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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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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!

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Wednesday - March 18, 2009

From: Belton, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Soils, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Fertilizer amounts for native perennials in Belton, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am a novice gardener and need advice on how to fertilize my native perennials. I would like to use organic fertilizer and need advice on exactly what to use. I have a compost pile but it does not supply the quantity of compost that I need. Thank you.

ANSWER:

One of the advantages in planting natives is that they ordinarily don't really need fertilizer, because they are already adapted to the climate, rainfall and soil where they are growing. Compost is a wonderful additive to the soil because it assists in drainage, but also helps to make vital micronutrients in the soil available to the roots. Since in Texas we mostly have alkaline soils, this is essential, as it is difficult for roots to access what they need in alkaline soil. If it would make you feel any better, you could certainly pick up an organic fertilizer at the nursery, only avoiding high nitrogen lawn fertilizers for blooming plants. Nitrogen promotes heavy leaf development, and is ideal for lawns, but if a plant puts too much energy into leaf production, the bloom quality and quantity can suffer. To further add organic material to your soil, try mulching with a shredded hardwood bark mulch. Not only will this hold moisture in your soil and protect the roots of your plants from heat and cold, but as it decomposes it will continue to improve the texture of the soil.

 

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