Curb Appeal 101: Landscaping is Key, and Fall Planting Time is Here!

fall planting pic

One of the first things prospective buyers notice about a property is its “curb appeal”- the way it looks to people who see it from the street – and the first impression that a house makes on a visitor is a lasting one. Among the many elements that combine to create curb appeal, one of the most important is landscaping. Everyone has seen incredible examples of extensive professional landscaping projects on both residential and civic properties, but even a weekend gardening homeowner on a limited budget can create beautiful gardens with the right knowledge and resources.

In Austin, the keys to creating a thriving lawn and garden are knowing when and what to plant. With our scorching summers that make planting anything between June and mid-September a challenge, as well as winters that can bring temperatures below freezing several times, the key planting seasons are spring, and especially, fall before the first frost.

Though October is usually the best month to do your fall planting in hopes of spring blossoming, it’s not too late! The first frost in Austin is normally around the middle of the month, so there is still enough time to get something in the ground and established before the weather gets too cold.

Vegetable gardeners may need to stick to greens such as lettuce, spinach and mustard, as well as herbs like cilantro, fennel and oregano. Wildflower enthusiasts should scatter their favorite seed blends and take advantage of the moisture in the ground that our recent rains have left. In addition, November is a great month to plant bulbs for such favorite garden varieties as lilies, irises and daffodils.

For shrubs, trees and perennials, this is the best time to get the new plants in the ground so that they can be ready to thrive in the spring. Also, these plants, especially if you choose native species, should be established enough to survive the heat and frequent parched conditions of the summer months without needing the extra water that is crucial to many new plants.

If you are worried about how to protect your new plants when the nights start getting below freezing, The Natural Gardener (located on Old Bee Caves Road, near the Y in Oak Hill) recommends giving your lawn and landscape a weekly spray with liquid seaweed, because the seaweed’s potassium makes it an ideal plant anti-freeze. The company’s website also has instructions and tips for draping plants, and even building temporary plant covers.

One strong recommendation for any aspiring gardener is to follow the City of Austin’s Grow Green program, which promotes sustainable landscaping practices, including an extensive list of recommended (and unwanted) plants and various tips for growing them. Other fantastic online resources include Texas A&M’s Central Texas Horticulture site, as well as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s treasure trove of plant and gardening information. You can also plan a visit to the Wildflower Center to see their recommended foliage in action, including their specially developed Habiturf native grass mix, which can be a great low-maintenance, drought-tolerant option for your lawn.

For buying plants, seeds and other gardening supplies, many people often just head to their nearest big box home supply retailer. Yet while these stores will always have a wide selection of products to choose from, too often when it comes to plants, they carry plenty of items that look pretty when on display, but are not ideal for Austin’s unique growing conditions and soil. In fact, some of the products that they promote even go against the city’s Grow Green practices. A better option is to visit one of the excellent local South Austin garden stores, such as The Natural Gardener, The Great Outdoors (on South Congress near St. Edwards University) or Barton Springs Nursery in Westlake. Any of these places will have a wider selection of native plants, soils and plenty of free advice to help you get started.

So start digging!