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 Trees Questions

Care of Styphnolobium affine, Eves necklace
October 05, 2007 - I have an 18 yr old Eve's Necklace tree that is dying from the "bottom up". It has only a few leaves at the very top of the tree. I have, connected to the gutter, a rain barrel from which the exc...
view the full question and answer

Eastern redcedar uprooted by snow in Arlington, TX
February 14, 2010 - During the recent snowstorm one of our juniperus virginiana fell over with the rootball looking intact and with a lot of soil all around it.Should we try to save it? It is approximately 20 feet tall ...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for city lot in Longview, TX
March 19, 2008 - Just bought a city lot in Longview, TX and want to put in some plants at the periphery even before the house is built. Can you recommend any that would be from your list of East TX plants that are pa...
view the full question and answer

Trouble with live oak in McKinney, TX
June 13, 2013 - We moved into a suburban home with a live oak tree with a trunk diameter of about 50". I noticed recently how yellow the leaves look compared to the other live oak in the yard. There is not a pattern...
view the full question and answer

Removing grass under oak trees in Pflugerville TX
August 30, 2009 - I would like to use the newspaper-and-mulch method to smother grass under the canopy of live oaks, a bur oak, and a lacey oak so that I can plant natives that will thrive there. However, I'm concern...
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