Tilling the Soil

Tilling the Soil

Toiling the SoilIt’s both water-wise and wallet-wise to consider alternatives when it comes to landscape design. As more homeowners reach this conclusion they are learning to find new ways to achieve beautiful and inspiring surroundings that demand less maintenance while making less of an impact on the environment.

For most landscape architects or designers, the topic of xeriscaping is anything but dry. Xeriscaping is referred to as minimal water usage for drought resistant landscaping. Though it has taken years, it seems consumers are finally beginning to realize that a green swath of grass is not necessarily an ideal yard, particularly in arid climates. And there’s a demand now for new methods and sustainable techniques in landscaping.

Saralee Tiede, director of communications at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center said the key is to landscape for life.

Toiling the Soil“We try to urge homeowners to create landscaping that gives back to the environment,” Tiede said. “Unfortunately, a lot of landscapes require a lot of maintenance and our efforts reduce the impact.”

Go Native U is an informal University of Texas at Austin education program offered at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It’s designed to teach adults about the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes.

“Using native plants means less fertilizer, no pesticides, less water, which effectively reduces the risk of endangering the natural habitat,” Tiede said. “There are a lot of benefits to native planting and getting the information is the first step.”

Margarita Posey, a designer with Native Land Design in Cedar Park says the biggest obstacle many homeowners face when tackling landscaping is that they aren’t fully armed with information.

“It’s important to understand your plants and what they do,” Posey said. “For instance, knowing that perennial flowers will grow back in the spring. Or using less sod and more bermuda grass, which are drought tolerant. It all makes a huge difference in sustainable techniques.”

Toiling the SoilLake Travis homeowner, Sarah Culman knows just how important it is to learn the plants that are specific to your region.

“We can’t really use a lot of water in our region since it’s scarce,” Culman said. “I definitely don’t want to take too much out of the land … this is just a way of giving back to the environment by being conscious of what I put into it or don’t put into it such as fertilizers and pesticides.”

Round Rock Gardens is an avid supporter of those individuals and organizations working towards the betterment of the community. Stephanie Ramert of Round Rock Gardens, the oldest garden center/nursery in Central Texas, says the green movement is thriving.

“People are interested in organic gardening because not only does it improve the property, but it’s giving back to the environment,” Ramert said. “People are particularly interested in improving their property with native plants, because ecologically it’s advantageous.”

Round Rock Gardens participated in the show Extreme Home Makeover Austin and was an Austin Small Business award finalist. Ramert says their landscape designs and products enhance the beauty and value of countless homes throughout Texas.

Toiling the Soil

Speaking of giving back, GIVE & GROW is a new and unique program that the Round Rock Gardens are offering. Their goal is to provide an alternative way to help local clubs, schools, churches and other community organizations earn money. Shop with them during a designated period specifically and 10 percent of each dollar you spend at Round Rock Gardens will go to your preferred organization.

Toiling the SoilRamert says the rich environment of Central Texas has so much to offer landscapers and gardeners. It’s just a matter of finding a program of gardening and growing that works best for you while leaving the natural elements of everything in place. That in a nutshell is the goal of sustainable landscaping and native planting. Take only what you need and work with what you have.

A well-designed landscape is a pleasure to the owner since it enhances a community, adds to the property’s resale value and limits environmental impact. And since Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property.

It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

Some of its major goals include:

  • Organizing and developing the site for maximum use and pleasure.
  • Creating a visual relationship between the house and the site.
  • Reducing landscape maintenance to a practical level.
  • Assists in conserving energy
  • Reduces environmental inputs such as water, fertilizers and pesticides.

Do’s & Don’ts for New Homeowners (according to Landscape For Life):

If you’re searching for a new home site, you can help preserve prime farmland, keep eroded soil and polluted runoff out of local waterways, protect disappearing wetlands, and preserve critical habitat for imperiled plants and wildlife. Careful site selection can also protect your home from future flooding and promote health by encouraging you and your family to walk, bike or use public transit instead of driving.

Tilling the Soil

  • Don’t build on prime farmland.
  • Don’t construct your house on a 100-year floodplain.
  • Don’t disturb soil or vegetation within 50 feet of a wetland.
  • Don’t destroy critical habitat for imperiled plants and animals.
  • Do locate your new house on land that has already been developed or graded.
  • Do build your home within an existing community.
  • Do select a home site that is close to public transportation and bike paths, and that is     within walking distance to stores and other local amenities.

For more information:
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Round Rock Gardens
Native Land Design