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
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - October 11, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Trees
Title: Removal of live oaks leaves on lawn in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have about a half inch or so of mostly live oak leaves still on the ground which I thought was good root protection and also holds in moisture. There is a small group of people in our condo subdivision who want to see all the leaves removed. Can you please advise me? What will happen if we remove all the leaves?

ANSWER:

Usually, we try to stay out of homeowner's disagreements, including Homeowner Association Rules. However, since you asked, we will tell you what we think of leaving live oak leaves on the ground. We realize that you are looking at this as a mulch, and possibly also thinking of allowing those leaves to "compost in place." We are always in favor of mulches and compost for, as you say, protecting roots and holding in moisture. However, we can tell you from personal experience that live oak leaves resist composting. We had a very active compost pile and one big live oak that, of course, dumped all its leaves right after we had finally gotten all the post oak leaves into the compost pile. We quickly learned that trying to ignore them didn't work. The only way those live oak leaves were going to break down and help the soil was for them to be intensively composted. In our case, this included working them into a lot of brown material (the post oak leaves), keeping it moist, perhaps adding grass clippings or cottonseed meal for nitrogen to keep it cooking. And still, a year later, the live oak leaves were intact and green, standing out in the rest of the lovely soft brown compost. We realize that in a condo subdivision you do not have room for a compost pile, and it might not even be allowed. But we also discovered that just leaving those leaves lying there made the area look very trashy, and other small bits of twigs and debris got intermixed into it, and it all blew around, everywhere.

We do hate to see those leaves raked up and sent to the landfill-a lot of water and nutrition went into them. We once lived in a town (Brenham) where you could take your leaves and clippings to a community compost pile. The city would not take those materials to the landfills, bagged up in plastic bags. We tried to find out if Austin had such a project, but we did find this article from the Austin Chronicle The Dirt on Composting. City of Austin Solid Waste Services has a website on a Home Composting Rebate Challenge.

Beyond that, we don't think we can offer a solution, just the suggestion that perhaps you and your neighbors could find a productive way to do away with leaves on the ground, turning them into good DIRT!

 

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Removal of invasive horsetail in Shelby Township, MI
June 19, 2009 - Please help me or direct me to who may be able to help. I have horsetail (Equisetum) invading my Blue Rug Juniper. Please tell me what I can use to get rid of the horsetail (Equisetum) without killi...
view the full question and answer

Use of free cedar mulch in Round Rock, TX
March 17, 2013 - Round Rock provides city residents free mulch to pick up. It is all cedar apparently. I am turning my now dead, mostly clay, very alkaline and rocky thin soil front lawn into a bigger flower bed of mo...
view the full question and answer

What will grow in red clay in Conroe TX?
April 10, 2011 - We just built a new home and the foundation was poured on red clay which is what my flowerbed area is in. Could you please tell me what can be planted that will grow. I am looking for ground cover, fl...
view the full question and answer

When and how to transplant a Texas persimmon
January 02, 2009 - When and how should I transplant a 12' Texas persimmon? How much root ball do I need to get?
view the full question and answer

Problems with Texas Ash and non-native Bradford Pear in Hutto TX
January 27, 2011 - We have planted two trees in our back yard. The first one(a Bradford Pear) died and the second one (a Texas ash) doesn't look like it's doing very well. Our back yard is mostly black clay about 1 f...
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