I know many people may think that just because you and your lawn really hate the Central Texas heat and blazing sun that plants would struggle too. After 20 years in the industry I still love designing full sun spaces because the possibilities never end.
1) Full sun landscape beds are the easiest when it comes to plant selection. There is an incredible collection of full sun plants to choose from in an incredible array of colors and textures. Replacing your burned out lawn with xeriscape beds allow you to conserve water by using native and adapted full sun plants. Beds near your foundation also help protect your foundation from cracking in our extremes here in Texas. Who would have thought there would be so many xeriscape plants to choose from?
This should have been 1 though 10 just for the plants you get to choose from, but wait… there’s more!
2) you can grow food! Tomatoes, peppers, herbs, fruit trees, grapes, raspberries, blackberries and so much more grow beautifully in the sun and allowing space for a veggie bed can be a great way of using a full sun space to your advantage.
3) Specimen trees. Specimen trees are really any type of fancy tree that does “tricks” as it were throughout the year or at a particular growing season. They are planted singularly or in mass for affect. The best selection are sun to part sun trees and below are just a few.
4) Opportunities for shade where “you” want to sit. If you buy a home with trees on one side and sun on the other, your shade spot has already been designated for you. If you have a sun yard, you can choose your own trees. There are many great shade trees including fruit that can be found on the Texas A&M website.
5) Less fungal issues than those with shade: fungus is caused by moisture and that is hard to trap in the sun.
6) Less mosquito problems and more mosquito repelling plant choices. Plants like citronella, garlic, chives, onions, basil, thyme, lemon grass, lemon balm, mint, Oregano and rosemary , or really any plant that has a pungent smell will throw off your scent and derail those awful mosquitoes.
7) Vitamin D! It is a fact that most people do not get enough sunshine or vitamin D since many work in an office building spend time running errands from buildings to a car. A sunny spot in the yard might be just what you need to re-energize.
8) Pergola and sun shades! What better way to add color, charm or elegance than with a pergola, umbrella or sun shade? All of these are excellent options for the full sun garden to accentuate or designate the seating area/s.
So stop cursing your hot sun yard and embrace the many opportunities that are available to you on your “sunny side of the street”.
if you are looking for some more motivation and you are in Austin or the surrounding area, call me for a landscape consultation @ 512-733-7777 or email me at email@example.com.
Lisa’s Landscape and Design
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”
The first thing you want to do is decide how you plan to use your land and be sure to create as many living and seating places throughout the space as possible. You can hire a designer, consultant or even go online for inspiration to design and create your own space to enjoy. Whether it is a lot of green you prefer or a riot of color like mine, there is a solution to every problem and a plant for almost every job.
If you are one of thousands of newbies in Central Texas or Austin and surrounding area, or if you have lived here forever, you are probably a little horrified by the gardening conditions. I am originally from up north and moved here as a teen and I was horrified because all I saw was Live Oaks, cactus and hedge rows. Elaborate landscapes weren’t really a thing here in the late 80’s like I’d grown up with so I figured I’d just find all the pretty flowers here and take note of them. Before you knew it, it was my business and 20+ years later I am still in LOVE with native and adapted Central Texas plants. But the dirt here sucks!
I want to share our latest garden pics with you because this is some of the worst dirt I have seen next to a yard full of rock (which we also have). My last yard was limestone and hard black clay; the dirt here is back fill from the huge retainer pond behind us which was under water at one point in recent history (the last 100 years) so it holds water like clay and it’s topped off with “red death” aka, sandy loam. We knew we needed to amend the soil but first we needed to define the space.
To begin with, we needed to add a place/s to gather and our favorite spot was taking in the view of the water and migratory birds, so we built a patio high and wide and this is where we spent the bulk of our budget. We hired local labor for hauling and did work ourselves. We also installed all the beds ourselves.
Unfortunately, this added to the complete devastation of the soil and remaining sod as a patio and pond addition require tons of stone, concrete and water. The moving of building and landscape materials completely compacted the entire yard and the dirt was horrible to begin with. This is about as down to basics as you get. We had a dead compacted lawn, newly planted native baby trees and bushes in a terribly unusual rainy season, poor soil and a lots of beds to fill.
