drought tolerant landscapes

Fall Gardening

A Sustainable Landscape

September marks the beginning of fall gardening here in Central Texas, especially for those native plant species. Early fall is also the perfect time to plant those shady native trees. Native plants can thrive without constant care, attention, and water, which is extremely important in times of drought. Native plants are a greater wildlife value, providing food and habitat. Growing native in your garden or yard will help you save money, time, and the most important natural resource, water.

You can still have a colorful garden.

Central Texas has a variety of beautiful colorful perennials, shrubs, and roses. These native flowers attract natural pollinators which are vital to the environment. It’s the perfect time of year to start planting Wildflower seeds! They germinate in the fall, develop throughout winter and bloom early spring. (Wildflowers do need moist soil to germinate but avoid over watering because they do not like saturated soils.) You can also plant some cool season annuals and vegetables to have throughout our mild fall.

Considerations for Native Trees

Click picture for more soil info.

Although native trees require less attention, it’s still important to consider the preparation. Think about what kind of soil you have in your landscape. Is it rocky? Does it have poor draining conditions? Does it retain water long enough? Here in Williamson County, we are divided between two major soil zones: Backland Prairie and Edwards Plateau.

 The Western side of Williamson County is in the Edwards Plateau zone. Soils are rocky and gravelly because it is underlined by limestone. This soil doesn’t hold water well, has high alkalinity and sometimes a low nutrient content. Consider planting Cedar Elm which can withstand poor soil, or Lacey Oak which can grow on shallow limestone soils. Texas Red Oaks are well adapted to rocky soils, and Bigtooth Maples thrive in alkaline soils. These trees can be watered every 3-4 weeks once well established.

Over to the East, we have Backland Prairie soils. This zone has darker, deep, and clay soils.  This rich fertile soil is great for planting Eastern Red Cedar, which needs deep soil to grow. Chinquapin Oak, Bur Oak, and Pecan all need dark and deep soils to grow their extensive root system. These trees can be watered every two to three weeks once well established.

A Self-Sufficient Landscape

The most important thing to a native landscape is to be self-sufficient. Ever wonder how that giant Oak tree by your neighborhood got so big without anyone taking care of it?  Native plants and trees are adapted to our climate, weather conditions, and soils. I’m not saying you should completely ignore your native plants but let them do their own thing and grow how nature intended them to.

Here’s two great searchable sources of native plants:

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

 Austin Watershed Department’s Grow Green program.

Welcome to The Water Spot!

I’m very excited to start a new blog for Round Rock’s Water Utilities and Environmental Department!  I’m Jessica Woods, the City’s Water Conservation Program Coordinator and my plan with this blog is to provide timely information regarding the City’s water conservation program–what new rebates we are offering, landscaping information, drought updates, water reuse project information, and whatever else seems interesting to me and hopefully to you!before_farout

What was a major catalyst for more water outreach is the drought.  We (along with the rest of the State) have been experiencing a drought for the last four years (more or less) and have received many questions from our residents about starting a program to encourage folks to remove grass from their yard and install native shrubs and plants instead (like Austin’s programs).  Well, we haven’t created a program like that yet, but we have begun taking a hard look at our own, outdoor water use and are slowly converting the landscapes at the City buildings to native plants and shrubs, smaller turfgrass areas, and more efficient irrigation systems.

One of our major accomplishments so far is the Police Station.  The property had two front parking areas and a lot of grass and weeds in the front.  Police Chief after_frontTim Ryle was interested in a major landscape overhaul, as the front parking lot was going to be removed.  See the before and after pictures of the remodeled Police Department below as proof.  It is still a work in progress, but the majority of the landscaping is completed–there are now crushed gravel walking paths, all native plants, trees, and cacti, and three types of turfgrass (Habiturf and two Bermuda varieties).  The existing irrigation system was basically junked and new drip irrigation was installed in all the beds.  The turfgrass is watered with efficient rotary nozzles.  Plant identification markers have been installed to name what the plants are and some interesting features about them.

Part of the parking lot is still under construction; however in the spring it should be looking fantastic!  We’d like to hold small landscape and irrigation seminars on-site to take advantage of the beautiful space.  Go past and see it for yourself!after_front_right

Now, I would love to see what changes you have made to your home landscapes to increase the drought tolerance and water efficiency of it!  It could be anything from removing turf, to collecting rainwater.  I drive around town A LOT during the work day and see many, many gorgeous yards that I do occasionally take pictures of for inspiration.  Please, send me pictures of your beautiful, water-smart yard and a little caption about why you changed it, or what you’ve noticed since changing it.  We’ll post these on our City Flickr page (in the Native Landscapes set) to give everyone a change to admire your hard work!  And, I’d personally love to see what you’re doing to get ideas for my own shady yard!  You can email me at jwoods@roundrocktexas.gov

Send me those pics!! 🙂