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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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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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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.

 

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