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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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Wednesday - September 26, 2007

From: Round Rock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seeds and Seeding, Wildflowers
Title: Locating red clay for wildflower seed balls
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am trying to locate a local source for the Powdered Red Clay spoke about in making wildflower seed balls. I live in Round Rock, Texas and have called many local nursery and no one knows what I am talking about.

ANSWER:

Without totally intending to be flip, we sometimes think that plant experts try to be too, well, expert. Frankly, we're pretty sure that the "Powdered Red Clay" referred to in our How To Article on "Making Seedballs" is what is commonly known as "dirt". We really did try to find where "Powdered Red Clay" occurred naturally and it proved a little difficult. You can find all sorts of soil maps, but there are so many different types of soil in Texas, even in a small area like Williamson County, and many of them side by side.

So, let's see if we can figure out how to come up with a proper ingredient for Powdered Red Clay seedballs. Soil is usually compounded of three different sized particles. The largest particles are sand, through which water flows very readily. The next is silt, and finally, the smallest particles are clay. The clay particles are so small and cling together so tightly that there are not enough porous spaces between to permit water to travel through it. Test some dirt in your own area-not fill or compost brought in, but just the native dirt. Get a little of it wet, scoop up a fistful (isn't scientific investigation fun?) and squeeze. If it sticks together in a glob, rather than just collapsing and sliding away, you've got clay. In this area, it's probably red clay, but we don't think that makes a whole lot of difference. The main thing is, it sticks together, so you can get seeds into it and a ball made out of it. The article referenced above gives pretty specific instructions about what soils you need and how to make them, and also mentions that if you're really concerned about getting red clay soil specifically that you can order a terry cotta clay from ceramic supply houses. It also cautions that there should be some sand in the mix. Again, in this part of Central Texas, I think you'd be hard pressed to dig your hand in some natural dirt and not find a good mix of clay and sand. After all, that's what our wildflowers are growing in now, right?

 

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