Reasons Oaks Are (Im)Perfect In Your Yard!

“Branching Out into an English Landscape” by antonychammond is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The oak tree, a symbol of strength and endurance, is one of those trees known for more than just its incredible size. It is breathtakingly beautiful and majestic also. It also happens to be the most common tree grown in the United States.

This last fact, that these trees are so common, is only a testimony to their popularity. Due to the fact that the oak tree is a rather widespread tree, it must be planted in isolation.

Oaks can grow up to 50 feet in width. This means that it is better to plant the oak trees at least 15-30ft away from any structures. Even subspecies of oaks that are smaller, must be planted at least 15 ft away from other structures and trees.

Due to the spreading of the branches, densely planting oak trees often leads to stunted growth. Most leaves are unable to get enough sunlight in the densely packed leaf cover or photosynthesize and grow.

The question then arises; will this magnificent and strong tree look good in your backyard? The limitations and precautions around planting oak trees makes it seem unlikely the tree will look good in a yard.

However, it is all about placement. In the ideal location, the oak tree is probably the best tree to plant in your garden soil.

Getting to know an Oak Tree

“6b. California black oak leaves” by kqedquest is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Oak Trees belong to the Quercus species of tree. There are more than 500 types of Oaks but they can all be generalized into two main categories.

These are namely classified as White Oak and Red Oak, the two sub-species that dominate the oaks. Though some Red Oaks are also known to have been categorized as Black Oak Trees.

Experts consider Oak Trees to be a tree of medium height. The trees generally have an average adult height of between 60ft-100ft depending on the type of Oak Tree planted.

Other features of the oaks tend to differ amongst oak species. These include rate of growth, shape of crown, shade cover, and the size and shape of the leaves.

Even the leaf varies in color, size and shape although the acorns they produce are one similarity between all oaks. An Oak Tree can produce around 1000 acorns per year. Understandably though, only a small fraction of those acorns manage to grow into a live oak tree.

One fun fact regarding acorns includes its ability to sprout into a new oak tree. Yes, if provided proper care, an acorn can also sprout and grow to become another, beautiful Oak.

Reasons for fewer oaks

“Oak, Genus Quercus” by J. Maughn is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

But if that is the case, why don’t we see thousands of oak trees crowded in a small place? This is because oaks generally require special care and attention to grow from their seeds. 

Sunlight is particularly essential. Acorns that fall in the shade of a live oak tree tend to not get enough sunlight to actually sprout.

This is why, although oaks produce thousands of seeds annually, only one or two will sprout, grow and reach maturity. Oak trees are sure to be found in every woody area of the United States of America.

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The question, however, is whether, or not, an oak tree is a right fit for your backyard. To get into that, let’s explore the different species of oaks. White Oak, Red Oak, and Black Oak are three most popular subspecies.

Differences between the Oak Trees

The over 500 variations of oak trees are categorized either as white oak or red oak. Here the black oak is simply a subspecies of red oak. There are still some traits due to which they are categorized in different groups of oaks though.

White Oak Trees

“Purple Hairstreak Favonius quercus (fav-OH-nee-us KWARE-cuss)” by pete. #hwcp is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

This tree species is native to North America and it can reach an enormous height of around 100ft when fully grown. White oak trees take their time to grow, becoming tall and majestic.

These trees have a lighter gray-toned bark that is also shorter and stockier than the other oak trees. The branches grow upward mimicking an upturned crown.

The leaves of white oak trees are green in spring and summer although they turn orange or red in fall. White oak trees are always mesmerizing and grab attention wherever they are seen.

Red Oak Trees

Red oak trees are easier to grow. A perfect medium-sized oak tree with a beautiful rounded-off crown.

Red oak trees can grow up to 80ft tall with a much faster growth rate compared to white oak trees. The leaves of red oak trees are bristle-tipped with a beautiful rusty brown or red color during the fall season.

Black Oak Trees

A subcategory of the red oak trees, black oak trees have one unique feature, a yellow bark. The leaves are lobed-shaped, bi-colored, and retain a velvety texture throughout the year.

The leaves on this species of oaks have a dark green texture on top and a coppery tone underneath. These leaves are as amazing as the tree itself and reach an impressive height of 100ft.

Black oak trees are not common although they do make a great shade tree. They also have beautiful, dark, almost black trunks.

Apart from these, all other oaks are classified as subspecies and sorted as per traits like leaf, bark and fruit.

Understanding Oaks Better

Oak trees are a symbol of strength. It represents endurance, morale, and wisdom. Oak trees are significant in many cultures around the world. They have a slow-growth rate but have a huge lifespan of up to 300 years. They grow tall, beautiful, and strong. There are around 90+ different variations in the United States alone.

An oak tree can be found with different crowns depending on the type and condition of the oak tree and that is not the only reason it is loved around the world. The bark of an oak tree has therapeutic properties, the fruit of the oak tree, which is the acorn, is fed upon by many different types of animals and is edible to humans. The tree itself provides a home to many animals in the wild as its long-spread branches provide shade to animals.

Red oaks and White oak trees are also important sources of lumber used in construction and construction-related tasks due to the oaks being durable and strong. Moreover, in the cold part of the world, it is among the top choice for people seeking firewood.

Space requirement for Oak Trees

“Oaks (Genus Quercus)” by harum.koh is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

You now have some knowledge regarding the oak trees and how amazing and mesmerizing they can be and you must be wanting to plant one of your own in your backyard, but before you do so, you must consider some important factors that need considering before planting an oak tree.

Do not plant near overhanging structures

Oak trees can grow up to an impressive height and can take a whole lot of space. That is why there must be enough space for the oak tree to grow to the fullest.

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Since oak trees are so tall, you must check for anything that can be in the way of its growing height. Examples include nearby roofs or power lines or other structures that might come in the way. 

