Summertime, Is Your Landscape Easy?
In the legendary words of Ms. Ella Fitzgerald, summer should be for chillin. This time of year in Central Texas it is hot as a frying pan. I don’t know about you, but I am not a huge fan. Therefor, I’m not going out there much to garden and do yard work. I think there are general rules about the garden for me. I want to work in it when it’s cooler, not too hot, not too cold, just right. Call me a garden princess (or silver/auburn locks;) if you will, but it is possible for the most part with a few basic instructions .
As you can see from above, I like lots of color and texture. This may not be your bag. Keeping large beds for you to grow weeds in is not a good use of your time. Therefore, you need to keep them full of plants or they will be filled by Mother Nature with weeds. You’re better off leaving grass if you don’t plan on weeding your beds occasionally as needed. As needed, for someone in the middle of a subdivision, will not be the same as someone who lives adjacent to a Greenbelt, so keep them in mind when planning. I usually spend about 10 or 15 minutes each week to hand pull the weeds and that seems to work well for me.
The best defense against weeds in beds (aside from plant coverage) is deep mulch. I’m talking 4-6 inches of natural shredded mulch. Avoid colors like red and black. The best defense against weeds in your lawn is to mow, mow, mow! Allowing weeds to go to seed (above) and establish over the winter months if going to be a gift that keep on giving. Mow every 7 to 10 days max for weed control.
Above, less is more when your grass is doing well. I say, If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Shade has a super challenging plant profile so if you don’t have to water the grass a lot, leave the grass, it’s less maintenance. Below, the sun was so brutal, the compromise of drought resistant plants and herbs along with an intentional spot of grass makes more sense. it becomes a work of art and a place you look forward to maintaining.
If you have a lot of sun or shade hours, make sure you choose the right plants for the light conditions. A plant that is never happy will always be maintenance. It is also really important to choose the correct plants and trees that are native or adapted to your environment. If a plant needs too much work, get rid of it. If you have oversized shrubs you have to constantly trim, get rid of them or turn them into trees or a work of art.
Composting your lawn and beds will also make your maintenance a lot less in the summer. Compost only works if you’re organic, so bone up on some organic fertilizers and general care and you will reap the rewards for generations to come. Chemical fertilizers and weed control kill your soil and the beneficial fungi that connects your plants for the greater good (Google Mycorrhizal Fungi). Creating a symbiotic relationship throughout your entire property allows each plant to benefit from one another. That can only happen with an organic protocol and here are some of my faves.
Compost your beds each spring 1 to 2 inches and compost your entire lawn and trees 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Use the compost to fill in ruts and bald spots as well.
If you have big mama shrubs that cannot be “reclaimed”, it may be a good idea to start over. When I’m designing I will always salvage as much of the existing landscape as I possibly can. Try to find the names of the oversized shrubs you have, and see if you can “rebuild them”.
Below, these shrubs are eating up the house and have been too poorly trimmed for any structural “comeback”, so I removed most of them and started over…
Below, Now, the house is the star of this show and when these plants mature, they will proportionate in size to the scale of the home without unnecessary maintenance.
Many times you may just need to do some weeding out and choose the strongest and most interesting plants that have the most potential, then you may need to change the way you maintain them. For example, some big shrubs can be turned into trees and no longer require as much maintenance.
Obviously, the topiary on the left is the most maintenance and the one on the right is the least. Choose wisely.
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make is to install river rock in place of lawn to reduce maintained. RIVER ROCK IS NO WATER, NOT, NO MAINTENANCE, I recommend a 4mil painters plastic beneath rock-work for weed control as long as it’s not on a slope. Landcape fabric burns off after about 2 summers in rock. Either way, prepare to pull weeds. The bottom right is a neighbor who thought he could place rock and poison it with Round Up every six months. No Bueno. Weeding each week takes a few minutes, waiting months causes this.
Finally, conserving water is awesome, but don’t be so stingy you lose your lawn and shrubs. Erosion and weeds will become an issue and you’re better off watering every 10 days deeply than not at all. Beds along your foundation are beneficial because the moisture keeps the foundation from expansion in the heat.
Moral to the story is to keep it manageable by weeding once a week for 10 minutes, or come home from Austin traffic and kick the crap out of some weed beds before you go in the house. Keep the lawn if you don’t want to pull weeds, mow often and be organic about it. If you want to reduce your lawn (and I hope you do), you’ll reduce your water by using evergreen, low water, low maintenance plants that belong here. Then water enough to keep it alive so you don’t have to replace it. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, add small beds at a time and make sure you can care for them. Once you have success, add more, and so on. Or don’t…
It’s really that simple…
Lisa’s Landscape and Design
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”