Sunday, January 8, 2012

A New Project for the New Year

In south central Texas ringing in the New Year means we have about six weeks to get going on big spring projects.  We don't have to wait for Groundhog Day to know that by mid-February the weather will be consistently warmer.  Even though we can have a rare freeze into March, we need to get our projects well underway early in the year or it will be too hot all too quickly.  Here in San Antonio, the record high for February is a toasty 100F set in 1997.

Relatively mild winters mean that we have better weather for major gardening projects in the winter than summer.  It's also important to get plants established before the heat sets in.  With that in mind I'm ready to start work on the gardening project list.  Since the list is long we'll focus on projects with maximum impact.

Our first project this year is the driveway hellstrip -- 100' of neglected, rocky clay soil and fill along the concrete driveway.
To preserve the existing trees our house was set on an angle to the street.  Anyone approaching from the south looks straight at the double garage door from several blocks away.  Definitely not the best first impression of the house.  We can't move the house so we'll improve the view.
Low maintenance is the priority for this spot.   The original plan for a row of my favorite Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora) was revised when we found the shallow water lines run back about half way along the driveway.  Limited digging depth means no trees.  With all day sun and no irrigation I've chosen Silverado sage (Leucophyllum frutescens), Mexican feather grass (nasella tenuissima), and Red yucca (hesperaloe parviflora).
These plants are existing in the front yard and repeating them will visually unite the sections across the driveway.

We coordinated with the neighbors so the planting bed will go over to their driveway at the street to hide the water access ports.  Plants will be kept low within 15' of the street for safety.  A neighborly path through the bed will be included at a convenient spot.

There is a significant chance of rain Sunday or Monday and no freeze for the next 10 days so we planted the Silverado sage plants on Saturday.

These may look small now, but they will grow fast here and top out around six feet.  We use one gallon plants most of the time since they are easier to plant.  The hesperaloe parviflora will be installed soon and more plants in late February.  The biggest challenge will be fighting the bermuda grass that has taken hold here.

Our neighbors drove up just as we finished and were very pleased to see progress since they've been looking at our boring garage door for 20 years.

There's a lot of work left, but it's so good to see a needed project get started.


  1. How exciting...change is underway. I like the selection of plants that you have chosen. The Silverado sage will make a nice barrier without completely blocking out your neighbors. When it is in full bloom it is gorgeous.

  2. Looks like you have a good start.
    My to-do list is so long, I may never see it finished.

    I have a space similar to yours that I need to get started on soon. Does Silverado sage grow fast? I thought it was a slow grower. Have to look at that again.

    Love your header. I haven't had the nerve to change mine up, yet.

    What is that plant coming out of the pot? Looks like something I might like.

    Oh...good luck with the Bermuda. Next to nut sedge, I think it's the most invasive plant on earth.

  3. Thank you RW, that's exactly what we think the sage will do. We don't want to build a barrier.

    Linda - The sage does grow fast in our yard most years. These new ones will need a year or two to get established, but our experience is that that they will be up to four feet or so by the third year. I was comparing them to Texas Mountain Laurel which would take twice that long to reach the same size.

    Thanks for the positive feedback on the header. I created a second blog that I don't publish so I can live-test my changes. Even so, when I moved the new header over it didn't work quite the same and I had to scramble to fix it. Always save your real blog first so you can get it back if you need to. My next goal is to have the header all the way across the top.

    The plant in the pot is Creeping Germander.

    We are ready to do battle with the bermuda, but expect it to take a while.

  4. I remember when the Silverado variety was first introduced. I loved it then and now. Bermuda grass I have a tip for you: Glyphosate and Fusilade. Common names are Roundup and Over the Top. Combine the two herbicides, they are both grass killers only. Be sure the grass is growing actively and I've known people to add ammonium sulphate fertilizer(powder) to there tank mix to speed up the growth of the bermuda as the herbicide is translocating to the root system. Oh heaven forbid! I'm recommending Just saying.

  5. excuse me on that last herbicide recommendation. Fusilade is a selective grass killer, glyphosate is non-selective.

  6. Greggo - We were just discussing at lunch that we will need a "scorched earth" policy and your option does sound like one that will work. We'll check it out.

    I really appreciate the confirmations on the sage. Sometimes it's best to do what works and there are other places in the garden for special plants.

  7. Looking good, Shirley. You are right -- now is the time to get started on those big gardening projects, before the heat returns.

  8. Looking forward to seeing the progress. Isn't it nice to have a blog so that you can look back in a few years and recall how small the Texas sages were when you installed them?
    I got the latest High Country Garden catalog this weekend. It has a red yucca, Brakelights, that I was excited about but have no place for in my landscape. Check it out. Maybe it would work for you.

  9. Abbey - That's one of the reasons I decided to blog, it keeps me on track and documents progress.

    Brakelights is a great new color for the hesperaloe, but since I have so many of the others and visual continuity across the front yard is the goal, I'm going to stay consistent. I will probably get a few for the backyard where I enjoy mixing in one or two of almost any plant.

  10. The death star returned in Feb '97...yikes! But sounds like a nice plan to soften views towards that garage...seeing the context helps it make sense. Once that bermuda is gone, life will be really good!

  11. DD - Thank you, it's all about the context--selecting plants that look right. That record was actually '96 we were here then and I remember it well. The record low for February was 4F set in 1899. It does give an idea of the extremes we deal with and not just winter to summer.

  12. What a great project and no doubt it will be lovely once done. Great choices with plants, as well. A suggestion for the bermuda: I've always used newspaper as a weed block and before I installed the large perennial bed in my backyard, the area was nothing but bermuda. I solarize (with clear plastic, in July--not now), then layer the newspaper. Since you're installing now, you might weed-eat/pull up what you can of the bermuda, then lay the newspaper (15 layers thick), then mulch on top of that. You might still have some bermuda come up, but what there is will be more easily removed, as well. Good luck and I look forward to seeing your progress!

  13. Tina - Thank you, I'm so glad you commented here. I had thought about your newspaper technique and wondered about the details of it. It might be worth trying at least around the new plants while taking a different approach in the neighbor's yard.

  14. I love that bed with the bluebonnets. Did you create that? It's a great look for a Texas garden.

    1. David - The blue flowers pictured in the post are Russian Sage. They were very blue this year and I even posted about the amazing color back in Nov.

      We do have bluebonnets in the backyard and they are looking really good this year so will have pictures. The bluebonnets in the header photo are in the field across the creek behind the house. As far as I know those are native to that spot.


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