En Español

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

Saturday - November 03, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Trees
Title: Dirt at tree base from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hello, I recently bought a home in Austin with a live oak tree which is about eight years old. The previous owner did exactly what all the experts say NOT to do, which was to mound dirt right up against the trunk, to a height of about six or eight inches. My question is this: Since this mound has been there for several years, will I do more harm than good removing the extra dirt at this point? Thanks

ANSWER:

A lot depends on just how deep the soil is around the tree trunk but you are correct that soil heaped around the base of a tree can attract fungal or insect damage. We think a good way to begin would be to start peeling that soil away and see what the trunk looks like. This article from eHow Home has a good discussion on how much is too much, and also recommends a mulch. A shallow layer (no more than 4") of a good quality shredded bark mulch will still permit the gas exchanges of carbon and oxygen necessary to the roots, decompose to assist in amending the soil for better drainage and access to nutrients in the soil, as well as protect the tree roots from heat and cold and help to retain moisture.

 

More Trees Questions

Replacement for dead oak tree after hurricane
October 01, 2008 - Mr. Smarty Plants, It still is hard to believe but my dead Oak tree survived H.Ike! Now that I've gotten that dreaded letter from the HOA, they want me to replace it with at least a 45 gallon tree....
view the full question and answer

Problems with Live Oak in Boerne TX
April 24, 2011 - I had my large Live Oak trimmed last year. This spring there seems to be a problem with leaf growth. Most leaves are small in nature and appear to have been attacked possibly by bugs. Many of the bran...
view the full question and answer

When is the appropriate time to prune pecan trees in Hewitt?
September 07, 2008 - Labor Day Weekend my husband decided to trim all the low branches on a big pecan tree in our back yard which I thought should had been done at the first of the year, our temprature is in the mid 90's...
view the full question and answer

Trees with non-invasive roots for California
March 30, 2009 - My family is currently in the process of redoing our entire yard. A huge task I might add! We had fruitless mulberries planted and one Modesto Ash. As much as we loved them we are hating their roots. ...
view the full question and answer

Willow Tree Early Leaf Fall
May 14, 2015 - I have a weeping willow tree and it put out great leaves this Spring and looked great, but now here in the middle of May all the leaves are turning yellow and falling off like it does in the fall. So ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center