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Grass is by and large the area that most of our landscape water is wasted. The average lawn consists primarily of Kentucky Blue Grass and can handle higher amounts of water without showing signs of stress. Also because of its herbaceous nature it is one of the first plants in our landscapes to show damage from lack of water. Kentucky Blue Grass is a cool season grass. Cool season grasses, as there name suggests, grow best in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall. They are characterized by deep greens, soft texture, frequent mowing, and vigorous growth/spreading. They have longer green periods but also require more frequent fertilization. Without irrigation during the hot summer months cool season grasses will not have enough water to stay green and will “brown up”. These grasses also have a high risk of dying and becoming patchy in drought years where warm season grasses would not. Cool season grasses handle traffic much better than warm season grasses especially during the spring, fall, and winter.
The proper use of mulch has many benefits: It can enhance the beauty of your landscape, suppress the germination and spreading of weed seeds, aid in soil moisture retention, and provide some protection to plant material against traffic heavy lawn equipment etc. What kind of mulches are best to use, and which should we avoid?
Deer are one of the landscapes biggest threats. A great way to deter these hungry unwelcome guests is actually also great for conserving water. The characteristics of low water use plants also make them less desirable for animal consumption. Deer prefer highly fertilized and over irrigated plants as they are higher in water content and softer. Some characteristics that deter deer include: thorns, prickly leaves, sharp leaves/ blades, odorous, sappy or milky, and hairy leaves. There are plants that deer prefer above other plants but when food is scarce they will eat almost anything.
Be aware that choosing these plants may not mean you will never have a deer damaged landscape again but it will decrease the chances. Ways to deter deer include: applying repellents on a regular basis, restricting access with many different fencing methods, and yard dogs. Some of the plants listed can be poisonous to people, pets, and livestock when consumed in adequate doses. The plants marked below with an * are especially deer resistant and are the least likely to be damaged.
From here we can dive into specifics. Draw out exactly how big the hardscape (patio, deck) will be. Make sure you are drawing everything in the same scale and measure, measure, measure. Flower beds should be no less than a fourth of your house’s height wide, ideal is one third. Any smaller and it will not look proportional to your home. Remember to design your flower beds and other areas with the same form. If you chose a curved form then have all your edges curved. Curves look better when they are larger. You don’t want to go for a wiggly line you are trying to copy nature.
Identify specifically what you want to accomplish with the space such as: garden area, water feature, outdoor dining/entertaining area, children’s play area, storage/shed, pool, etc. Now decide how much space each area will require and the desired proximity to each other and the house would be. Consider distance from where the food is cooked to dining location, keeping kids in sight, surrounding views, safety, practicality of getting things in and out of the shed, etc. Imagine yourself using these areas and how they should work together.
One of the biggest hurdles in beautifying our landscapes is design. If you enjoy gardening or just don’t want to pay for a landscape design, you can do it yourself and I will help you. Your design can be carried out in one summer or in phases to ease the cost and allow time to find exactly what you want. To phase in your landscape you must first have a design. Only then will it be clear what pieces need to be done first, second, and last. Some things you can contract out or many home stores, local gardens, nurseries, etc have classes to learn things like paving and even installing water features. All that is waiting now is for you to start.