5 Reasons To Cut Down Your Ash Tree (And When To Do It)

Crown of ash tree

Ash trees are beautiful, and they are beneficial additions to most yards, streets, parks, and other areas outside their native forests. Ash trees in particular provide a great deal of shade, lovely green foliage, flowers in the spring, and yellow leaves in the fall. But sometimes there are factors that necessitate cutting down an ash tree. 

An ash tree should be cut down if it has died or is certain to fall soon. If your ash tree is infested with destructive pests, located in a place in a sensitive area, or is likely to fall soon, call an arborist to inspect the tree – especially if it is planted within 20-30 feet of your home.

Having to determine whether or not to cut one down can be a very difficult decision. This post can help you determine how dangerous the situation is for your particular ash tree and, if the time is right, help you learn the best methods and times of year for removing it.

So, let’s get right to it – here are 5 Reasons to Cut Down Your Ash Tree (And How To Do It)!

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1. Cut Down Your Ash Tree If It’s Dead

If your Ash tree is dead – you should remove it as soon as possible. Although that may seem obvious, many people leave dead ash trees standing in their yards for years.

The reason you may leave ash trees in their yard that are dying is not always your fault! Oftentimes, you may have not recognized that the tree is gone.

Other times, the removal of the tree is too expensive or daunting, or the ash tree has become an integral feature of your yard- even if it is no longer living!

However, for safety reasons – a dead ash tree should be removed ASAP! We recommend calling a professional to do this, right away.

2. Cut Down Your Ash Tree If Its Too Close To Your House

Perhaps an ash tree was planted as a young sapling in your yard and did not seem, at the time, to pose any sort of threat to the surrounding structures.

But fast forward several years, and that now-mature ash tree can produce a massive canopy.

Ash tree branches being close to your house poses a problem for both the ash tree and your home. Tree branches move naturally, especially in windy conditions, and all that movement can cause damage to your home’s exterior walls or roof. Ash trees also have extensive root systems that can span up to 30ft.

It can also cause damage to the tree, and eventually it could even cause the branch to break and fall, which of course is an issue to anything nearby the ash tree.

Now pruning ash trees CAN work to keep the tree after you’ve consulted an arborist – most will advocate to save the tree and they’ll be well advised to let you know if the tree needs to go or can stay near your home.

It might be tempting to leave your ash tree where it is and attempt to correct the spacing problem by pruning the branches that are close to your house.

However, instead of trying to remove the troublesome branches, it might be in your best interest to just remove the ash tree in question and plant a new one. This time with more space between the tree and your home.

Next up we have the root system of an ash tree. This expansive root system can cause issues to basically anything underground near your home. Now, if you have an already well established ash tree in your home, you’re probably in the clear.

That being said, if your ash tree is still growing, the roots could eventually cause a problem to your home as they grow outward. Here’s a full overview of an ash trees timeline if you’d like to learn more.

Just remember, contact an arborist as my overwhelming recommendation. Even just get a quote for work for later reference.

3. Take Down Your Ash Tree If It’s Been Badly Damaged

Ashwood with colorful autumnal foliage against blue sky

This is a problem that can plague any type of tree, and the ash tree is, unfortunately, not immune.

Ash tree damage can occur from a number of different sources, including lighting or something striking your ash tree, like a car or other vehicle. Trees can also be badly damaged when large branches fall, which can split the trunk or just badly injure the tree.

Branches can fall for a number of reasons, including bad weather, heavy snowfall, or just a natural process of dying tree limbs. Whatever the reason is, damage to your ash tree can sometimes get better, but it sometimes necessitates removing your ash tree. 

Once your ash tree has suffered damage, it can be difficult to know whether or not the tree can survive longterm.

A professional arborist can help you assess the damage and determine your next step. Minor tree wounds DO seal themselves with thick callouses (you can read more about why tree bark doesn’t grow back in our article) but any major damage can be detrimental to your ash tree.

4. Ash Trees Should Be Cut Down If They’re Infested With Emerald Ash Borers

Ash trees can live without any maintenance for hundreds of years, and in fact, many did! However, when 2002 came around – so did the Asian beetles called Emerald Ash Borers – and unfortunately, the destructive pests are responsible for the loss of millions and millions of ash trees in the United States in just the past twenty years.

The Emerald Ash Borer is by far the greatest threat to the longevity of Ash trees all over the United States.

Even some intense measures, like the professional injection of insecticide into the trunk of your ash tree, cannot eliminate all Emerald Ash Borers. So, unfortunately, even the most drastic measures are not always enough to save your ash tree.

