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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Wednesday - December 10, 2008

From: Iowa City, IA
Region: Midwest
Topic: General Botany, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: What to do about grass dying under pin oaks in Iowa
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

We have 2 pin oaks about 15 years old in our front yard. The grass has started dying out under and around them. What can we do?

ANSWER:

In general, plants need light (for photosynthesis), water (for photosynthesis and other processes), and minerals (which also help in photosynthesis). The grass growing under your pin oaks could be suffering from lack of sunshine, and it is certainly competing with the oaks for water and nutrients. The shade problem isn't easy to solve, but you can increase the amount of water and nutrients that the grass is receiving. Is the die back new, or has it been going on for some time? If it is new, you might try to determine what conditions have changed?

Another possibility could be an infestation of insects or fungus. For help with this problem, I suggest that you contact the Johnson County Extension Office of the Iowa State University Extension.

 

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