Mulching Coast Live Oak Leaves

As much as we like using arborist wood chips for mulch, we have concerns because the wood chips could spread Sudden Oak Death (SOD) to our coast live oak trees if infected plants are included in the load of wood chips.

Rather than bringing in mulch, we are using our oak leaves as mulch. The leaves of the coast live oak (quercus agrifolia, a California native plant) are thick and hard, so they don’t break down easily. We’re running the leaves through a leaf mulcher to break down the leaves. In the photo below, the mulched oak leaves are beige. This part of our yard has no oak trees and is sunny, so we brought in mulched oak leaves to help retain moisture and moderate the heat.

oak leaf mulch
oak leaf mulch

In this crop from the previous photo, you can see the gray wood chips and the beige oak leaves. We expect that the broken oak leaves will decay quicker than if they remained whole, once it starts raining again.

closeup of oak leaf mulch

The shrub on the left is an Arctostaphylos Sunset, a manzanita named after the Sunset magazine. A California native plant, the Sunset manzanita has glossy green leaves and small pink flowers. After seven years, it’s 3′ high and 5′ across. We use the Sunset manzanita to cap some large mounds. It’s easy to grow. We like it and have planted more.


Published by


I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

2 thoughts on “Mulching Coast Live Oak Leaves”

    1. You asked for more information regarding the first paragraph: “As much as we like using arborist wood chips for mulch, we have concerns because the wood chips could spread Sudden Oak Death”.

      As shown below, infected leaves and tools can spread SOD. Arborists take down and haul away trees, including those killed by SOD. They trim and grind all cuttings — leaves and wood — to produce arborist mulch. so the arborist mulch can contain plant material that spread SOD.

      For details, the SOD page for the UC Berkeley Forestry Pathology and Mycology Lab is a great resource:

      From the Lab’s page (, “Make sure that wood from trees in SOD-infected areas is not moved to uninfected locations. Ensure that shoes, vehicle tires, and tools are free of soil and organic debris that might harbor the disease.”

      P. ramorum can also be spread by tools. From the Lab’s page on SOD: Cleaning Tools & Equipment, “Can tools become infectious when used on trees infected by SOD? Yes, in particular when dealing with infected foliage, infested soil, and marginally with infected wood. The risk of spreading SOD is higher if soil or infected leaves are present on tires, shoes or tools. Wood is generally, not as infectious.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.