The first thing we did was to bring in over 200, 40 lb bags of organic top soil and compost. We used bags instead of bulk to avoid more wheelbarrow damage. By walking we could take a new path each time and spread the compost over the entire property. Compost, compost, compost! It is honestly the most important thing you can do in a new space where you want to chelate any potential chemical damage and start the mycorrhizal process to amend the soil you do have. Many clients ask if they should remove their poor soil, but unless you know there is a chemical issue I don’t believe that is a good practice. Your plants are going to reach that crappy soil eventually so why not give it a boost?
The first point of designing this space was to be careful not to obstruct the view for us or our neighbors. However…as nice as neighbors can be, we want to hide them. This requires careful thought and planning and the right kind of shrubs and trees. We need them fast, we need them to be low water, low maintenance, preferably give food or dramatic color and accentuate the positive attributes of the space.
On this side of the yard I want to hide the neighbor from our view so I planted columnar trees and plants that will grow tall but not wide and flanked each corner with a short wide tree.
On the other side, I layered trees to create an entire canopy that will block these houses in about 3 – 5 years. It will block out line of sight not not impede on our neighbors next door who also sees the water.
Our side yard is function and feature in that it needs to serve as a space to chill in the shade as well as a garden entrance, and storage space for compost and tools.
I’ve incorporated my tools and compost bins right into the garden by using my unsightly A/C as a buffer between work and garden space.
Below you can see that the garden space is not affected by the work station in a negative way as long as it is organized and intentional. This would not work in a formal space or landscape, but I like mine funky so it works just fine.
It is also obvious to see that the lawn is still really sad. It was trampled by months of wheelbarrows filled with tons of compost, top soil, stone, concrete and man hours of walking back and forth during construction. This spring it suffered from a heinous case of Poa weed and nearly wiped it out completely, but after an organic protocol of plucking, aeration and composting we are confident the Bermuda will return by next year with lots of TLC and Medina hasta grow for lawns. I would have preferred Zoysia sod, but this is what we have (builder) so we’re making the best of it considering where we started (below)
Here (below) is a view from the opposite end of this space which is where you enter the back yard through the gate. The right side will stay low and I am using the beautiful brick wall to serve as a back drop to our living area. I plan to train the Pineapple Guava shrubs to the left into small trees that will hide the neighbor adjacent. This space serves as a path from the front to the back as well as a shady spot from the afternoon sun.
The two trees below define the space between the flower garden and the edible garden where food will be rotated each year and each season. Seating areas are placed everywhere so people will migrate and sit at different vantage points in the garden.
Here, I am working on recreating the tree line outside of our fence, inside our fence. I want the water and woods on the far end to feel as though they are en extension of our landscape.
We have hidden our rain barrels in plain sight here on the patio where they are readily accessible. We use them to fill the pond and for food.
So far, so good for a garden that is only a little over one year old and at a major soil disadvantage. I have fertilized every two to three weeks with liquid seaweed and made sure I chose the right plant for the right spot.
Meandering paths are essential to a good design. You are paying for the land, why aren’t you using it? Create opportunities for you and your guests to wander.
Create movement with sculptures grasses or water features. Invite movement with paths and seating.
This view of plants is at least 90% edible…
Or has edible or medicinal parts.
Obviously, the pond plants and Crepe Myrtle would be exceptions. The food grown here Loves the heat, is low water and little maintenance as possible. I got heat stroke 10 years ago and can’t do it anymore. My last garden was my experiment on what plants really need you and those who do not. I chose “do not” as much as possible.
I have also used the same amendments, native and adapted plants and trees in the front beds and here is a sample of that so far. All of these beds are heavily composted with organic compost in the spring then mulched in the fall with shredded hardwood mulch.
This space was designed to be very linear and elegant. It will be visually appealing from both neighboring sides as well so they aren’t looking at the “back” of my landscape. This garden is one year old and will be mature In another year or so. I have planted over 80% of my front and back yard and kept the remaining required HOA lawn. All this food and all of theses flowers will take far less water to be successful that the sorry sod ever would have been. Thankfully the sod in front did not get Poa annual grass weed but it is sparse and weed prone as a result of the compaction and poor soil quality. We have composted heavily the last two springs, we pull weeds by hand and applying corn gluten each spring and fall for weed control.
Above is the flip side of the front in its infancy and I cannot wait to share next summer so you can see how quickly a landscape can evolve from 1 to 5 gallon plants, and no larger than 15 gallon trees in a very short time with a completely organic protocol and lots of compost!
