If we learned anything over the last year, it’s to expect the unexpected – in every aspect of our lives. While we were predicted to have a warmer-than-average winter due to La Niña, in true Texas fashion, most of the state experienced ‘snowmageddon’ in February.
As homeowners and businesses look to replace landscape that suffered from the historic winter storm and prepare for spring, here are some tips on what you can do to plant smart and use water efficiently in the process:
Don’t give up on damaged plants
While it can be difficult to not rush to replace damaged plants, you will not truly know the extent of the winter freeze damage until the blooming season. If the leaves are brown, don’t assume the plant will not regrow. In most cases, wait until mid- to late-April to know for certain if new growth is possible or not.
For example, Texas native or adapted plants and trees can generally survive the winter months, and the leaves that dropped off will grow back. Additionally, some plants will have damage that may require trimming, be patient and wait until spring to see if new growth begins.
Choose plants native and adapted to North Texas
Planting native or adapted means picking plants that are likely to require little maintenance, can survive unpredictable weather patterns and significantly improve water efficiency. Many plants that are native or adapted to the Texas climate can withstand the hot summer heat, are drought-tolerant, and require less water. Selecting native or adapted plants not only help to conserve water, but the plants are more likely to survive if water restrictions are implemented.
A North Texas environmental education consulting firm, Rooted In has a Texas Tough Native Garden kit perfect for beginners. It’s full of native perennials and shrubs that are beautiful, long-blooming and require low maintenance after the first season. Some other native plants to consider include: Texas Star Hibiscus, Coral Honeysuckle, Gregg’s Mistflower, Texas Mountain Laurel, Dallas Red Lantana, Rock Rose and Lamb’s Ear.
Prepare for fertilization and spraying
April is the perfect time to test the soil to determine the best fertilizer needed to prepare for the growing season. Plus, now is the time to begin spraying for rodents and bugs, such as aphids, that are coming out and can feast on plants, especially if normal food supplies were diminished due to the winter storm.
Become a mindful waterer
Overwatering is a common mistake and can actually encourage disease on our lawn and plants, particularly in shaded areas of the landscape. In North Texas, it is recommended to water deeply vs. daily. Watering deeply and infrequently a few days a week helps establish strong and healthy root systems, while minimizing water inefficiencies. Also choosing to water before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. cuts down on water evaporation due to the Texas heat.
On average, 50% of landscape water is wasted due to overwatering. Solutions like the WaterMyYard irrigation app can provide daily watering recommendations and help conserve water. It’s critical to consider weather conditions and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
Xeriscaping is not just cactus and rocks – it’s the practice of landscaping using indigenous plant materials that require less irrigation and minimal maintenance. For the environmentally-sensitive gardener, this practice can help with water conservation, provide a clean, aesthetic curb appeal and is a cost-saving option for homeowners looking to cut down on the maintenance required for large square footages of turf or groundcovers.
If lush green turf is desired, keep in mind the “rule of thirds” by planting 1/3 drought tolerant turfgrass, 1/3 native and adapted planting beds and 1/3 pervious hardscape. This will give the landscape more visual appeal, usable space and a reduction in water use requirements.
As recently experienced, North Texas can have freezing temperatures one week and 75 degrees the next. Remember that your plants should be able to withstand the weather conditions and that proper landscape maintenance can help them thrive, regardless of the season. By planting, fertilizing and watering smart, homeowners across North Texas can be environmentally conscious while maintaining beautiful landscapes.
Denise Hickey is the public education manager at North Texas Municipal Water District.