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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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Thursday - December 04, 2014

From: Sugar Land, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Soils, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: Restoring disturbed land in Marshall, TX.
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have a 30 acre tract of land in Marshall, Texas. The oil company has turned 2-3 acres surrounding the rig into gravel. I would like to return the gravel area to green space. Any suggestions on grass or trees (pines?) that might grow there? Any re-forestration programs in the area I can participate in. Many Thanks

ANSWER:

Given time, nearly any piece of disturbed land will return on its own to its original, undisturbed condition or something approximating that.  Most of what we do in an attempt to hasten the process only disturbs the soil more and actually slows down the healing.  Fortunately, disturbed soils in the area of Marshall (northeastern Texas) tend to heal rather quickly.

However, there are some things you can do to help.  First, you can sow a mix grasses and forbs native to the area.  Native grasses will help control erosion and slow the encroachment of non-native, invasive species.  Similarly, forbs (broadleaf annual and perennials plants) will help in the same way and provide food and habitat for wildlife.

Pines, such as Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata) and Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda), are very likely to establish themselves, but you can help them out by collecting seeds from the cones of nearby trees and sowing in the disturbed area.

Eventually, hardwood trees like Southern Red Oak, (Quercus falcata), Sweetgum (Liquidambar styriciflua), Black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) and Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) will also populate the area.  Again, you can hasten that process by sowing the seeds of those trees and other trees and shrubs native to the area.

Finally, contact the Harrison County AgriLife Extension Service office for any advice or programs they have to might offer you.

 

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