These could become a hindrance and nuisance for you and for your tree. With a branch spread of around 50ft, an oak tree requires a clear space on the ground as well as above. This will allow the oak to flaunt its beauty without any obstructions.

Plant your oak tree away from the house

“GOC Sandridge to Harpenden 024: English Oak (Quercus robur)” by Peter O’Connor aka anemoneprojectors is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

As we now know, an oak tree can grow huge and take up a lot of space with its branches spread widely. Not only that but the root can grow into a widespread complex system in itself.

Considering all of these factors, an oak tree must be planted at least 15ft away from the house or shed or any other structure that has been constructed on the soil.

The range increases up-to about 30ft for bigger-sized oak trees. There must not be any restrictions on the way of the growing oak tree and its root system.

If you already have an oak tree in your backyard then it should be properly taken care of. The widely spread branches should be trimmed so that it does not come in contact with the house or anything else

It may not seem so, but branches and the root system cause a serious hazard if the tree is planted near constructed structures.

Underground Space

For trees as huge as oak trees, it is only natural that their root system will also need a vast amount of space to grow properly.

An oak tree should at least have an underground space of about 50ft to make sure that the roots do not get tangled up with any underground structure or utility. The space underground is as important as the soil above ground for the oak tree to grow.

Sunlight or Sunshade?

If you want to have sunlight in your backyard or the front-yard where you are planning to plant a tree then an oak tree might not be a good choice for you. As we now know how high an oak tree can grow and how far its branches spread, there might not be any sunlight left to enjoy as the majority of it will be blocked by the canopy of leaves.

You should first straighten up your priorities whether you want sunlight or sunshade in your backyard. Depending on your preferences, the oak tree can be a great choice or be a nuisance to you since it is costly and difficult to remove after it has grown.

Fruit or Debris?

Glans de roure – Bellotas de roble (Quercus sp.)” by fturmog is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Oak trees produce around 1000 acorns per year. Sounds impressive! But it can prove to be a headache depending on where it is planted.

You wouldn’t want any acorns in your pool now, would you? In fact, you might not even want to constantly pick and remove acorns if they spread in your lounge!

But what if they cause blockages in gutters and such places? With oaks, and the acorns they produce, the pros are just as many as the cons. That’s why an oak tree can be problematic if you haven’t looked at all factors before planting it.

The biggest issue though, is space. You should have enough space to let your tree grow wild and beautiful. Restricting the oak tree will mean inhibiting its growth and not letting it grow and shine the way it should. 

Pros of planting an oak tree in your backyard

So, a final round off here… should you, or shouldn’t you? Read on to make your decision on whether or not you should plant that oak seed in your garden soil.

1. Strength:

“J20170429-0007—Quercus garryana—RPBG” by John Rusk is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Due to its strength and sturdiness, you will not have to worry about disasters. That’s especially true in areas with winds strong enough to knock down trees. This makes oaks a good choice for backyard trees especially in high wind areas.

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2. Beauty

It doesn’t matter whichever variety of oak tree you decide to plant, it’ll not disappoint you in the looks department.

Oak trees have some of the most beautiful autumn colors. They produce a variety of different colored leaves throughout the year, including reds, golds, browns, and oranges.

3. Huge Life Span

Oak trees are known for its endurance and it can grow in almost any environment it is put into. It can survive and grow in many different kinds of soil and is resistant to any disease or fungus.

This resilience also provides oak trees a huge lifespan of about 100s of years. This is also why it’s the most common tree found in the United States.

4. Fruits everywhere

Acorn

High protein and full of nutrition, oak trees produce about 1000s of acorns each year. It is edible by humans and most of the wildlife feed upon these acorns as well.

A healthy oak tree provides up-to a million of these fruits in one lifetime. So not only do holes in oaks provide shelter for wild animals, but also feeds them by providing nutrition. 

5. Attracting wildlife

If you love animals and would love to encounter them in your backyard then this is the perfect tree. Oak trees can attract different birds and animals including ducks, deer and bears. So that’s a win for all animal/ nature lovers out there.

6. Easy to grow

If you want a tree but do not want to put too much effort on it, get an oak tree. Oak trees are very easy to grow, especially taking its low maintenance into account.

Cons of planting an oak tree in your backyard

Then again, there are always two sides of a coin. So it’s best to know the adverse impact of planting an oak in your garden soil before making the decision.

1. Fruits Everywhere?

Imagine proteins and nutrition with a whole lot of mess. That’s what your typical acorn-strewn backyard will look like. Depending on where it is planted, oak trees can prove to be a high maintenance tree also.

The main reason is because of all the cleaning its acorn-induced mess would require. Oak trees also shed highly pollinated flowers so if you have a garden nearby, well then you better buckle up.

2. Huge roots

Oak trees can grow almost as much underground as they do above ground. A nearby underground structure such as utility lines can be damaged or even destroyed by the roots.

3. Why is there a bear in your backyard?

Oak trees attracting wildlife might not be as pretty  a picture for some as it is for others. Not everyone will enjoy seeing a bear roaming around in their backyard.

So if that idea doesn’t really appeal to you, maybe growing oaks, and attracting bears is really not your thing.

4. Insects are also attracted to Oak Trees

If you have an oak tree near your house, then you might have to worry about extra visitors. Oak trees also attract different types of bugs and insects. This can be a nuisance if you’re not into insects all that much.

5. Annual Pruning Maintenance

Although oak trees don’t require a lot of maintenance, an annual pruning could be in order. Oaks don’t really demand a lot of care when it comes to growth. They do however, need to be pruned regularly.

The branches of oak trees can get heavy enough to snap and break off. This could potentially damage the tree and every leaf growing on that branch.

To avoid this fate, make sure to prune off that extra weight from your oak tree!

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