According to The City Of St. Paul Minnesota, it takes about 3 to 5 years after infestation by Emerald Ash Borers for the Ash tree to die. So, depending on how long your ash tree has been infested – you might have some time.

This is when it will be time to say goodbye to this particular ash tree.

Do Not Delay Cutting Down Your Ash Tree If You Have Emerald Ash Borers

Do not delay the cutting down of your ash tree if there’s a determined infestation. Your ash tree’s infestation has the potential to infest other ash trees and kill those, too.

An Emerald Ash Borer infestation is so intense that, if an ash tree is infected, it is recommended that every ash tree within a half-mile radius also be treated for Emerald Ash Borers.

For the safety and health of other ash trees, it is best to cut down the affected ash tree as soon as it is determined that it will not survive an Emerald Ash Borer infestation.

How To Know If Your Ash Tree Is Infested With Emerald Ash Borers

Big tree ash with pathway in sunny day in park on spring.

Here are some signs that you can look out for to determine if your ash tree’s health is being affected by Emerald Ash Borers:

  • The bark of your ash tree is split, and there are s-shaped pathways left behind by the emerald ash borers.
  • The canopy of your ash tree is shrinking.
  • Woodpeckers have arrived with a vengeance and are removing a great deal of your ash tree’s bark. They are there to eat emerald ash borers!
  • Bark is spontaneously falling off your ash tree’s trunk.

If you suspect that your ash tree has been infested, it may be able to be saved. At the first sign of Emerald Ash Borer infestation, you can try to treat it, but it will be difficult to know whether you are too late.

The State of Connecticut recommends that, until you are sure your ash tree has been infected, you do not need to cut it down. The ash tree might be totally healthy, so don’t remove it too soon.

How To Know If Your Ash Tree Cannot Be Saved From Emerald Ash Borers

One method to find out whether or not your ash tree can be saved from Emerald Ash Borers is to call in the consultation of a tree or pest professional. These people can examine your ash tree and determine whether measures to eliminate the pests will be effective and then make a recommendation about whether you should try to treat the ash tree or remove it.

Another method you can try is to try to treat the ash tree and see what happens. Because of the potential of the spread of Emerald Ash Borers to other ash trees, this is a potentially riskier method to try.

But you could evaluate your neighborhood, and, if you feel confident there are no other ash trees of any variety in a half-mile radius of your ash tree, you can attempt to save it. 

If the Emerald Ash Borers are still there after treating the ash tree with insecticide, it is probably time to call a professional or just make the tough decision to remove the ash tree. 

What Happens If You Do Not Remove An Ash Tree Infested With Emerald Ash Borers?

Two ash trees on hill on a bright and sunny morning

If you know that your ash tree is soon to die from Emerald Ash Borer infestation and you do not remove it in a timeline manner, there are a number of problems that can arise.

Apart from the potential to spread the infestation to other ash trees, your ash tree will grow brittle and become very dangerous to any people, animals, or structures nearby. 

Primarily, the branches of ash trees are intensely damaged by Emerald Ash Borers, making the dead ash trees very dangerous because they are so brittle and dry.

The Emerald Ash Borers weaken the structure of the ash tree’s branches, making it so dangerous that even the slightest effect on the branch can cause it to fall. This is a dangerous hazard. Purdue University recommends removing the ash tree once more than 30% of its branches have fallen. 

The only time it is recommended that you leave a dead tree alone is if the tree is in a forested area.

You should only make that decision if you are certain that the falling tree –because it is certain to eventually fall– will not land on anyone or any structure, or ideally other trees. You should also make sure the tree will not block pathways or hiking trails or things of that nature. 

In short, it is never a good idea to just leave a dead tree where it is. Take steps to properly remove it. 

5. Your Ash Tree Should Be Cut Down If It It Has Fungi

There is a specific fungus that sets up in many ash trees after the Emerald Ash Borers have moved out.

According to The Ohio State University, there are a number of types of fungi (including a variety named “Turkey Tail Fungi”) that eat dead ash trees after the Emerald Ash Borers have gone. These dead ash trees become increasingly unstable and therefore dangerous because they are so likely to fall. 

If you suspect that your ash tree has been infected with any type of fungi, you should call in an arborist or specialist to examine the ash tree and make a recommendation about its removal.

How To Remove Your Ash Tree

Once you have determined that your ash tree needs to be removed, there are a number of options for how to go about removing it.

