A properly designed landscape and irrigation system can help conserve our water. Check with your designer for water conservation plant and irrigation choices. A nicely-landscaped yard or garden adds to your home’s resale value.
Central Texas presents a unique set of challenges to gardeners and landscapers. The summer heat, drought and heavy, poorly drained clay soil makes it fairly impossible for a lot of species to thrive, while other plants that are suited to a desert environment don’t do well either. Xeriscape is the principle of using native plants that can tolerate extremes of heat and drought, as part of a comprehensive approach to landscaping design and planning.
Plants all give off water as evaporation; some plants are better equipped for this and are more efficient in their use of water. Typical drought-tolerant species may have grey, waxy, thick, fuzzy or shiny leaves. These are all mechanisms that help the plant use water more efficiently; they also have fewer pores, or stomata, to allow evaporation into the air. Some plants can even orient their leaves to avoid exposure to the sun in the heat of summer. Many plants have evolved to have wide, shallow root systems to help suck up water that’s close to the surface of the soil. Others have tuberous roots or bulbs that can restore the water they gather during rainy seasons. You can also help your plants out a lot by mulching heavily to keep weeds down and retain moisture in the soil.
The design aspect is important, before you turn over one trowel full of dirt. Sketch out your yard and garden area, accounting for trees, structures and existing plants. Give some thought to your landscape budget and the appearance you’d like to shoot for. Do you want flowering plants? Cactus? Succulents? Shrubs? Would you like some gravel or chunks of native rock (granite or limestone) to break up the design? You might want to give one of our designers a call to discuss this step.
Have your soil analyzed. Get a good idea of the soil’s alkalinity and composition, then add in some organic matter (manure or fertilizer) to the prospective shrub, flower or Turf area. If your soil is heavy clay (like a lot of Central Texas soil is), you can till in some sand to lighten it and give it better drainage.
Think about maximizing your landscape with large beds containing drought tolerant plants and drought tolerant types of sod for your turf areas. Adding irrigation can help control the amount of water needed for all types of plants and sod. Irrigation is the best way to control your water and help save our most precious resource.
As part of your landscaping design, think about how you’ll take care of your irrigation needs. You may want a full-fledged sprinkler system, or for smaller areas, a drip irrigation setup might be a better choice. Drip irrigation is excellent for providing your plants a long, slow drink without running up your water bill. Efficient irrigation can save you as much as 30 to 50 percent on your water usage.
Remember that while native plants are hardy and able to withstand Texas heat and drought, they do need extra care to get established. Pay close attention to details like soil preparation, hours of sunlight per day and planting season when choosing plants. Many species will need extra watering for the first couple of months, just to get them established and to reduce stress.