Don't let the acorns drive you too nuts

Sometimes trees have what is called a mast year, meaning they put out an inordinate amount of acorns or nuts. (Courtesy of Wendy Wilber)

Published: Saturday, December 29, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 28, 2012 at 12:03 p.m.

Q: In the many years I have lived in Gainesville (since 1966), I have never seen so many acorns which have fallen from the oak trees. Why is there such a bumper crop this year?

A: There has been a large number of acorns this year, particularly from the live oak trees. Sometimes the trees have what is called a mast year, meaning they put out an inordinate amount of acorns or nuts. A mast year can occur once or twice every decade. It is, perhaps, related to the weather but there isn't hard proof of this explanation. Squirrels and other wildlife will benefit from the addition to their food supply. When acorns fall over sidewalks and parking lots, they can become a tripping hazard, so it is important to keep those areas swept or blown. Hopefully, it won't drive you too nuts.

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Q: My landscaper planted a large live oak tree in my yard in early November. I watered it every day for a week, and then once a week since then. Now the leaves have all dropped off. Should I have watered it more?

A: I wish your landscaper had given you more explicit directions on the watering needs of a large, newly planted tree. Last month was a very dry month, and the root ball of the tree more than likely dried out, which caused the defoliation. If you scratch the bark and there is green underneath or the limbs are still flexible, the tree is still alive and will flush out with new growth once it gets sufficient water. A good test to do is to dig down about 4 inches into the root ball and evaluate the moisture; I think you will find it a little dry.

Our UF/IFAS tree specialist, Dr. Ed Gilman, says, "As a rule of thumb for field-grown trees, 1 to 3 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter applied each time the tree is irrigated during the growing season should be enough to maintain adequate root growth. For example, a tree with a 2-inch trunk diameter needs about 3 to 6 gallons each time it is irrigated." A tree with a trunk diameter between 2 to 4 inches can take eight to 15 months to get established in North Central Florida on our well-drained soils. This fact usually shocks people who think the tree is ready to be "on its own" after a month or two. In order for the tree to thrive, it should be watered daily for one month, every other day for three months, and then weekly until established. Just to get the tree to survive (not thrive), you would need to water it twice weekly for three to four months. For more information on getting your trees established, visit the UF/IFAS website, or give tthe UF/IFAS Alachua County Master Gardeners a call at 955-2402.

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Q: We have little piles of dirt pop up overnight all over both our back and front yard. It is not ants, and I do not think it is moles, as there appears to be no path leading up to the pile of dirt. It is just about 3 inches tall and wide of crumbling black soil. What could it be?

A: In North Central Florida we have no shortage of unexplained mounds, holes or tunnels popping up in the yard.

Everyone can identify the fire ant mound, but sometimes other mounds appear. The types of mounds you are describing were more than likely caused by earthworms. Beneficial earthworms push up soil and their castings up through the mulch or the turf grass. This is a good sign of healthy soil and balance of soil life in your landscape. If it is really bothering you, simply rake the mounds down.

Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at

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