In all likelihood, your best bet is to call in a professional tree service, who can safely cut down the ash tree, separate it into moveable pieces, and remove those pieces. 

If you want to keep the wood for woodworking or firewood, a professional can leave it there or perhaps even stack it for you in your desired storage location. The same service may be able to grind up the tree trunk so that nothing remains above ground where your ash tree was planted.

Root removal is more complicated, but a professional service can help with that, too. You do also have the option of leaving the roots in the ground.

As long as they do not interfere with the foundation of your home or any other buildings, and they do not interfere with the planting of a new ash tree or new plants, the roots will not do any harm left underground.

If you have a leftover stump from a previous tree removal – take a peak at our guide on using vinegar to remove tree roots!

The Best Time Of Year To Cut Down Your Ash Tree

Timing is a factor that may be influenced more by the condition of your ash tree and the dangers it poses than by the time of year.

Unlike planting trees, you can cut down a tree at any time of the year, no matter the weather – however, there are certain times of the year that may be better. Let’s talk about that below!

Which Season To Cut Down Your Ash Tree

As we have discussed, it is a good idea to cut down an ash tree quickly if you suspect that other trees in the area are at risk for an Emerald Ash Borer infestation.

You should also quickly remove any ash tree that has been greatly affected from an Emerald Ash Borer infestation because those ash trees will be left damaged by the beetles and therefore, very dry and brittle which puts them at great risk for falling.

Another reason to cut down your ash tree ASAP, is if you are on the verge of wintertime and your ash tree is very fragile and brittle, which is a common problem with dead ash trees.

During the winter, heavy snowfall can weigh down branches and cause major breaks and falls in even the healthiest of trees. Non-active branches are at a much higher risk of this. So if you live in an area that normally receives snowfall, you should remove any dead ash trees before winter.

You should also expedite removal of your ash tree if the tree poses a falling threat to anything around it.

If You Can Wait, The Best Time To Remove Your Ash Tree Is Winter

Ash trees, if they are not currently infested with Emerald Ash Borers and do not pose a threat to their surroundings, are actually best removed at the end of winter or the earliest beginnings of spring. There are a couple of reasons for this!

Ash Trees Are Dormant In The Winter

During winter, the ash tree will go dormant (if it is not already dead), and the leaves will all be gone from the branches.

This eliminates the mess that can occur in your yard, and it also makes it easier for the people removing the ash tree to see all parts of the branches and trunk, making removal easier and safer.

The Animals Who Live In The Ash Tree Will Be Gone For The Winter

Another reason to wait until winter is that animals who might normally nest in your ash tree will probably be gone for the cold winter months, so you will not be disrupting their habitats by cutting down the ash tree at this time.

Also, during winter, any food sources that stemmed from your tree will not be active, so you won’t be affecting any current animals’ food supply.

Cold Grounds Won’t Be Disturbed As Easily In The Winter

Lastly, the ground around your ash tree is almost sure to be disturbed as the tree is removed, especially if you have opted to have the tree trunk ground or dug up and removed.

Cold, frozen ground during the winter is less susceptible to being disturbed and more likely to stay intact and in place than the warm, wet soil of spring or summer. This can result in less disturbance to any grass growing around your ash tree, saving you a lot of time, effort, and money if you have to re-sod the grass after the ash tree’s removal.

Further, if you’re looking for the BEST times to plant an ash tree check out our fancy post on The Best Times To Plant Ash Trees (And How To Do It) 

That’s A Wrap!

Deciding when to remove an ash tree, especially a mature one that is an important part of the landscape of your home and yard, is very difficult.

Many dying trees have languished in the yards of homes for years, where the owners were reluctant to remove them. Unfortunately, many dead trees fall and can create dangerous situations, so removing them as soon as possible is the best thing that you can do.

Likewise, when you take out one tree – you can replace it with a new one! If you’re going this route, take a peak at our guide on how much water ash trees need!

While it might be difficult to cut down a beloved ash tree, you can make the best decision for your yard, your home, and the safety of those around the tree.

References:

Hausman, C. E., Jaeger, J. F., & Rocha, O. J. (2010). Impacts of the emerald ash borer (EAB) eradication and tree mortality: potential for a secondary spread of invasive plant species. Biological invasions, 12(7), 2013-2023.

Mota-Sanchez, D., Cregg, B. M., McCullough, D. G., Poland, T. M., & Hollingworth, R. M. (2009). Distribution of trunk-injected 14C-imidacloprid in ash trees and effects on emerald ash borer (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) adults. Crop Protection, 28(8), 655-661.

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