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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 - June 01, 2011

From: Bastrop , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Plants for Bastrop TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I'm hoping you can help with this. Recently I have moved to Bastrop TX on what used to be Camp Swift military property. We have looked into planting grass and plants in the yard but discovered we have a sandy loam with clay underneath. I have never dealt with that before so we do not know what types of grass and plants will be best for our situation. Currently in our yard, we have what seems to be endless amounts of "johnson grass" and sticker plants but very little grass itself. What is your best opinion on what to do to get our yard thriving.

ANSWER:

Because we had not heard of Camp Swift, we decided to do a little research, and found this very informational article on its role in World War II, and the gradual return to civilian and utility use. The article is fairly old, so we are assuming most of the restoration work has already been done, and now your garden will be a part of it. 

Since it really is already too late in the season to do any planting, we recommend that you spend your time and energy preparing your dirt to take to native seeds and plants that will do well in your area. First and foremost, you need to get rid of the Cenchrus spinifex (Coastal sandbur), which is native to this area, and Johnson grass, which is native to the Meditteranean.

There are some basic tasks that need to be performed before plant selection. From this University of California at Davis website on Soil Solarization, we learned some of the things that will work in the situation you describe. 

If you have trees or a lot of shade, you may not be able to do this all over your yard, but utilize it if you can. Don't let any of the invasive weeds put on seed. Mow, pull them out, chop them down, and dispose of the seeding heads in the landfill, as they will just come up again if left there. We realize this is hot, dirty work, and it is not going to be particularly attractive this year, so plan for next year. You will just be wasting time and money (not to mention the work) if you try to begin planting before you get rid of the weeds, and address the soil deficiencies.

Our How-To Article on Native Lawns: Multi-Species will give you very good suggestions for preparing for and planting native grasses as well as other plants that will do well in your area with minimal water and fertilization. Again, if you have shade areas, you will have to consider something else than lawn grasses because most native lawn grasses need sun.

Now, we'll help you find plants native to the Bastrop County area that will do well. You will have to make the choices when selecting plants on light requirements, soil moisture, and habit (herbaceous blooming plant, shrub, tree, etc.) In our Special Collections, we have a list of recommended plants for the Post Oak Savannah, which appears to be the most appropriate for your site. Be sure and read the paragraph at the top of the list, which represents very well what you are telling us about your soil. We feel sure most of the plants on the list will suit your situation. There are 257 plants on that lists, so we will test-drive your lists by selecting an herbaceous blooming plant ("herb" under General Appearance) , and clicking on "Narrow Your Choice" which will produce a list of 134 plants. We chose Monarda citriodora (Lemon beebalm) and you can click on the link to go to our webpage on that plant, where you will learn when and what color it blooms, what kind of soil moisture and soils it needs, light requirements and projected height.

From there, you are welcome to make your own choices. You can make lists of trees, shrubs, succulents, grasses, vines or ferns and see what matches your specifications. When you make a new list, you can choose among the other options. This will give you shorter, but more useful, lists.

 

 

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