Gardening Smart in Texas
Gardening Smart in Texas
By Robert and Sheryl Yantis
The droughts we are now experiencing presents many different challenges but also gives us an opportunity to learn to garden smarter. Water efficient sustainable landscapes that use environmentally conscious practices and conserve water can still provide beautiful lush gardens.
The first secret is to put effort in getting your soil ready. Start with getting your soil tested so you know what to add to your garden soil. Amend your soil with organic matter and compost so that your soil will retain moisture. Remember that drought tolerant plants require good drainage
The next secret is to plan first and then plant. Group your plants by similar cultural requirements. Put drought loving plants together to have a low watering zone so they don’t get “wet feet”. Drought tolerant plants will flop over or die if the soil is too rich, has inadequate drainage or are too heavily fertilized.
Plan your turf areas. Turf requires more maintenance and fertilizer than areas with plants and a heavy layer of mulch. Use turf where you really need turf. Substitute ground covers in areas where it is difficult to grow, like shady areas or narrow sections of your yard.
Remember to allow for the mature size of plants in your landscape. Shrub type plants will usually get much bigger than you think.
It is important to water deeply and less frequently. Deep watering means a deeper more efficient root system on your plants. Don’t water your plants unless they need it. Water early in the day when there is less evaporation. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation are always best for plants and our environment because it saves large amounts of water and gets the water where it’s needed. A thick layer of organic mulch, like shredded wood or leaves, works great to discourage weeds, keep the ground cooler, and retain moisture in the soil.
Consider installing a rainwater catchment system at your house. The rainwater is actually better for you plants (lower Ph and chlorine levels) and can save money and our lake levels.
Try to stay ahead of your weeds so you won’t be overwhelmed and discouraged with a massive weeding job and a sore back. Weeds compete with your plants for both water and nutrients.
We want to try to eliminate the use of pesticides in our gardens. Did you know that 97% of the insects commonly seen in homes and gardens are considered either beneficial or innocuous? Learning how to put the beneficials to work is an important Earth-Kind® practice that can help reduce the use of pesticides in the environment.
Earth-Kind® Landscaping is a comprehensive program from Texas AgriLife Extension that includes proper irrigation, turf selection, reducing landfill material through composting, using drought resistant plants, reduction of pesticides using Integrated Pest Management (IPM), reduced fertilization, improved soil and use of mulches. For more information on Earth-Kind Landscaping go to http://earthkind.tamu.edu Look for helpful programs from The Highland Lakes Master Gardeners “Green Thumb” programs on some of these items. Get more information on upcoming programs at www.yantislakesidegardens.com/events and sign up to be notified by email about upcoming programs.
Drought-resistant and native plants are the most essential tools a gardener has during times of drought. Have fun designing with drought-tolerant plants. They come in all shapes and sizes and offer a nice selection of textures and colors to experiment with in the garden.
Robert and Sheryl Yantis are Master Gardeners, Earth-Kind® Specialists, Their website is www.yantislakesidegardens.com