En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Native plants to provide nitrogen for compost in Houston

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

Saturday - March 27, 2010

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Native plants to provide nitrogen for compost in Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I leave my clippings on the lawn so I don't have enough 'green' for my compost. I'd like to plant an unobtrusive area with some native that I can mow on a monthly basis. The area is in partial bright shade. So, I'm looking for a native, fast growing, high nitrogen legume or grass that will grow (but not necessarily thrive) in a somewhat shady spot in Houston. Any ideas?

ANSWER:

You sound like someone who is serious about compost; perhaps you would be interested in reading this previous answer to a question on compost. In this article, it was pointed out that grass clippings were not sufficient for the nitrogen or "green" material a compost pile full of post oak leaves needed. The solution there was 50-lb bags of cottonseed meal, sprinkled over and mixed into the pile, which worked very well. We have also heard that alfalfa meal fulfilled the same function.

However, since you specifically asked about legumes, members of the Fabaceae or pea family, we can certainly list some for you that will do well in Houston and can be mowed for green matter. We would point out that just about any green plant could be treated the same way; the legume is noted as a fixer of nitrogen in the soil, a process which comes from the roots, or nodules, of the plant. For a scholarly discussion of this process, read this New Mexico State University Cooperative Extemsion Service article Nitrogen Fixing by Legumes. We would also point out that many, if not all, of these plants would be considered "weeds," so finding seeds might not be easy, and you might not be that popular with your neighbors. In addition to the legumes, we have selected some grasses native to East Texas that could also be mowed. Follow each plant link to the page on that individual plant for more information.

Legumes for Compost Use in Houston:

Chamaecrista fasciculata (partridge pea)

Dalea obovata (pussyfoot)

Desmodium illinoense (Illinois ticktrefoil)

Tephrosia lindheimeri (Lindheimer's hoarypea)

Grasses or Grass-like Plants for Compost Use in Houston:

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)

Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Chamaecrista fasciculata

Dalea obovata

Desmodium illinoense

Tephrosia virginiana

Panicum virgatum

Carex blanda

Carex cherokeensis

Carex texensis

 

 

 


 

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Native plants for a bioswale in Baltimore
July 22, 2009 - What native plants would suit a bioswale in an urban part of Baltimore City? The clay soil gets waterlogged and the site has part shade.
view the full question and answer

Combining native shrubs for hedge in Austin
April 15, 2009 - Smarty, Please tell me what the definitions are for all the various water, soil moisture, drainage and light requirements mean. Are the definitions global? I live in Central East Austin and inten...
view the full question and answer

Advisability of landscape cloth in native gardens
July 18, 2007 - Is the use of landscape cloth healthy or unhealthy in native gardens?
view the full question and answer

Yellow, pale green leaves on Cedar Elms in Texas
August 30, 2008 - I have had several cedar elms of various sizes planted in our yard over the last 10 years. Only the largest has dark green, healthy looking leaves. All the others have yellowish, pale green leaves. Th...
view the full question and answer

Dog wallowing in damp area in garden from Great Bend KS
March 20, 2013 - I Have a wet area in my back yard that is close to my house. and off my patio there is a water hydrant,gas meter, electrical for my hot tub, my sprinkler valves and pump all there. My dog digs throug...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center