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WaterSaver newsletter
Monday, December 14, 2009 Back to Issue Archive
Planting for the Ages
By Mark A. Peterson

Our southern soils foster root growth during the winter, giving newly planted trees and shrubs the opportunity to develop an extended root system before the heat and drought of summer return.

The past two years was definitely a drought period for the record books. From September 2007 through August 2009, the recorded rainfall was less than for any similar period since recordkeeping began in the late 19th century.

Many trees and shrubs could not withstand such conditions. Most notable were evergreen shrubs, such as wax leaf ligustrum and dwarf yaupon, and trees such as magnolia and hackberry. If you experienced the misfortune of losing a tree or shrub, then this winter is a wonderful opportunity to replant with long term success in mind.

Why plant during the winter? Our southern soils foster root growth during the winter, giving newly planted trees and shrubs the opportunity to develop an extended root system before the heat and drought of summer return. Also important is the fact that a lot less water is required to establish these plants during the winter. Depending on plant size, you would have to water only two to three months instead of four to six months.

Long term success also depends on placement. Too often new plants are placed right next to the house, sidewalk, or driveway. Shrubs should be planted no closer to these areas than their width at maturity. Plant small trees like redbuds no closer than ten feet from the house, and large trees no closer than 15 feet.

Lastly, and most importantly, long term success depends on plant choice. Native species should always be your first choice. Our plant list contains native species that are drought tolerant and adaptable to most San Antonio landscapes.

Mark A. Peterson is a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System.

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)
Use these amounts to water this evening after 8 p.m. or tomorrow morning before 10 a.m. Remember, it's winter. For a healthy lawn, water no more than twice a month, or less if you have drought tolerant grass.
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 trees are appropriate for this area as living Christmas trees?
Pines suitable to our climate include Italian stone and Aleppo. Consider other species like Arizona cypress, Chinese juniper varieties, or one of the new holly hybrids.
E-mail your question to

Time to rethink your landscape.
Replace your stressed turf with hardscape or mulched beds and get hundreds of dollars in rebates. For a limited time only.
Good Gardening Tip
Indoor Gardening
Growing houseplants and windowsill gardens is one way to enjoy plants in the winter months. Select a spot that gets plenty of sunlight and use a variety of containers. Terrariums are another excellent way to enjoy plants and gardening indoors.
Wildlife Watch
Masked Marvels
Even though raccoons don't hibernate, they do retire in the winter. The masked animals don't need to feed in the winter since one-third of their body weight is stored as fat. Even still, on warmer winter days they'll emerge to forage for food.
Event Calendar
Beginning Bird Walks
Dec. 19, 9 a.m.
San Antonio
Botanical Garden
555 Funston
Enjoy birds in native habitats, and bask in the relaxing atmosphere found in the Garden during a morning walk led by an experienced guide. For a list of birds that have been spotted at the Botanical Garden, click here.
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