En Español

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

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

Difficulty of watering at drip line of trees from The Woodlands TX
August 18, 2011 - I'm watering my couple dozen native mature trees to make sure they survive this drought and its aftermath..and I'm reading about how to water at the drip line. But..all of my trees' drip lines ext...
view the full question and answer

Blackened leaves on purple sage in Utopia TX
December 08, 2010 - I live in Utopia Texas and have a 5-ft. Texas Purple Sage that has developed a black appearance on the leaves. What is this and what can I do about it?
view the full question and answer

How to make a lawn into a prairie in Arlington, Texas
September 15, 2010 - I am removing lawn grasses in order to start a native prairie meadow. After grass removal, I'll put down 1/2" of compost. I will broadcast wildflower seeds on the compost. If I mulch after broadcas...
view the full question and answer

Black-eyed Susans in potting soil on ground
November 12, 2010 - I would like to know if black eyed susans can be planted in just potting soil instead of mixing it in with dirt from the ground? I don't want to leave it in the pots. I want to plant it, but the grou...
view the full question and answer

Too late to begin planting in May in Austin?
April 30, 2008 - Is it too late to begin planting in May? I live in Austin Texas and have finally completed my plans for a native Texas landscaping (plants and grass) of my front yard. I'd like to get the landscapi...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center