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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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Wednesday - February 11, 2015

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Problem Plants, Trees
Title: Landscape Fabric for Oak Suckers in Austin
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

Can landscape fabric (covered w/decorative bark mulch) be safely used to control Escarpment oak sprouts? 70-year-old knees are tired of getting down to remove. Oaks are in Circle C area of Austin

ANSWER:

  Mr. Smarty Plants lives with the Escarpment Oaks in Circle C also – and my 63 year old knees are a bit tired also!

  I’ve written a bit on my struggles with the Oak shoots, and the “solution” I use is cardboard covered with mulch.  This first Mr Smarty Plants question/answer pair is where I proposed cardboard/mulch.
Live Oak Suckers

 This was followed by a “how did it work” question some years later.
Live Oak Suckers Reprise, Austin TX

  Cutting to your proposed solution of landscape fabric/mulch - - This has been proposed by some web posts and looks like it should be a decent approach, but not necessarily better than cardboard.  It depends on how successfully the Oak roots can penetrate the fabric.  Principles for shopping for the landscape fabric are that it need be the “weed barrior” type rather than “pool cover”.  The material needs to be permeable to air and water.  As long as it does this, it will be "safe" for the tree. [It is the Oak tree’s roots under there after all.] At the same time, the roots are quite aggressive, it needs to be a strong cover that holds the roots and, between the fabric and the mulch, light should not penetrate at all.

More variations on approaches to control suckers can be found by searching the Mr Smarty Plants archives for "suckers".

 

From the Image Gallery


Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

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