A little hard work and the right plants go a long way…
After all of our hard work it is time to sit and enjoy the view… Thank you for taking a tour of what we have created so far. I will share each year as I have in my past gardens and feature my favorite plants and trees to share with you. I hope I’ve given you some inspiration in your own space.
Lisa’s Landscape & Design
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”
My Landscape Layout or “Plant Plopper” service is a great asset to anyone planting or filling in existing, or prepared beds by someone with over 20 years of professional gardening and design experience. I have worked on properties for 16 years from full sun to full shade.
My ‘Landscape Layout” service is a great tool for the do-it-yourselfer or anyone who would like to hire their lawn service or general labor for installation. This is a far more cost-effective method than hiring a full service crew who charges a premium but may not know plants. Allow me to use my 20 years of native and adapted plant experience as a full-time gardener both professional and personal as well as my knowledge of professional installations for the last 15 years. I choose the best plants for your space and lay them out for you. All you do is plug and play.
Proper planting and watering instruction are provided with this service as well as follow up email or phone consultation. Your plants are not guaranteed after installation because my wholesalers do not honor them to me. So instead of charging you a premium for each plant to cover a potential loss, I charge you less and train you how to fix any problems you may have before you lose the plant. This encourages ownership from the customer and an educational experience, not just a purchase of plants. In turn, following up my clients teaches me what works and what may not for future clients. We all live in a microclimate, but there are over 100 beautiful plants I use that are pretty fail safe.
Above is a combination of color and edibles with mint and thyme for ground cover and an intentional space for seasonal veggies or herbs. Below is a butterfly garden I have laid out for the client to install themselves or have them installed depending on the size of the job, I can also provide installation per request.
If you ever just wished you could call someone who actually knew plants, who could complete your vision and place the plants in your beds to take the guesswork out of it for you, I can do just that.
Whether you clear and prepare your beds or have them done by someone else, my combination consult and layout service can be of huge value to you.
Plant layout is as essential as the plant choice themselves. If you hire a landscape designer you can have a full design prepared for typically anyone to follow if they know plants. If not, or if you want your lawn guys or local labor, or even yourself to have the gratification of planting but not sure of what or where, just tell me your favorite colors and landscape style and I provide the plant list and layout for you.
No matter the size of the project, I have a solution for you and can make your life a lot easier by providing you with a cohesive plant profile that matches your home and lifestyle. Low water, low maintenance.
Rather it is to fill in existing beds…
Or begin new ones…
Before you know it…you will be here in less than a year 🙂
From English Garden to Modern Hill Country
Where do we start? We start with a landscape consultation, (see fee rates) we talk about your needs and see what you want to change or add. If large changes have to be made, you will be given instruction and a possible plant list depending on the size of the job. Should you decide to go forward with my landscape layout service, the consult will assist us in making a list of plants which I will turn into a bid for purchase. If you decide to plant on your own, your consult will provide you with all the information you need for success. Should you wish to hire labor , instruction will be provided on what to look for and how to plant as well as general plant care and fertilization.
This service requires a $500 minimum which includes approx. 35) 1 gal plants. Once the beds are cleared and prepared I come back with an approved list (or budget) of 1-5 gallon plants and small trees under 15 gallons and lay them out for your approval. I mark each plants location with spray paint and leave the plants to you. 50% deposit is required to order plants and the balance is due immediately upon layout.
Please give me a call at 512-733-7777, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! Spring planting season begins early March to late April and fall season begins early October and ends in mid November. These are small windows of time for optimal planting so call now to get on next seasons list!
Lisa’s Landscape & Design
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”
If your plants could speak our language it would be so much easier. The truth is that plants do speak to us by stressing or dying, thriving, surviving and standing the test of time. In my Landscape Consultations over the last 15 years some things are consistent; though most people know they have a problem sudden or long term, they don’t know what they are doing right and which is wrong. Your plants, trees and sod cannot provide you with a list of do’s and dont’s, so I’m going to give you a quick run down on a few of the things your plants would really like to tell you if they could.
