Will oak leaves stunt plant growth?
I've had a pretty disappointing garden the last couple of years, and I'm beginning to wonder if my beautiful live oak has something to do with it. The garden is located outside the drip line; I don't use the leaves in my compost, because I like the way the tree self-mulches (not in front of the kids!) but some do fall in, anyway.
Year one, I planted tomatoes in the available soil with store-bought compost, plus a little bit of homemade compost from my previous house. Great results.
Year two, planted tomatoes in lasagna-style raised beds. Okay production. Thought maybe they hadn't gotten enough water. Noticed a lot of roots from the oak had migrated into the yummy, rich soil.
Year three, planted in containers filled with potting soil and homemade compost to avoid the tree root problem, and because I wanted to see if it made watering any easier. Very disappointing results.
Year four, planted in the ground amended with homemade compost and got about three tomatoes.
This year, I've got my 'maters in containers, and I mulched two with oak leaves and two with pine needles. Guess which ones are doing poorly? Yup, the ones snuggled under the leaves.
Whaddaya think? Do oak trees do the same chemical thing that black walnuts do, with the juglone? And am I "poisoning" my tomatoes and compost by having the leaves around?