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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - August 02, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Mexican oak and red oak not looking healthy
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Eric Beckers

QUESTION:

I purchased a Mexican oak tree and I believe a red oak tree from your center about 1 year ago. Recently I've noticed that they don't look as healthy as they have been, and I just looked at the leaves and some of them are very dry, and some have a few spots. I have seen them both very green with many more growing leaves and growing limbs. Is it normal that with this heat they go through periods of dryness? Is there a particular product that I can give either the roots or the leaves to help them improve their health? We try to water at least every 2 days so I don't think it's lack of water. Please advise since I want these trees to grow fast and healthy. Thanks.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants asked Eric Beckers of the Texas Forest Service for help with your trees problems.  Here is what he says:

"Moisture is the most important thing to get right with these newly planted trees and even missing one or two weeks can be detrimental to their health.  How about the lower trunk at ground level -- have there been any damages caused by weed whips or lawn mowers?  Are you maintaining 3-4 inches of mulch over the root zone, but not allowing it to make direct contact with the thin barked trunk?  We can expect some fungal leaf spots and even some insect damage to these young plants, but dry leaves are never a good sign.  Young trees are often beaten up by strong, desiccating winds and they may need a windbreak or screen to protect them early on in their life.  And the most important product they need is cool, clear water...in the appropriate amounts.  Try 5-10 gallons per inch of diameter per week, preferably divided out into two separate waterings."

 

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