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There are several key concepts to consider when planning or designing a new garden space. First, work with, and not against, the space that you have. Consider the natural landscape and topography. Consider sunny or shady areas and what plants might perform best in certain types of light. Consider color combinations, seasonal successions and height levels or layerings. Check out these sites for more information concerning basic garden design principles:
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Native plants are well adapted to the local climate and soil conditions where they naturally occur. They provide nectar and pollen that serve as food for native butterflies and other pollinators as well as food and shelter for wildlife, helping to create a fully functioning and self-sustaining ecosystem. Native species require less maintenance, needing fewer fertilizers and pesticides than non-native varieties, reducing the amount of chemical runoff and contamination to surrounding soils and water sources. They also require less water for establishment and peak performance, as well as high deer resistance, both valuable attributes in our Texas climate. Increased use of native plants promotes local biodiversity and stewardship of our regionally specific, natural heritage.
There are numerous resources available to learn more about plants native to central Texas. Find several on our program website or on the City of Austin's website.
Although shade plants may not bloom as profusely as their sun-loving counterparts, there are still many native plants that perform beautifully in semi to deep shade. Please see this link for a comprehensive list of shade-loving species from Wildflower.org.
Sadly, Monarch populations are in decline due to loss of habitat and associated food sources. Monarch larvae rely on species of the Milkweed genus, Asclepias. Please see the helpful links on the program website for more information on how you can do you part for Monarch conservation.
The most important aspect of gardening for pollinators is providing plant diversity. Pollinators in general, butterflies, bees and birds, are attracted by different bloom colors, shapes and plant characteristics. For example, butterflies require both larval host plants as well as nectar sources to satisfy distinct needs throughout their life cycles. You can find additional information concerning pollinator gardening on our program website.
Please visit these helpful links for Central Texas bird resources:
The overwhelming majority of snakes present in our home gardens are harmless, non-venomous and a valuable part of our native ecosystem. In fact, many snakes perform a valuable service keeping less desirable species of rodents and insects in check, providing efficient and natural pest control. However, some snakes can be hazardous or even deadly. Visit the Texas A & M University website for more information about local venomous snakes.
Some habitat elements, i.e. rock or brush piles, can attract unwanted animal inhabitants. Please research these design elements before including them in your garden plan.
The single best way to reduce mosquito populations in a residential or home garden setting is to remove unwanted pools or collections of standing water. In rain gardens, ponds or other intentional variants of standing water listed as habitat elements, use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) tablets or dissolving donuts. These are an organic, all natural, biological insecticide that targets mosquito larva. These can be purchased from most professional nurseries or ordered online.
To mitigate potential flood damage as well as reduce erosion and associated pollution runoff and contamination. Please see these resources for more information: