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Tips for successful landscaping during summer in West Texas

The San Angelo Standard-Times logo The San Angelo Standard-Times 6/20/2020 Allison Watkins, Special to the Standard-Times
a woman smiling for the camera: Allison Watkins © San Angelo Standard-Times Allison Watkins

Summer is the toughest time of year on most landscape plants (and we have a long summer!). The hot, dry weather creates a harsh environment. With some knowledge and practice, however, the home landscape can survive the summer; and can even look beautiful and be functional without wasting water or resources. Here are my top tips for successful landscaping in West Texas: 

First, give plants what they want. This might sound obvious, but it’s the No. 1 most important tip. And it’s more about choosing the right plant to match local environment and conditions, instead of trying to change the environment to match a certain plant. Plant labels don’t give much info, so it’s important to choose carefully — ask for recommendations from local nurseries, use the plant selector tool at Earth-Kind.tamu.edu, and do some research to discover what plants will do well in the amount of sun, type of soil etc. in your yard. The zone number on the label only refers to winter hardiness, not heat tolerance or any of the other equally important considerations.

Train plants to have deeper roots. No matter how much you water, if plants have shallow roots they will suffer when it gets over 100 degrees. To encourage deep roots, prepare soil when planting new plants by loosening it up and incorporating compost. After they are established, gradually adjust irrigation timing until they are watered as infrequently as possible. Deep but infrequent irrigation promotes healthy, deep root systems and helps plants survive summer heat.

Turfgrass doesn’t have to be an enemy to an Earth-Kind, water-conserving landscape, but does require more effort and water than most other landscape plants — so consider limiting turfgrass to the minimum you need, and incorporate groundcover, perennials, hardscape and other landscape features. As I heard someone once say, “If the only time you walk on it is when you mow it, you probably don’t need it.”

Mulch makes a big difference all year round, but summer is when it really helps with water needs. A thick three- to four-inch deep layer of mulch will shade the soil, prevent water from evaporating, and reduce weeds; it truly helps plants endure heat.

When irrigating plants, be as efficient as possible — use drip irrigation everywhere you can, and make sure spray heads are not misting or misaligned and spraying the street. Do an in-depth irrigation audit each year to make sure the system is in good running order, and do a quick check every few weeks to observe it running to catch any obvious problems.

It might seem impossible to have a beautiful yard in West Texas without an enormous water bill, but it can be done! It might take a little more effort in the beginning, but a well-planned landscape can be low-maintenance and drought-tolerant as well as functional and attractive.

Allison Watkins is the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent for horticulture in Tom Green County. Contact her at aewatkins@ag.tamu.edu.

This article originally appeared on San Angelo Standard-Times: Tips for successful landscaping during summer in West Texas

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