En EspaŅol

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Tuesday - July 19, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Watering, Trees
Title: Should Texas live oaks be mulched under drought conditions?
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Should we mulch our live oaks in pastures for water retention?

ANSWER:

Live oaks are well adapted to Texas droughts, but this year is an exception.  There is no question that even old, well-established trees are going to need some extra help during the kind of drought we are having right now. Many trees have been saved in past droughts by additional  watering in late summer.  If this is not feasible for you, mulching will indeed help retain the moisture that is in the ground. A two to three inch mulch of ground bark and leaves, especially around the drip line, would be most advisable.

As the underlined article suggests, professional arborists suggest deep watering, and the amount of water applied would depend on your soil type, e.g., rocky or clay.  The trees might also benefit from additional fertilization.  Trees suffering from drought stress are often more susceptible to insect and fungal attack.

This University of Illinois Extension website Dealing with the Drought affirms that watering even drought-resistant trees like the oak is essential. It points out that a 90 ft. oak tree will be a lot worse to lose than annual flowers or vegetables. We don't recommend watering at the base of the trunk, but watering farther out, with a hose or sprinklers, probably about every two weeks. An excerpt from this website will tell you why:

"Our 90-foot oak example could have roots at least 40 feet beyond the tree’s
drip-line. The same goes for most shrubs. So, apply water at the tree or
shrub’s drip-line, not at the trunk."

Those roots may be pretty deep, and part of the protection of the trees, but much of the root system is in the top 12 inches of the soil. So, putting the water out there helps to avoid fungus and rot at the base of the trunk.

 

 

More Watering Questions

Problem with American Beautyberry in Houston.
July 02, 2014 - My American Beautyberry is dying one branch at a time. The entire plant looks great, now flowering and starting to put out berries. Then one or two branches will completely die. Trim those off, wi...
view the full question and answer

Care for non-native 'Glacier Blues' from Charlton MA
March 24, 2012 - Do you have to prune or cut down Glacier Blues in the garden? My plants look brown and wilted.
view the full question and answer

Shriveling agave from Miami Florida
August 23, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Most upset - My beautiful agave (wish I could have submitted an image) has stared to misbehave. The once first liquid filled leaves, are starting to look more like the skin ...
view the full question and answer

Protection for plants against a Spring freeze from Easley SC
April 15, 2014 - Is there anything we can do to protect our beautiful spring gardens from the freeze tonight? (April 15, 2014)
view the full question and answer

Removing water from local rivers to water garden from San Marcos TX
February 14, 2013 - I live in San Marcos Central Texas and my household experiments with a lot of organic gardening in our back yard, and I was wondering how using the surrounding rivers such as the Blanco or San Marcos ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center