Number one, PLEASE stop using chemicals if you haven’t already. Chemicals do not work, they kill the soil and make your plants and sod dependent on more chemicals to live. Case in point, there are no chemicals in the woods and they are growing just fine. Why, we ask? Compost. Chemicals kill healthy soil so stop it. Compost and organic fertilizers like liquid seaweed and liquid molasses creates a symbiotic relationship with plants, soil and planet. Compost every spring over your entire property to the depths of 1/4 to 1/2″ including flower and veggie beds, lawn and trees. Throw some on yourself while you’re at it.
Stop over-watering or under-watering. Plants don’t want to be watered every day; they like to dry mostly between watering but not forgotten completely. When plants have a deep watering once a week to every 10 days that allows their roots to grow deeper for a water source. Water in the early morning hours when possible, this prevents fungal issues from too much water on leaves and sod overnight. Plants are always thinking about their future, they don’t want us to waste the water that will keep them here in the next century, so only water when needed. There is no such thing as a set schedule, Mother Nature does not work that way. If it rains turn off your system and test it often for breaks and leaks. The best way to determine if your plants are getting enough water is to stick your hands in the soil and feel for yourself.
Plants need mulch, shredded hardwood mulch is an excellent medium for bedding because it breaks down into healthy soil, which happens in the woods in the form of dead animals, dying trees and leaves. Mulch holds moisture which regulates soil temps and creates a barrier from weed seeds. You should have a minimum of 4 inches of mulch for the best results. Add more mulch every fall to maintain depth and color. Never use colored mulch like black or red or huge mulch pieces. Colors are dyed and absolutely are killing certain shrubs and plants. I am seeing it all the time now in the builders beds and newer properties where the black mulch is now so popular. It also doesn’t break down the same. Large pieces can leach more nitrogen from the soil than they provide to break down, they float away and shredded mulch does neither.
Don’t walk on their roots, they don’t like it! 😦 This goes for trees too. Once you prepare your beds and plants, stay out of them except for maintenance and that includes animals and children. No plant wants to be wee wee’d on and stamping feet means compacted soil. If your breed of dog (or kids) are runners, create a path then design around it. Be artistic with a rock or mulch “run” if you will, and place plants around the space or path to allow a symbiotic relationship with everyone. Doggy gets her run and plants get their place. Remove sod from at least 2 feet from the base of your trees, and much larger around mature trees for a flat mulched tree ring. Just an inch or so of mulch and nothing else, making sure not to cover your trees’ root flair at the base of the tree. Compost the tree ring each spring and mulch it each fall. DO NOT DO THIS! (below)
No muffin tops please! I have yet to meet a man or woman who thought a muffin top was a good look on them and yet some people think their trees love looking that way. Don’t you realize that the other trees are making fun of them? They look crazy for goodness sakes. Not to mention, you’re killing them yes, the number one reason trees get sick aside from a vector (biter or sorts) is over buried tree roots and tree root flair. True story so stop that too.
Don’t forget about us :(. Walk through the garden and really look at what is going on. If you are out every Saturday for 10 minutes pulling weeds, you won’t have a weed problem. If you catch bugs and pests issues early on, there is an organic remedy for just about anything. If you visit your plants and trees for their general welfare, they repay you in calm energy, they never tell your secrets and you will be surprised in even the smallest space of the miracles you will witness if you are present.
Be in the moment, in your own space and time…
Lisa’s Landscape & Design
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”
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My absolute favorite herb and there are so many healthy reasons to love it!
Beautiful flowering Basil
Basil was found growing around Christ’s tomb after the resurrection, and it has been used in the preparation of holy water in the Greek Orthodox church. Pots of basil are kept around the church alters. In some cultures it was feared that scorpions…
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Yeah, I said it, it really does suck sometimes. How many times have you planted the wrong plant in the right place, or waited for the perfectly ripe fruit that was wiped out overnight by some damn critter who bit most of them and left them on the ground when the dummo realized it didn’t like what it was pilfering? How about spending a weekend laying out crushed granite then watching it roll down the street during a hard rain 3 days later?
I like to think of gardening as a science experiment. There is a famous quotes that says “To plant a tree is to have faith in the future”, and that is so true in all things gardening. It is basically a study in faith and hope but one you can curtail a bit to your advantage if you have the right tools and information. while you cannot predict that your squash will be wiped out by borers or that a rain event will drown your cactus and a rogue winter freeze will MURDER YOUR MEYER LEMON!, you can prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
So now on to the good part…change is good. Death makes room for life and evolution happens whether we like it or not; so take back that bed of weeds and turn it into something special. Plant cover crops like Zinnias or Cosmos to keep weeds at bay in beds.
