Easter Tiger Swallowtail on Texas Mountain Laurel

Texas mountain laurel is an evergreen, usually multi-trunked shrub or small tree ranging from just a few feet tall to more than 30 feet in height, though its usual height at maturity is 10 to 15 feet.

One of the most stressful facets of being a homeowner can be dealing with your landscape. We get questions about how much to water, what lawn grass to plant, what is wrong with my tree and on and on.


Janet Laminack

Your landscape is made up of personal choices (unless you live in a very restrictive home owners association) and personal priorities. However, let me give you what I think your top landscape priorities should be and how to implement them:

  • Define your goals
  • Conserve water
  • Save trees
  • Maintenance

Defining your goals seems obvious, but oftentimes we inherit a landscape and just manage it the best way we can going forward. So take a moment and consider what it is that you want from your landscape.

If you are an indoors person, you may want a vista from a window. If you have children or dogs, you might want a nice lawn area. Are you into outdoor kitchens, fire pits and spaces for entertaining? Would you like to grow food from your landscape by either incorporating edibles into flowerbeds or putting in a vegetable garden? If you want flowers, is it for curb appeal, attracting pollinators, highlighting native plants or creating a bright seasonal color display?

Whatever you decide your goals are, it is critical to conserve water. Water is scarce and we waste too much of it on our landscapes. Lawns are not evil; we just tend to go overboard with golf course-looking large lawns that we overwater. For that reason, I encourage you to rethink your lawn.

If you struggle to grow grass under trees, switch over to an evergreen groundcover. It will use less water and require less maintenance. Create larger beds and add drought-tolerant perennials. These Texas tough plants will look beautiful and once established, should live on our natural rainfall. How easy is that? In addition, if you use an irrigation system, please manage it with water conservation in mind.

Often I get asked how can I grow grass under my trees? The equation is shade plus foot traffic equals dirt. Texas A&M University is working on it, but thus far, we do not have a really good shade-tolerant, high-traffic turf.

My opinion in tree versus lawn is go with the trees. Thinning out your tree limbs to allow more light through or removing the tree altogether for the sake of the lawn hurts my tree-hugger heart. Trees are a better return on investment than a lawn is for resale value of your home. Trees can also assist with energy efficiency of your home and provide privacy.

Consider the maintenance you are willing to put into your landscape. The more you water and fertilize your lawn, the more you will have to mow it. Native and well-adapted perennials need relatively little care once they are established. Some perennials need to be trimmed annually to remove last year’s growth. Shrubs and trees should be planted with mature size considered so that they don’t require regular pruning or shearing.

If you are whacking back a shrub every year, it is time to replace it with something smaller that fits the space. Adding wood-chip mulch to flower beds gives a polished look, conserves water and provides organic material to the soil. Any type of mulch (such as rock or gravel) is beneficial for conserving water and reducing weeds.

Mulch around trees helps prevent “weed eater” blight by putting a buffer between the tree and the edge of the lawn. The shape of your beds can also increase or minimize your maintenance. Consider incorporating your existing trees into larger flowerbeds, so there are less mowing “islands.”

If you are ready to redesign your landscape, we have just the class for you. “Design Your Yard with Earth-Kind Landscaping” is coming up on Tuesday evenings beginning in August. You can find out more about that and other events at dcmga.com.

As you go forth and manage your landscape, let us know if we can point you in the right direction for selecting plants, diagnosing problems, understanding your irrigation system, etc. We are here to educate the community on best management practices of our natural resources. Contact us at 940-349-2892 or master.gardener@dentoncounty.com.

JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883 or via email at jelaminack@ag.tamu.edu.

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