Lately, it seems that everyone is conscious of being "green" both inside and out. Everyone wants to do their part in helping the environment. In Austin and Central Texas, conserving water and water-wise landscaping has become quite popular among homeowners. For the past few years, Central Texas has gone through one of the worst droughts on record. Many established trees and plants have suffered during several weeks of 100+ degree temps and little rain; however, with the proper planning and the right selection of materials, a landscape can beat the heat and survive in even the toughest of summers.
Now that Spring is closing in upon us, it is a good idea to take a minute and learn about the best ways to be green before digging into those new flower beds. Here are a few landscaping ideas that will help you in your gardening success.
First, make sure you have a plan before you start buying plants and trees. You need to know the right sun & shade requirements for plants on your property. It's also very important to know the mature size of plants. While some plants may begin small in a 1 gallon bucket, they can quickly out grow a space if not properly planned. Contact a landscape architect or landscape designer before starting out to get a plan implemented for your property--you'll save time and money in the long run.
The garden should be prepared with the right amendments. Depending on the plant, some shrubs require a lot of changes in the soil for success. Like the Hydrangea for example, the Ph of the soil needs to be higher or lower depending on flower color. To match your plant needs, it is important to know your soil type. Check with your local Ag Extension office or go online to Texas A&M Soil Testing to get a FREE test of your soil.They will provide you with a thorough analysis of your soil type.
While a lush green lawn can be very inviting, it can also soak up a lot of water in summer months. It is important to choose the right type of grass variety. In Austin, if your property is full sun, you may want to select Buffalo, Bermuda or Zoysia Grass. For shaded areas, go with either a St. Augustine or Zoysia variety.Also, think about using ground covers and landscape beds to reduce the amount of lawn for optimal water use.
In addition to choosing the right turf grass, use plants that are well adapted to thrive in your area. This includes sun/shade, soil conditions and deer resistance. I recommend visiting the City of Austin Grow Green website for suggested plants. Their website will give you plenty of information about growth habits, soil requirements, bloom cycles and deer resistance.
Now that a design is created for the landscape and your plants are selected, installing the right sprinkler system is a valuable asset for plant survival. An automatic irrigation system could save you hundreds of dollars from your water bill. It will also help give your new plants and trees the right amount of water they need to survive, then the watering can be adjusted as they become more established.
Finally, it is important to provide some upkeep in the garden. For example, to suppress weeds and keep the plants cool, apply at least 1" of organic mulch to flower beds. It's also good to trim perennials, trees and roses in late winter when plants are dormant. This prepares the plants for the upcoming Spring. Keeping turf at its optimal height, periodically checking the irrigation system, and other basic maintenance saves time and water while providing a more beautiful landscape.
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