Monthly Archive for: ‘June, 2013’

  • Landscaping On A Budget

    image_13We all want our yards to be the envy of our neighbors, but not all of us have the budgets to go hog-wild creating an elaborate landscape. Whether you’re doing it yourself or working with a landscaper, there are several ways you can remain budget conscious while still getting that outdoor oasis you’ve always wanted.


    Start With Smaller Plants

    The yards we love the most are the ones with majestic trees, full grown shrubs, and billowing flowers. It takes time to get a tiny seed to that point. Nurseries invest in space, labor, water, and maintenance to grow that $2-$5 plant into a $50-$500 plant. If you’re willing to wait, and don’t mind starting with smaller versions of the same plants, you can invest in young 4” and 1gallon to 5 gallon plants for a fraction of the cost of their full grown counterparts. With the same care and attention you’re baby plants will grow into the big beauties you want.


    It also helps to mix slow growing and fast growing plants together. The fast growing plants give you some instant satisfaction while you wait for the others to catch up. Buy the faster growing plants in the smaller sizes and splurge on a few larger plants to add both height and to serve as an anchor for your garden design.


    Use Native and Adapted Plants

    Another way to cut costs in the plant arena is to use native and adapted varieties. They use less water, are better suited for local conditions, are more resistant to local pests and disease, and require less care and maintenance, which saves you money in the long run. Many exotic and non-adapted plants require more work to keep them alive (which runs up replacement costs), and can sometimes bring pests and diseases that kill off other plants. Non-adapted varieties also tend to be invasive, competing with and often killing other plants. Overall, as a long-term investment native and adapted plants are the biggest bang for your buck.


    Work in Phases

    Every big vision has to start somewhere. Instead of trying to tackle your entire space at once, try working in phases. Look at your wish list and prioritize the projects. Then knock them out as funds are available. This way you are still seeing progress, but without making a huge financial commitment all at once.


    One caveat; do get your initial irrigation system lined out first. You don’t want to have to go back and tear up beds and turf to add or reconfigure irrigation pipes. If you’re working from a plan, your irrigation tech will know how to set up your system so that you can adjust it to fit your needs as you complete additional phases.


    Use Stone Sparingly

    Hardscapes are very popular these days, but those beautiful stone patios and structures come with a big price tag. Depending on the type of stone you want, the materials alone can be quite expensive. Because stone is heavy and difficult to work with it takes a great deal of labor, which further drives up the price tag. If budget is a concern, think about using stone as an accent element, rather than as the basis for your overall design.


    There are also several faux and modified stone products available that can give the same look and appeal of stone, without the expense. Many are just as durable as stone, but are lighter, cheaper, and easier to work with.


    Be Creative

    Think outside the box when it comes to materials, accent pieces, and design. Be willing to experiment with natural and found pieces, especially when it comes to those garden accents. If you’re working with a contractor, ask for their input. Often they know about alternative materials and vendors who can provide comparable plants and materials for less than retail.


    Most of all be flexible. Working on a budget doesn’t mean big restrictions on what you can do. Decide what you really want, look for opportunities to save, splurge on the statement and anchor pieces, and be willing to think outside of your original vision.


    Landscaping on a budget doesn’t mean a tiny, boring yard. It just means it will take a little more patience and creativity to turn it into the oasis of your dreams.


  • Dealing With Pests In Texas

    bugWith recent rains and the sudden spike in temperature, we’ve received quite a few calls about how to deal with garden pests. Texas is certainly known for its critters, big and small, but harsh chemicals are not always the answer.


    Its important to think of your yard as an ecosystem. You depend on it for beauty, recreation, to add value to your property. If you have pets its also their home and play area. Then there are the native wildlife, beneficial insects, and the many streams, aquifers, and water sources that are connected to it. That’s why its so important to be smart about how we deal with pests, so we can avoid poisoning our pets and other beneficial critters or contaminating our water supply.


    The first thing you need to determine is do you really have an infestation, or did you just notice one or two pests that you’d rather do without. If your yard is healthy, those bad bugs won’t last long as they fall prey to beneficial insects like ladybugs or get eaten by birds. If you truly have an infestation, there is a process to follow.



    1. Determine the infection level. If the bugs have only latched on to one plant, it may be best to sacrifice that one plant, remove it from your yard, and replace it with a healthier one.
    2. Identify the reasons for the sudden infestation. Often it’s a sign of a bigger problem like unhealthy plants are an imbalance in your yard’s ecosystem. Are your plants healthy? Are there any natural predators around to manage the pest problem?
    3. Start with the least toxic options first. The City of Austin has a handy guide that shows the common treatments available and their toxicity to mammals, fish, bugs, and birds. You can also talk to your lawn care provider and see if they are educated on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and ask them for assistance.
    4. Once the problem is under control, put a plan in place to keep it from happening again.


    Bottom line yes bugs aren’t our favorite things, but they are part of our ecosystem. So we do have to deal with them—to an extent. We just have to make sure that we do it in a way that is both considerate of our larger community and that truly gets to the heart of the big problem.