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WaterSaver newsletter
Monday, September 14, 2009 Back to Issue Archive
Get Down to the Nitty Gritty
By Dana Nichols
Before choosing plant material:
  • Determine your soil type
  • Think about drainage needs
  • Consider sun/shade patterns of your landscape

    Here's the 4-1-1, the scoop, the dirt: Soil is the foundation for a healthy, drought-tolerant landscape.

    If you have deep soil – like most who live in central San Antonio – good for you. It's probably heavy clay, but with added organic matter you have a wide variety of plants to choose from that require little additional work.

    Homes located farther north and northwest have a greater challenge because soil is very shallow. In fact, grass is something you should definitely limit or even eliminate from your plan. If grass is a must, be prepared to haul in soil and compost to a minimum depth of 6 inches and pay close attention to drainage issues.

    If you live on the far south side of the city, then you likely have sandy soil. While it makes for easy digging, sandy soil has little organic matter. Adding organic matter is where you want to focus your efforts.

    Once you've determined your soil situation, decide on plant material and overall landscape design based on the amount of time, money and effort required for your various options. If soil is the limiting factor, start thinking about adding and expanding your hardscape and looking for plants that perform well in thin soils. If you have heavy clay, choose plants that require minimal drainage; conversely, plants that require a lot of drainage do well in sandy soil.

    Changing the soil characteristics or sun and shade patterns of your landscape can be difficult and costly. Save money and effort by considering these factors first when planning your low maintenance, drought-tolerant landscape.

    Last Digit
    of Street
    0 or 1 Monday
    2 or 3 Tuesday
    4 or 5 Wednesday
    6 or 7 Thursday
    8 or 9 Friday
    No watering on weekends with a sprinkler, soaker hose or irrigation system. Areas without a street address, such as medians and neighborhood entryways, water on Wednesday.
    Watering with an irrigation system or sprinkler is allowed only once a week from 7-11 a.m. and 7-11 p.m. on your designated watering day as determined by your address.
    Friday, May 23, 2014
    0 in. Bermuda (Full Sun)
    0 in. Buffalo (Full Sun)
    0 in. St. Augustine (Full Sun)
    0 in. St. Augustine (Shade)
    0 in. Zoysia (Full Sun)
    0 in. Zoysia (Shade)
    Rain benefits continue this week with established plants. No water necessary. Hand water newly planted plants. Donna Fossum, SAWS Conservation Planner.

    Ask A Garden Geek
    What can I add to my soil to make plants grow better?
    Just one thing: compost. It is the one ingredient you can add to the landscape and not harm anything. Add compost to your lawn and planting beds in the fall and early spring.
    E-mail your question to
    Seasonal Star
    (Punica granatum)
    Native to Iran and the Himalayas, pomegranate was introduced to the U.S. by Spanish settlers. This drought-tolerant tree can grow 12 to 15 feet tall with bright orange and white flowers. For maximum fruit yield, plant pomegranate in full sun. Fruit usually is ready in mid-September.
    Past Peak
    Texas Gold Columbine
    (Aquilegia hinckleyana)
    Great heat-loving plant, Columbine is native to the Big Bend area. This attractive perennial does best in filtered shade. This plant grows to about 2 feet tall and features beautiful yellow blossoms. Columbine blooms in early to mid-spring, making it a good addition to your newly planted flower beds.
    Event Calendar
    Residential Turfgrass Management
    Sept. 19, 1 - 3 p.m.
    Botanical Garden 555 Funston
    Come visit with horticulturalist David Rodriguez of Texas Agrilife Extension Service to learn about low-maintenance turfgrass. Cost is $20. To register, contact Sasha Kodet at 210-207-3270 or by e-mail.
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