En EspaŅol

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?


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
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

Wednesday - July 20, 2005

From: Spring Branch, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Soils
Title: Smarty Plants on mulch and organic material
Answered by: Joe Marcus and Nan Hampton


I live near Canyon Lake, just north of San Antonio in a new subdivision. I call on you for advice, as I have attended several classes there and hope you can help. Several areas on our property and neighbors' were scraped off during construction, or when trenching for utilities, leaving a bare, white scar of ground up limestone on the surface. As you know, when water is added, it turns hard as the rock it is. I read the article on restoration (Restoration: The basics on how to repair your land by Steve Windhager, Ph.D.) which contains wonderful information, but to step back, before any restoration can begin, we are asking ourselves what do we need to do to this hard surface to prepare it to receive even a tough native? I am a Master Gardener, and my suggestion was to shallowly cultivate it to loosen it up, then add organic matter and mulch. Is this the proper technique to initially prepare this chopped up rock for seeding? Any help you can give us will be greatly appreciated.


You are doing exactly the right thing by adding mulch and organic material to the scraped soil. Loosening the surface and working the added material into the limestone material is very effective, but you can also apply topsoil with mulch on the surface effectively without loosening the surface underneath. Be aware that you need to monitor for unwanted weeds that come in as a part of anything you are putting on your plot.


More Soils Questions

Twenty year old Texas Mountain Laurel isn't blooming.
March 09, 2015 - I have 20-year-old Texas Mountain Laurel in a fairly poor, clay-type soil. It hasn't bloomed very well the last couple years. Can you recommend a fertilizer to improve the blooms?
view the full question and answer

Lupines annual or perennial in Zone 4b from Austin
November 08, 2012 - Are lupines treated as perennials or annuals in Zone 4b (Northeast) if they are planted in the ground? Will other native species of lupines grow in a region they are not native to? Any recommendations...
view the full question and answer

Need Plants and Soil for a Green Roof in Buffalo, TX
September 13, 2010 - I'm building a green roof on my cabin in the Buffalo, Texas, area. Would you know what soil and plants would be best suited for that area? I have a lot of sand I could use, but didn't know if that...
view the full question and answer

Is cement leaching into flower beds in Colorado Springs?
May 16, 2009 - I have posed this question to a number of garden centers in our area around Colorado Springs--only to rec. a repeated--"Gee, I don't know." When we moved to our new home there was a rock concrete ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for full sun and clay soil in NY
May 06, 2008 - We live in upstate new york( zone 5) with full sun and clay soil. What flowers/flowering shrubs would be successful in this environment?
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center