Q: I'd like to include some oak trees in my garden but am not sure how to treat them in terms of watering and pruning. A:
Great idea! Oaks
are a keystone species and support a huge number of our native wildlife, especially our insects. They support at least 40 butterflies and moths, and dozens of gall wasps, for example. The leaf litter, and the arthropods it shelters, provides food and habitat for lizards, birds, and so on, as well as decomposing to feed the tree and surrounding plants. Most nursery oaks have been grown with frequent watering (and often fertilizing too) so the transition to a garden with moderate watering should be no problem. Any volunteers that have appeared are also adapted to whatever the conditions are where they rooted. Oaks are fairly fast growers, and may need some pruning to produce the shape you want, or to get rid of dead wood. Unlike many other trees, tho, oaks are best pruned in the summer when they are semi-dormant. Pruning in the winter can make them more susceptible to fungal diseases.