood and broken branches.
Feel free to Mulch with oak leaves, but don’t overload your tree with debris. It could cause your trunk to begin rotting.
Your oak tree will benefit from regular pruning throughout its life to encourage growth spurts and for removal of deadwood or disease. If you are completely new to the world of pruning, why not check out our blog A Gardeners’ Guide to Pruning for a quick brush up on the basics.
Oak Tree Care: Pests
You now have yourself a fully established oak tree! Tree-mendous! But wait, our hard work and care doesn’t end there. Regularly inspect your tree for any of these symptoms to protect it from pests and disease. If you do spot something troubling, you may need the help of a professional. Feel free to get in touch and seek some friendly advice from our team.
Appears in the form of a white/grey powder sprinkled on the leaves and shoots of your tree. In time leaves begin to turn black and lose moisture. It commonly lurks its head during periods of damp, humid, summer weather and contributes to oak decline.
If dark liquid starts to leak from the trunk of your tree, or you notice small 3mm holes popping up all over the place, you may have oak decline. Earlier signs appear in the form of yellowing leaves, lesser leaves and dead branches; Although these symptoms are not exclusive to oak decline.
If you come across a confirmed case of Oak Decline, you can report it for research and conservation purposes to the Forestry Commission via their Tree Service Alert.
Knobbly looking growths that are visible at the end of acorns. These are the cause of tiny wasps known commonly as gall wasps. Whilst this won’t be fatal for your tree, it will affect your acorns ability to germinate.
Totrix Roller Moth
If you notice your oak is losing its leaves around May/June time or your leaves seem to have rolled up into tubes, you may have moths. As a caterpillar these creatures feed on the leaves of your tree. Serious infections can completely rid your tree of leaves and it will no longer be able to photosynthesise.
And there you have it, your complete guide to Oak Tree Care. If you do spot something troubling, you may need the help of a professional. Feel free to in-tree-duce yourself to our professionals and receive some friendly advice from our team.