Build a creative cover to keep the critters off of your prized crops, like this great idea from Pinterest!
Then, if your once sun garden is now completely shaded by the trees you thoughtfully planted all those years ago, embrace your new space and create a shaded paradise with some new plants you can now include in your list of favorites, believe me, there are many…
Or maybe you cut down some sick trees and you now have only sun…DONT GET ME STARTED! Here are a couple off of the top of my head, but there are hundreds!
So yes, gardening can suck sometimes, but the rewards are endless. The return from gardening organically, while using the right plants, adding compost every spring, staying away from chemical fertilizers and weed controls at all costs and finding the right plants for the job, then spacing them properly will give you the most reward from your investment.
Find inspiration online or at your local bookstore. There are thousands of clever ideas just waiting to happen and remember, less is more. There is no need to fill the beds up. Leave open space for a bird bath or bench, a path to walk though the space. Gardening is not a one and your done situation. It is ever-changing and a beautiful process if done thoughtfully.
However, if you are finding your yard to be more of a challenge than a treat, there is another solution that can be a very helpful tool and that is a Landscape Consultation. A landscape consultation or “garden coach” who is proficient in native and adapted plants and trees, deer resistant plants and organic protocols can teach you how to care for your space with the most efficient, cost-effective and purposefully planted and “planned” manner with the least effort and the greatest return.
So whether your goal is to make an oasis where you can get away from it all, looking for creative solutions to problem areas, or to just make your life easier in the landscape, give me a call at 512-733-7777 or email me at email@example.com to schedule your landscape/ educational consultation. Prices range from $100 – $150 an hour depending on your location (or distance from me) and I promise it will be the best money you have spent on your garden so far!
Now go get your garden on!
Lisa’s Landscape & Design
Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time!
To leave or not to leave, that is the question and the answer is yes, and no. Timing, type of leave, depth of beds and so much more dictate the benefit of leaf matter in your beds. Stiff hard leaves like those below take time to break down and should be thrown in your compost pile.
In Central Texas one of the most popular trees are the Live Oaks and as beautiful and stately as they are in the landscape, they can also be a pain in the hiney when they decide to drop all million leaves over the course of a few days. It can be a tremendous amount of work to keep a lawn alive or beds from drowning in the ocean of leaves that drop.
A common question about live oak leaves is what in the world do you do with them. Unfortunately, the answer is they have to be removed and bagged for the city recycling program or added to your compost pile. A mulching lawnmower can also be a huge help in breaking down these hard leaves that can take years to decompose otherwise. The same is true for huge leaves that cover too much of the lawn or beds. If you have especially course leaves, acorns, leathery or oversized leaves on your lawn, you will need to remove them to avoid suffocation of plants and lawn. If you don’t have a compost bin or pile, make one. You Live Oak tree owners will have a LOT of valuable compost over the years or a whole lotta bagging up to do.
However, if you have smaller leaves like fruit trees , crepe myrtles, Spanish oaks or any soft leaved trees and plants, those can be worked right into the soil over the winter months. These leaves will decompose by the end of the season and be ready for planting in the spring. If your beds are void of mulch, spread the soft leaves across the tops of your beds and mulch over the top to cover. Water well and keep moist for about week or soil to encourage the microbes to get eating then you will be well on your way to better soil. Earth worms also love leaf matter as do other beneficials so they will be working for you while you’re snuggling through the winter.
Large leaves and oversized bark mulch can steal more nitrogen from the soil to break down than the nutrients they provide. Adding compost each spring and amendment your soil throughout the year with items you may use every day like egg shells, coffee grounds and banana peels is an excellent way to promote microbial growth and micorrhizal fungi. Decaying leaf matter provides layers of food broken down in various stages for a ready nitrogen and carbon source. Nitrogen is the green stuff and carbon is the brown stuff. Also know as compost, which can save the world 😉
So don’t be in a big hurry to remove every little leaf from your yard. Your lawn may not appreciate being covered with leaves, but your beds will really benefit from it and so will the planet when they don’t end up in a land fill. Recycle, compost and regenerate those leaves into beautiful new soil when you can. If you have hard or waxy leaves create a compost pile to break them down so you can use them as compost at a later date and you will be creating a natural environment for your garden just like Mother Nature does.
if you live in Austin or the surrounding area and would like help with your landscape care, organic solutions, plant choices and so much more, contact me for a Landscape Consultation/ Garden Coach service at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 512-733-7777.
