Foundation Damage Can Be Avoided: Know Your Soil and Safest Plants

Foundation damage and health are important considerations for landscaping. When it comes to sprucing up your yard, we have the details to help with your selections.

Knowing how to protect your foundation from tree roots, space seeds properly and find the perfect plants for your property’s unique soil are all critical parts of the landscaping process.

Whether you’re a Texas native or new to the Lone Star State, you might not be aware of just how many types of soil there are across the state. Plants that flourish in Houston soils may not last a week in San Antonio, and vice versa. Learning about the soils in your area will help you effectively care for your yard and protect your foundation.

Understanding the type of soil you have is the first step to choosing the right plants for your yard. The second step is making sure the plants you choose won’t cause foundation damage.

Ultimately, landscaping around your home in a foundation-friendly way is all about maintaining a fine balance to avoid foundation damage from risks posed by your soil or plants.

What Type of Soil is Your Texas Home Built On?

Before you begin any landscaping project, it’s a good idea to test your soil. You can either send your soil into a laboratory for testing or test it yourself. Not only will this help you classify your soil, but it will also help you understand its chemical makeup so you can manage or modify it as necessary to keep your plants healthy year-round. While testing your soil is the only way to get a fully accurate classification, there are common soil types based on location. In general here is what to expect from the soil in each major city Perma Pier services.

Source: National Resources Conservation Service of the US Department of Agriculture

Fort Worth/Tarrant County: Silt Loam and Clay

Fort Worth clay soil is comprised of very fine particles, mostly consisting of minerals. There’s not much organic material to work with in clay soil, making it stickier and harder to drain. Because it’s so compacted, water tends to puddle on clay soil, which is why it’s very important to have proper irrigation and drainage systems in order to avoid foundation damage.

Expansive clay soil particularly poses a risk to your home’s foundation, as it is extremely reactive and can put significant pressure on a foundation very quickly. If you want to avoid the pain and cost of foundation repair, understanding your soil and choosing safe plants is essential.

However, it’s not all bad news with clay soil. Though it may not be conducive to growing many flowers or vegetables, its propensity for moisture retention and nutrient-rich nature means there are still plenty of beautiful plants, which will flourish in clay.

Alternatively, your Fort Worth yard may be comprised of silt loam. Generally speaking, loam soil is any soil that consists of almost equal parts sand, silt and clay. Silt loam simply means the amount of silt is a bit higher.

If your yard is comprised of silt loam soil, you’re in luck – this soil is very balanced and supports a wide variety of plant life.

Dallas/Dallas County: Dark Gray to Black Alkaline Clay

As previously mentioned, Dallas’ clay soil is a bit tricky to work with, but not impossible. However, alkalinity means the nutrient-rich nature of clay soil is diminished, making stunted plant growth more common. Don’t worry though – adding elements like shale and compost to your alkaline clay soil can help restore its ability to restore nutrients and make it a little less dense.

Houston/Harris County: Loam and Sand

Houston’s loam soil is a gardener’s dream. It is nutrient-rich and retains water well, but still drains easily. Since loam soil consists of almost equal parts soil, silt and sand (sand particles being the largest), it creates a beautiful balance of moisture, structure and aeration.

Sandy soil, on the other hand, doesn’t attract or retain water well, and therefore isn’t very nutrient-rich. If your home is situated on sandy soil, you’ll need to commit to regular fertilization and work with a professional to ensure proper irrigation systems.

Sand can also pose a risk to your foundation, as its porous nature means rain or sprinkler water can more easily flow into the soils adjacent to your home’s foundation.

Austin/Travis County: Alkaline Loams and Clay

Alkaline loam soil in Austin still retains many benefits of traditional loam soil, but its alkaline nature means you will either need to be more intentional about the plants you choose or modify your soil to adjust its pH level.

Adding organic matter to your clay soil will enhance its ability to retain nutrients and drain well, thereby expanding your options when it comes to choosing suitable plants.

San Antonio/Bexar County: Gravelly Soil and Dark Alkaline Clay

Your first instinct when you see the term “gravelly” may be to assume this is the worst possible type of soil your home could have. However, this isn’t entirely the case – while San Antonio’s gravelly soil does run the risk of draining too quickly, its ability to drain well is a benefit.

If you’re dealing with alkaline soil, be sure to look for plants that thrive in “sweeter” soils versus those that do well in acidic soils.

Choosing Foundation-Safe Plants for Your Texas Home

Before you begin shopping for plants and preparing your yard and soil accordingly, be sure to study up on the impacts certain plants can have on your home’s foundation. Our team of experts at Perma Pier is here to help you understand everything you need to know about landscaping around your home’s foundation and how to protect your foundation. In general, you’ll want to avoid any invasive plants or those that have extended or aggressive roots.

You may choose to modify your soil before moving forward with any type of landscaping. Make sure you call an expert to make sure your yard is equipped with sufficient drainage and irrigation systems before you begin planting. This will ensure you are able to protect your foundation from tree roots or any other potentially harmful factors.

Here are some examples of plants that will thrive in your city’s unique soil without posing a risk of foundational damage:

  • Alkaline Soils
    • Perennials: Lavender, Black-Eyed Susans, Daylilies, Mums
    • Shrubs: Arborvitae, Lilac bushes, Yew bushes
    • Trees: Common Beech trees
  • Loam Soils
    • Perennials: Dog’s Tooth Violet, Delphiniums (a.k.a. Larkspurs)
    • Shrubs: Rubus Tricolor, Hydrangeas
    • Trees: Dogwood, Redbud
  • Clay Soils
    • Perennials: Iris, Miscanthus, Hosta
    • Shrubs: Aronia, Flowering Quince
    • Trees: Crabapples
  • Sandy Soils
    • Perennials: Black-Eyed Susans, Russian Sage, Salvia
    • Shrubs: Blue Brush
    • Trees: Serviceberry

Choosing the right plants is a matter of figuring out which species will thrive in your specific soil without posing a risk to your home’s foundation. If you can find plants to check those boxes, you’re on your way to a beautiful, lush landscape you can admire for years to come.

Schedule a Perma Pier Evaluation

Before you begin your landscaping journey, it’s a good idea to schedule a foundation evaluation to ensure your yard can handle the new upgrades and your home can avoid foundation damage. Our experts at Perma Pier are ready to inspect your foundation and make sure you’re on track for a beautiful new yard.

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