Design Tools

Are you ready to start planning your Texas SmartScape landscape?

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SmartScape Demonstration Garden
Check out Demonstration gardens in your area.
SmartScape Demonstration Garden
View our photo gallery of Texas SmartScape yards

Think about your wants and needs

Consider what you want and need in your yard, then prioritize. What do you envision in your perfect yard? What plants do you want to keep? Make sure to take stock of your constraints, too. For example, what are your permanent fixtures, and where are they?

Design Layout

Also, check out Texas AgriLife Water University's ULandscapeIt for samples of landscape designs.

Important elements of the Texas SmartScape program to consider:

Creating practical turf areas

A Texas SmartScape landscape doesn't necessarily mean a landscape without turf, but turf often requires a lot of water and maintenance. Check out the Texas SmartScape plant list for groundcovers that can act as lawn substitutes. Shade-tolerant groundcovers are excellent alternatives to turf in shady areas. Consider where you might also change turf to something else—for example, a rock garden or butterfly garden.

Efficient irrigation

While plant selection is key for water conservation, you also need to know how to water efficiently. This might mean installing drip irrigation, incorporating smart meters, or other efficient watering methods such as cycle and soak. It's best to group plants by water requirements so you can easily integrate efficient irrigation methods. Watering Guide

Right plant, right place

What goes into figuring out "the right place"?

Your amount of sun and shade. Different plants have different light requirements, varying from full sun to shade. Your yard will have areas that receive different amounts of sun based on the shadows created by your and your neighbors' houses, fences, and trees. Deciduous trees will also cast more or less shade depending on the season. Match the plant's light requirements to the amount of light the location receives. (A plant might survive with a little less or more light than it prefers, but it won't thrive.) Use the Texas SmartScape plant list database to find plants that will work well with the amount of light in each area of your yard.

Evaluating soil. You should know your predominant soil type since it determines which plants to select from, watering techniques to use, and whether you need to amend the soil. (Organic amendments such as compost are the key to a solid foundation to help your plants thrive. Compost helps to condition the soil, hold moisture, prevent runoff, reduce erosion, and unlock nutrients in the soil.) Clay, sand, and loam soil mixtures are scattered throughout North Texas, with clay being the most common. If you need additional information about the soils in your area, contact your County Extension Agent or local plant nursery. Soil and Mulch

Your drainage. Plants must have both air and water around their roots. Areas that often have poor drainage are sites at the bottom of a slope or those with clay soils. Very sandy soils or steep slopes can have drainage that is too fast, so water is not retained. Just as plants differ in the amount of light they require, they also differ in the amount of water they need or tolerate. For example, some plants—such as Calylophus—need excellent drainage. Others—such as Canna and Flame Acanthus—accept heavy soil. If your planting area has standing water 4-5 hours after a heavy rain, consider amending the existing soil by adding organic matter such as compost (3 to 4 inches), building a raised bed and filling it with amended soil, or install a subsurface draining system or rain garden with plants that tolerate poor drainage.

The area. When you're selecting a plant and considering where to plant it, remember to allow for plant growth. (For trees, also consider root growth.) The plant label or the plant database will provide you with information on the expected size of the plant at full maturity.

Interested in doing a full yard makeover? Check out this step-by-step procedure to help you develop a plan, from developing a base map and inventorying your property to the final plan.

Step by step guide