Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

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!

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 Trees Questions

Tree options for patio in Sun City West, Arizona.
January 07, 2011 - We have an area near our cement patio in Sun City West AZ where we would like to plant a shade tree. We planted a sissoo tree, but were told that the roots will damage the patio because of the proximi...
view the full question and answer

Controlling native chickasaw plum
July 23, 2008 - How do we kill the chickasaw plum? We have an abundance and want to get rid of them.
view the full question and answer

Eastern red cedar for indoor Christmas tree
November 06, 2007 - I would love to have a live b&b or container tree for a Christmas tree, then plant it in the ground after Christmas. Would a Eastern Cedar survive if I brought it inside for a couple of weeks before p...
view the full question and answer

Pruning a Wafer Ash to make it upright
February 11, 2005 - How do I trim a Wafer Ash? It lays on the ground. Is that normal? Does it need to be upright?
view the full question and answer

Do I need to plant a male winterberry? yes
October 19, 2007 - I planted a female winterberry in early July & although I have been watering it regularly the leaves turned brown on the tips in Sept. No berries yet so will I have to plant a male? Thanks, Carol
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.