Are you taking advantage of fall plant sales — and perfect timing for planting — to purchase trees, shrubs, perennials and cool-season flowers, herbs and vegetables?
I too often come home with plants with no clear idea where they will fit in my yard. A better way to have an attractive and well-functioning landscape is to research and plan first.
Check out Earth-Kind Landscaping on Aggie Horticulture online. The following hints come from the “Planning and Design” literature in the “Texas Master Gardener Handbook.”
Make a sketch of your landscape that includes current plants and structures. Consider how much light, water and maintenance might be needed. Be sure to call 811 before digging so that any buried utilities can be marked. The service is free.
There are some common habits that can cause future problems for home gardeners. Briefly, here are a few things to avoid:
Plant Spacing. Crowding plants is a common mistake. Beds can look unfinished with small, immature plants. For instance, a gallon container of the popular “Desperado” sage might be less than 1 foot high and wide, but the mature height is 6 feet high and 4 to 6 feet wide.
Space accordingly to avoid unnecessary future nightmares with pruning, disease, pests, unsightliness and more. Annuals can help fill in current gaps. Even a layer of mulch will lend a finished look to the bed.
Plant Placement. Your landscape contains areas with different environmental conditions, called microclimates.
The north side of your home is shadier and cooler than any other exposure.
An eastern exposure deflects our ferocious summer late afternoon sun, while the south side of the house will offer protection from harsh winter winds along with some radiated heat. This is the perfect place for those plants not quite hardy in our planting zone.
Both pavement and structures on the west or southwest side of your home can produce brutal reflective heat. Site the most heat- and drought-tolerant plants here.
Other considerations include soil conditions and drainage. Match these with appropriate plants, or consider raised beds with amended soil.
Plant Diversity. Most of us would find a landscape with only one or two kinds of plants boring. The real problem is that the sameness greatly increases the risk of attack by pest or disease. Pests and diseases tend to move more freely in larger plantings of a single species.
Knock Out Roses took the market by storm when they were introduced to the public. Prolific blooms and hardiness led to wide-scale planting of hedges of this popular flower, along with a resurgence in interest in all kinds of roses. Unfortunately, the rose rosette virus rode in on this popular wave and has devastated many a rose garden, including the famous one at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens.
That does not mean we should not plant any roses. The general rule is to plant no more than 10% of any species or cultivar (‘Radtko’ is a double-red Knock Out Rose). No more than 30% should be in the same family, in this case the rose or Rosaceae family. This is a big clan! Plants as diverse as peaches, hawthorns, blackberries, burnet, strawberries and spirea are some of the members.
The flip side of too little diversity is too much. The result is sometimes messy and chaotic.
Find help from local landscape architects, designers, nursery employees, county extension agents and master gardeners. You can reach the Big Country Master Gardener Association’s hotline or our local extension agent by calling 325-672-6048. Email us at [email protected]
As always, happy gardening!
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