After harsh summer, gardeners may want to make changes

If this summer’s harsh weather has left your gardens looking sad and your wallet empty, think about making big changes come fall.

Building water conservation, irrigation efficiency and ecological considerations into your landscape design can save you money and frustration.

Adopting a more natural style allows for the easy integration of native plants, which require less water, fertilizer and chemical controls and a looser maintenance schedule.

Also, saving plant debris rather than sending it to the landfill recycles nutrients. Leaving grass clippings on mowed lawns feeds the turf and builds healthy soil.

When replacing plants, select plant species with similar environmental needs and group them in the garden. Take a hint from nature by seeing which plants naturally grow together, such as prairie grasses and wildflowers.

Keep sun/shade requirements, water needs and site preferences in mind when choosing and placing plants.

Focus on building healthy soils to meet plants’ nutritional needs rather than using chemical fertilizers. Use compost as a natural soil amendment and avoid products that harm the beneficial microbes inherent in healthy soils. Minimize turf grass in landscapes because lawns require a lot of water and fertilizer to look their best.

Whenever possible, use easy-care shrubs as a dominant plant form. Established shrubs that are native or naturalized to the area in which they’re planted need minimal water to survive drought. Instead of planting hedgerows that require constant trimming, use shrub groupings.

You may also want to group plants with varying root depths to reduce competition for moisture. For example, many bulbs are planted deep, well below the top 4 to 6 inches of soil where fibrous roots grow.

Another smart way to group plants is by dormancy and bloom cycles. Cluster early blooming bulbs with dormant deciduous trees, for example. Also, gather plants according to their dominant colors, such as trees that sport yellow leaves in fall adjacent to a swath of purple-blooming fall aster.

Be realistic about the care and feeding of your landscape. You may need to convert old-style inefficient irrigation systems to moisture sensing and drip irrigation systems. Harvesting rainwater also helps to meet irrigation needs as does situating plants in areas where they’ll receive the rain runoff from adjacent sites.

Horticulture questions? Call the Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 or visit