No matter where your home is located, the key to a thriving, water-saving landscape is one that works with — not against — its natural characteristics. Nestled in the Texas Hill Country, San Antonio’s booming northwest side is a prime location for a specific landscaping challenge: thin or shallow soils. But all is not lost.
As far as plant selection goes, the most important decision is how much of your landscape will be native vs. non-native. After all, the reason those beautiful limestone ledges are visible in the first place is because the soil eroded long ago. Although builders are required to add four inches of topsoil for lawns, most of it washes away after a few seasons.
Going native is the most logical choice as it retains the beauty and character of the landscape that attracts so many to live there in the first place.
A native plant palette for Central Texas is adapted to our natural surroundings — in this case limestone outcroppings with alkaline, shallow soils. Native plants require the least amount of water and maintenance.
If you opt for a non-native landscape, the single element that will have the greatest impact on water use and maintenance is the amount of lawn you have. Turf or any non-native vegetation requires a substantial amount of water (50 percent to 70 percent more) and soil to ensure proper plant growth. The ideal soil depth is at least six inches. This helps retain moisture longer and encourages deeper root growth. Anything less will require more frequent watering.
No matter where your home is located always consider the consequences of the landscape choices you make. Ask yourself one simple question: Are you working with the natural surroundings or against it?
By Juan Soulas, a conservation planner for San Antonio Water System. Since joining SAWS in 2007 his duties have focused on residential water use. He works with his Conservation colleagues to help customers find ways to reduce outdoor usage without compromising the health and aesthetic quality of their landscapes. Juan also coordinates engaging outreach efforts with SAWS’ conservation partners — Bexar County Master Gardeners, Gardening Volunteers of South Texas, San Antonio Botanical Garden and Mitchell Lake Audubon Center – to increase community access to vital conservation information.