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
3 ratings

Friday - May 24, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Soils, Trees
Title: Is it OK to remove soil around oaks - Austin, TX.
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have several oaks trees (one live oak + burr oaks) from 15'-35' in height. They seem healthy. A local arborist says they were planted too deep and that the soil around them needs to be excavated to allow room for the root collar. He said we need to remove the grass at least to the drip line. Your website said not to remove or add soil. Who is right?

ANSWER:

In general, you want to disturb the roots of your trees as little as possible.  Since a large percentage of a tree's feeder roots can be found in the top few inches of soil, any removal of that soil is bound to disturb those roots and adversely affect the tree.  Relatively few of those roots are located near the base of the trees, but are usually concentrated near the tree's drip line.  Removing soil all the way to the drip line seems excessive, but there may be reasons for the recommendation that are not apparent to us.

In fairness, soil around the crown of a tree can cause problems.  If your soil has a high clay content, which restricts oxygen exchange to the roots, the problem can be very serious, indeed.  Some tree species are more susceptible than others to problems caused by deep planting.

The answer to your question is not cut and dried.  I would tend to follow the advice of a certified arborist, but if you have doubts, you might hire another certified arborist on a strictly consulting basis (there will be no financial advantage to give you advice one way or the other) and get a second opinion.  That involves more expense, but your landscape trees are almost always worth the expense of maintaining their good health.

 

More Trees Questions

Chlorosis in sycamore in Kyle TX
August 04, 2011 - I'm trying to assist an elderly neighbor of mine with a plant issue. We have designated street trees in this community, our street being a Sycamore. The previous foreman out here called it a Mexica...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on Texas Madrone
July 24, 2005 - Hello, where can one acquire the Texas Madrone for planting? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

More on preventing suckers on live oaks in Austin
August 01, 2010 - I just received an oak sprout answer id=6021. I have a followup question. Our sprouts are caused by the motte we live in - 12 live oaks on 1/4 acre. I understand we will have to hand dig 1000s of t...
view the full question and answer

Care in planting native Shumard oaks
April 16, 2008 - I am going to plant 3 shumard red oaks on the west side of my property. The land is basically rocky. What should I put in the holes to help the tree grow?
view the full question and answer

Pin Oak Dropping Leaves Early
December 17, 2015 - I have a large pin oak that's losing it's leaves at this time. Is this too early? I have been watering the tree during the hot, dry weather and overall the tree looks healthy and has a good crop of ...
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