Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

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
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Flowers for sandy soil and sun in Wharton Co., TX
March 23, 2010 - I live in Wharton County. I am looking for flowers to plant in beds that have sandy soil and are well drained. The area receives sun all day until 5-6 in the afternoon. I would like to have flowers t...
view the full question and answer

Trees for Plum Grove, TX
October 05, 2013 - Sorry Mr. Smarty pants, my question is I live in Plum Grove Texas, I have 5 acres and NO TREES. What trees were on the property were either taken out by Ike, or the twisters that followed. I have boug...
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in my Nuttall Oak tree in Moore, OK.
July 23, 2009 - I had a Nutall oak tree planted; it is 5 inches in diameter and about 24 feet tall. It was planted in March of this year, leafed out ok; now since June 20th I have had a large quantity of the leaves t...
view the full question and answer

Are Eastern White Pine suitable for Waxhaw NC
February 13, 2011 - Pinus strobus ( White Pine )- I wish to plant four of these evergreens along our property lines as a screen. Our county is selling one foot plants in a container. Our soil is clay. Are these t...
view the full question and answer

Why isn't my recently planted Mexican Redbud growing in Georgetown, TX?
April 11, 2010 - I planted a container-grown Mexican Redbud in early March. As of April 5th, it is showing no signs of buds or leaves. Other redbuds in the area (possibly Texas redbuds) have been blooming for severa...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.