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?

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
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
2 ratings

Saturday - December 11, 2010

From: Kerrville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Compost and Mulch, Soils
Title: Soil improvement near Kerrville, TX
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

We live in the Kerrville area; the soil is extremely shallow and deficient. The yard consists of mainly native plants, with a concentration of plants for butterflies and birds. What kind of soil and fertilizer should we add and when? Thanks very much!

ANSWER:

Ahhh – good old Hill country rock soil!  Just for the fun of it – I looked up the soil composition in Kerrville on the USDA Soil Survey - It was just as bad as I expected:    “Typically, the surface layer of the Kerrville soils is calcareous, pale brown gravelly clay loam about 8 inches thick. The next layer to a depth of 15 inches is calcareous, very pale brown clay loam that is 10 percent limestone gravel. The next layer to a depth of 24 inches is calcareous, extremely gravelly clay loam that is 75 percent limestone gravel and flagstones. Below that is coarsely fractured indurated limestone.”

   Congratulations on your native plant garden.  While clay has nutrients in it that plants need, it compacts so readily that the tiny little rootlets on plants that are responsible for picking up nutrients and moisture from the soil cannot access them. You could help your plants by adding a good compost and crushed decomposed granite soil [say about ¾ compost and ¼ crushed granite]. The granite adds trace minerals that your plants will love.  You can also fertilize once a month with seaweed or compost tea (no toxins that may kill butterflies & birds) – do that early in the morning or later in the evening during the bloom season.   However, with a good compost layer you might not even have to fertilize!

Hopefully you can scan the list of suppliers that support the Wildflower Center and find one that offers these kinds of soil.  Alltex Nursery and Landscape is close and a WIldflower Center associate.  Garden-ville offers all the materials recommended and has a store in San Antonio. 

 But, while we’re on the subject – how about setting up a nice compost pile for kitchen and yard waste – your own compost will gradually build up the soil in a really nice natural manner.

 

More Soils Questions

Care of Ixora by lowering soil pH
March 24, 2007 - I have a bunch of Ixoras that the leaves are turning brown, before I pull them out, is there any kind of treatment to save them? I have used insecticidal soap several times but there has been no impro...
view the full question and answer

Need help growing plants in red dirt in Mount Pleasant, NC.
September 17, 2011 - I live in N.C. and I have had the hardest time getting plants to grow;I have red dirt at my house. Can you suggest a few colorful plants that would do real well in red dirt? Thank You So Very Much!!!!...
view the full question and answer

What to do with soil left over from new driveway in Austin
January 07, 2011 - When we had a new driveway put in in Mid-December, the topsoil and weedy grass was scraped into a low pile. I watered it and covered it with black plastic to kill all the plant matter. How long should...
view the full question and answer

Failure to thrive of one Desert Willow in Phoenix AZ
September 06, 2013 - We planted 4 desert willow trees in the summer and 3 of the 4 are doing excellent, however the last one is not not doing so well, it was the smallest of all and it started out fine but its leaves bega...
view the full question and answer

Replacing hawthorn bush with muhly grass from Plano TX
April 10, 2014 - I am thinking of replacing a hawthorn bush with a muhly grass plant or two in an edged area with river rock cover in Plano, texas. It is the black soil and not a sandy loam. We have a sprinkler syst...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center