Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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 Compost and Mulch Questions

Planting a Texas Persimmon in rocky soil in Krum TX
March 27, 2009 - I have recently purchased a 10 gallon Texas Persimmon plant that I want to put as a highlight plant in my yard. According to the nursery, it has been in the pot for 2 years. I have been "blessed(or...
view the full question and answer

Do leaves with tannins make good compost from Austin
November 04, 2010 - I have a couple of old native pecan trees in my (or neighbor's) yard that drop bushels and bushels of leaves every fall. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I have a recollection that pecan leaves have...
view the full question and answer

Coreopsis failing to bloom in Sonora CA
August 04, 2009 - My Coreopsis buds form and then die. Very few open. The plants are two and three years old, in a clay type soil. Is it possible they're getting too much water, and that is whats making the buds die ...
view the full question and answer

Sunny and shady lawns from Austin
April 28, 2012 - My front yard has a large bed surrounded by a mix of St. Augustine and Bermuda grass. Last summers heat killed off about 90% of the St. Augustine, which we would like to replace anyway to conserve re...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating non-native Asian Jasmine in Austin
December 02, 2010 - I have a large bed in front of the house full of jasmine that was planted by the builder 25 years ago. What suggestions do you have to eliminate it and prepare the bed to plant native flowers and pl...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.