Lisa’s Landscape & Design (like me on Facebook)
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”
So several years ago I am feeling particularly defeated and getting really frustrated with my scope of work and the Consult’s I was getting; I had a jag of chemical users who were mad when I got there because they didn’t realize I would spend an hour and their money telling them to stop using them. Turns out, some people aren’t interested in the facts as to why their landscapes were failing. Organic fertilizers, native plants and compost amended soil is the only way to have a successful landscape in Central Texas and I needed to figure out a way to reach the right people or make sure THEY would find ME (because I knew you were out there)!
My husband who is filled with great ideas tells me I should start video taping my garden and plants I love to share and I think for a moment; this is a great idea. BUT, how will I look on camera, will anyone care what I have to say? A blog goes out into blogosphere and though you can see your stats, it is not the same as seeing your actual face and no one commenting or responding so I think to myself “I’ll need to be on my best game”. Flash forward I get all cutied up for a garden tour on video and once I had finished I take my husband and son to my office to show them my first cut I am pretty pleased with and ask them what they think, but there is silence…Finally my husbands says, “You look really angry”.
Youch! I rewind and play over and over and he was right; I had a pretty wicked resting bitch face even though I was actually happy about what I was doing. While I thought I looked good from the inside, I didn’t look good from the outside. I needed to work on my smile and attitude in what I portrayed to the world. Sometimes, It is hard for us to see what is right before our eyes.
We can use that same analogy on our yards. Everyone who owns a home should stand at the street and see what their yard says about them. What do your neighbors see, does the landscape match the home? Is your landscape appropriate and proportionate to the height of your home? Would you like privacy or trees and have none, are your existing trees and shrubs a problem for your neighbors? Does it look inviting, taken care of and nurtured and is it a space you can care for that is not a burden to you? If not, it is time for a change and your landscape may be due for an updated happier face.
The best way to begin your landscape update is to address and remove the plants you know aren’t working. Even if a plant is healthy it is not wise to keep it in an undesirable space. You know who I am talking about; the ones you spend too much time trimming to keep off of the sidewalk or lawn or those that have taken over your windows and eve, as well as the plants that always have bugs, need too much water or never flower like they should. Remove those and find the right plants for the job.
There are so many stunning plants for the Central Texas landscape; Though choosing the right plants requires some homework or a professional educational consultant to help make the right choices for your space. Be sure plants chosen are for your hardiness zone, (we are zone 8) sun or shade and require little water. Make sure your native and adapted perennial plants and trees are properly spaced so you don’t end up with a blob in a few years. You can find several great plant pages for sun and shade on this blog or my Facebook page at Lisa’s Landscape & Design. There are also excellent recourses for central Texas native and adapted plants online from Grow Green Austin, TX A&M, or the Wild Flower Center website.
It is a new year and new opportunity for change and growth so take some time for your own space and give it a little facelift. update and/or reduce lawn, water hogging plants and problem areas to create a space you can be proud of and enjoy for years to come. Just like people, landscapes evolve and require occasional tune ups so if you are feeling at a loss give me a call at 512-733-7777, or email me at email@example.com for a Garden Coach/Landscape Consultation, or visit the hundreds of pages, Pinterest, and do it yourself videos or blogs like mine for daily inspiration.
Your yard is the picture frame of your life. Simplify, update, and educate yourself on your land and make the most you can of it for yourself and those around you. Better yards increase real estate returns, set a standard for the neighborhood and invite “you” home with a smile.
Now go get your garden on,
Lisa’s Landscape & Design
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a TIme”
This is an oldie but a goodie. Be sure you are trimming for the right reasons at the right time.
This is a question I hear often and it is has an important answer. There seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to Fall /Winter trimming and I know from my own experience that most trimming done in the Fall/Winter is not done for the right reason.
