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Entryway is flanked by a collection of attractive but sustainable plants and decorative grasses. Photos provided by Sharon Lockett of the Spring Lake Garden Club.

September’s Yard of the Month showcases the use of mulch as a summertime staple for responsible water usage

Sunday, September 13, 2020

September is still summertime in Central Texas, with yards stressed by severe heat and spare moisture, including Stage 1 Drought Restrictions limiting lawn watering to one day each week, whether by hose and sprinkler or automatic irrigation system. Fortunately, hand watering and soaker hoses or drip irrigation is not restricted, and homeowners who want to maximize water use (and minimize cost) know that providing water early in the morning is the most efficient way to keep plants healthy until cooler weather arrives. September’s Yard of the Month, chosen by Spring Lake Garden Club, shows the wisdom of adding one more item to summertime plant care: plenty of mulch. In fact, the original mulch coverage has already been replenished with a new supply.

The home of Cory Frerich and Lauren Hermann on West Sierra Circle in Hughson Heights showcases a landscape thriving even in September in San Marcos. Although challenged by drought and neighborhood deer, the front lawn, partially shaded by large trees, and the native plants in terraced beds next to the house, are both examples of successful low-key maintenance. Since moving into their home in summer 2017, the family has transformed their property into a sustainable and handsome landscape, starting with one gallon pots of plants native or adapted for our environment and climate. Cory chose most of the plants at Paradise Palms Garden Center on Interstate 35 near New Braunfels but planted them himself. He selected waterwise bunch grasses to fill planting beds, rather than traditional broadleaf shrubs, and native flowering plants like nandina instead of annuals or perennials requiring more care.

A curved driveway separates the curbside lawn and trees from the house and planting beds, which receive full sun most of the day. Large clumps of native grasses such as purple fountain grass, backed by tall dark green cylindrical cypresses, provide largescale focus for plantings. Numerous lantana plants of varied colors are interspersed among these placeholders, with reliable purple vitex shrubs near the front steps and at the far end of the bed, along with cenizo or Texas sage. Star jasmine planted next to the house will fill out trellises and eventually provide a green backdrop for bedding plants, but meanwhile must be protected from browsing deer.

Besides watering the front lawn one day a week, Cory manages drip irrigation for the bedding plants twice a week, usually about 10-15 minutes at a time. An older drip system with a timer serves part of the yard, but a newer system, which accounts for rainfall, is much more efficient, and the older system will be upgraded in the future as more drip irrigation is added to the back yard. The beginnings of an orchard behind the tall deer fence already includes two pecan trees, with fruit trees to follow as the landscape develops.

Two large pots at the foot of the entry hold decorative cypresses, and the steps are flanked with large clumps of decorative grasses and blue flowering sage. Rosemary cascades to the driveway on both sides of the entry and is resistant to deer, but other young plants nearer the house rely on wire cages to deter browsers until they plants are large enough to recover from injury. Cory notes that pumpkin and squash plants did well in this sunny bed, but also had to be protected from deer. A large patch of sedum at the far end of the planting space shows no deer damage, but Cory notes that deer seem to avoid walking over a wide swath of large rocks covering the ground between a tree and the planting bed.

September’s Yard of the Month is still a young landscape, with room to grow and fill in open spaces, while it survives the intense heat of central Texas summers and occasional freezes of our generally mild winters. But thanks to the use of so many plants adapted to our local climate and efficient irrigation, this thriving yard is a standout in the neighborhood and a credit to the family who has created it.

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666