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Unwanted trees? Now’s the time to take preventive steps

Ward Upham has trees on his mind these days, but not necessarily the Christmas variety. And it’s possible many homeowners should, too.

Upham, a horticulture expert at Kansas State University, said that although trees are a vital part of landscapes, there are situations where volunteer trees – saplings that come up from seeds by themselves in yards and gardens – need to be controlled.

“This is often the case of having the wrong plant in the wrong place,” Upham said. “If the tree is small and a desirable species, you may want to consider leaving it alone and transplanting it in the spring. But if not, then active control measures would be in order right now.”

Upham said cutting trees can be effective for those that do not resprout, such as the eastern redcedar. However, many other varieties resprout after cutting, including the Siberian elm, hackberry, Osage orange (hedgeball), oak, ash, aspen, cottonwood, maple, sycamore, willow and others.

“These trees will either need to be dug out, or the cut stump should be treated with herbicide after you cut it,” Upham said.

He noted that triclopyr and glyphosate are the herbicides most commonly available to homeowners. “Triclopyr is found in many brush killers and glyphosate is found in Roundup, as well as numerous other products,” Upham said.

It’s important, he added, to read a product’s label before purchasing to make sure that it is appropriate for treating a cut stump. The product can be applied with a paint brush, ideally within five minutes after cutting the stump.

“Trees do not need to be actively growing to be controlled,” Upham said. “Actually, this time of year is a very good time to treat as long as applications are made when the temperature is above freezing.”

Upham and his colleagues in K-State’s Department of Horticulture and Natural Resources produce a weekly Horticulture Newsletter with tips for maintaining home landscapes. The newsletter is available to view online or can be delivered by email each week.

Interested persons can also send their garden- and yard-related questions to Upham at wupham@ksu.edu, or contact your local K-State Research and Extension office.

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