Landscape companies have little work off-season, so they want to convince you that you need to cut back and mulch in the Fall/Winter months. While the mulching part is accurate the trimming part is simply not true. I have been doing gardening/landscaping both professionally and personally for over 20 years in Central Texas and I can tell you most Fall trimming is a bad idea. The only reason you would trim deciduousperennials (returning plants that go dormant in the Winter) in the Fall is for aesthetics, for example, most commercial properties and HOA’s do not leave dying leaves and plants untrimmed…
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Central Texas and Austin in particular is growing by leaps and bounds. This constant influx of people has a huge impact on our water source and it is everyones responsibility to conserve whenever possible. This doesn’t mean you install a yard full of rocks and cacti. If you are looking to conserve water in your yard with the least amount of effort I have laid out these 5 easy steps for you to follow.
The photo below is my previous yard and I never used a single chemical in 9 years. There is no irrigation, only rain barrels and hand watering. I had 10 fruit trees, blackberries, raspberries, food everywhere, herbs, flowers and interest in every season.
1) Reduce lawn and replace it with low water landscape such as native and adapted plants. Native plants are used to the Central Texas landscape and the drought conditions in general which mean long periods of dry followed by monsoon. Plant your trees, shrubs and perennial plants with enough room to grow. Proper placement is key to the success of a mature garden as well as controlling maintenance and disease issues later on. Nobody wants a landscape that eventually turns into a blob.
2) Add feature and functionality with river rock or stone paths to lead you to the next space or seating area. One of the worst design mistakes you can make is to seclude your living space to one area. No matter how small your space is you can always create different vantage points which carry you through the space making it feel larger. This always creates areas with pervious (water can soak through) and impervious (cannot penetrate, such as concrete or stone) cover so be sure you are up to code in the city limit or you could be in trouble later. Loose material like river rock, granite, mulch or gravel and pavers can be a great alternative for water absorption in an area that requires no water to look good.
3) Create larger existing beds and seating areas. Simple as that, increase your existing bed size by a coupler few feet. Most older homes have overgrown beds anyway so why not embrace it and add some depth. Throw some low plantings in front, clean up and mulch and the whole bed and call it a day. Another great option is to lose the overgrown front shrubs that are eating the house and replacing them with a very simple low profile garden with step stones to take up space. Feature and functionality. Updated, low water, low maintenance and a very easy do-it-yourself project.
4) Rain barrels are an easy way to conserve water on your own property and you will be amazed by how quickly they fill up even in our Texas droughts. A 2000 sq ft house can collect as much as 30,000 gallons a year. No matter how you do that math, free is free all day and the barrels pay for themselves the first season. Many cities have rebates and free barrels, all they require to work are gutters on your house. There are tons of how-to YouTube videos on set up and general maintenance which is basically nothing at all. Plants prefer rain water always to city water and it is comforting to know you always have a back up just in case. Just be sure your barrel has never been used for chemicals of any kind.
5) I definitely saved the best tip for last…ORGANIC ALL THE WAY IN EVERY WAY! This means you ditch the blue stuff, swear to never use “Weed and Feed”again, and make “Round Up’ the nasty words that they are, then you are well on your way.
Compost your entire property including lawn, beds and trees each spring. Mulch your beds each fall and fertilize with corn meal, corn gluten, molasses, liquid seaweed and rock minerals like green sand, granite sand and lava sand. Mixing these dry products together at the right time of year can be used on your lawn for an organic weed and feed and recipes can be found all over the internet. Purchase ladybugs, praying mantis or Trichogramma wasps and beneficial nematodes as your organic allies. Learn about companion planting. For every single problem there is an organic solution. Chemicals kill your soil, can kill your plants and harm our planet. Why make bad choices when we don’t have to? This also includes mulch. Make sure you have a nice depth of mulch to hold in moisture and keep soil temperatures at a safe place for frugal growth. Never used chemical treated or colored mulch. Only native shredded mulch like hardwood or local shredded Cedar will do.
Compost removes previous chemical damage, retains more water in the soil and feeds the healthy bacteria and beneficial fungi your plants need for success. Chemical fertilizers kill the soil, make the plant reliant on you for food, need more water and are more vulnerable to pests and disease. Think of the forest and the natural break down of materials. Compost can save the world.
For more great information on conservation and water saving plant selections please contact me for a landscape consultation or garden coach session in the Austin and surrounding area at 512-733-7777 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lisa’s Landscape & Design (check me out on Facebook)
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”