Explore Plants

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
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - June 24, 2008

From: Fairfax, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Planting, Soils
Title: Improperly prepared building site in Virginia
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi, I have a question about planting on newly-built homesite. We just moved into a new home in DC suburbs (Northern VA) and the landscape is the worst of the builder grade. There are prickly junipers and holly shrubs everywhere. When I started to plan and see what type of soil we have all I found is yellow and red clay mixed with LOTS of construction debris and rocks, a lot of rocks.. A drainage is a huge issue too, after rain water fills up the borders and all the mulch is floating around the sidewalks. Please help!!!

ANSWER:

Much as we hate to say this, your problem is way out of the range of Mr. Smarty Plant's specialty and expertise, even with our magic wand. We don't know anything about site preparation codes or zoning in Fairfax, VA. (We don't know much about it in Austin, either.) We're not sure whether to recommend a lawyer or a bulldozer, but we are going to do neither. Some questions you need to ask yourself are: is it only your yard that is not draining or are others in your neighborhood having the same problem? Were all or most of the new houses in your neighborhood built by the same builder, or landscaped by the same contractor? Was there a site inspection before, during and after construction? Some local authority, city, county, etc. should have employees trained to inspect a site for usability before it is too late to fix it. When you have just bought and moved into a new home with all the financial responsibilities involved is not a good time to find out that a basic procedure in the preparation of your site has been left undone.

We don't know how severe your problem is, we're gardeners, not construction or landscaping specialists. Clay soil can be amended with organic material, such as compost, and some rocks can be accommodated. In fact, that's about all the plants have to grow in around here. But lots of rocks and certainly construction waste should have been removed, before any fill dirt went in. And the fill dirt should have been graded and checked for drainage requirements. You could build some raised beds, with low walls, to hold amended soil and plant some things. The biggest problem with clay is that it holds water, which only adds to your drainage problems. There are plants that will tolerate wet feet for a while, but then when dry weather hits, they are probably going to die. Frankly, suggesting alternative plants for your garden is not practical until you have resolved some of the more basic problems. When you get a better feel for the situation, please get back to us and let us suggest some native plants recommended for your area.

 

More Planting Questions

Repotting of lemon cypress for drainage
October 26, 2008 - Hi, I bought a lemon cypress tree in a nice tin, It is in Plastic and the bottom has about 1.5" of water with no drainage in the plastic or tin. It will be kept inside. Does the plant need to be in...
view the full question and answer

Should I purchase wax myrtle plants as liners or pots
July 18, 2011 - I want to buy some wax myrtle over internet.Place has wax myrtle "liners" They look very thin. Will these bushes grow quickly or should I spend more $ for 1 gallon plants. Just need a hedge fairly q...
view the full question and answer

Will maroon and Texas Bluebonnets prosper in Richland MO?
July 02, 2013 - I live in Richland, MO and have obtained both Maroon and Texas Bluebonnet seeds from Fredricksburg, TX. Will they prosper in this area and when is the best time to plant? I have read how and what type...
view the full question and answer

When is the best time to transplant Esperanza bushe in Buda, TX?
September 04, 2013 - When is the best time to transplant an Esperanza bush? I want to move it because it is overwhelming my front yard. Thank you,
view the full question and answer

Planting Habiturf in Houston, TX>
March 08, 2012 - First, I want to say thank you for such an informative site. You say that the Buffalograsses tend to do well in drier and well drained soil. My house has a lawn that drops about 10 inches in about...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.