Image by Daniela Turcanu

Our Gardens

 

Kyle Public Library Pollinator Garden

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In the fall of 2017, the City of Kyle purchased 1.5 acres of land located immediately behind the Kyle Public Library from the Sledge Family who wanted a green space for local families to enjoy.

 

The Library staff developed a ‘big picture’ plan for a nature trail around and through the property, with the pollinator garden being the first step. The Library contacted HCMGA for support in design, development and installation of the garden.

Considerations for Planning Layout: Library patrons use the garden primarily for reading and quiet space and the kids love it. We used Texas native and adapted plants to provide nectar for local and migrating butterflies and host plants for larval stages. We chose plants of varying color and texture for seasonal interest thru the year and looked carefully at the plants’ size at maturity, light and water requirements, and care and maintenance needs—all working within a strict budget.

Other considerations included planned use and foot traffic; rainwater flow patterns; soil composition; sun throughout the day and positioning vs. compass points; shade sources; water source; walkways for visitors; paths for maintenance; and possible encroachment from surrounding field. The final size is 50’ x 50’ and includes walking paths, bench seating areas in the shade, and labels to identify all plants and trees. 

The Kyle Public Works Department completed the initial undergrowth clearing, staked out the garden, scraped the ground clear and leveled the site. They also ran a water line to the garden and installed the sidewalks from the library parking lot to the garden. The City of Kyle Parks Department installed edging around the entire garden, installed concrete seating areas with benches, and a flagstone path with embedded solar lighting.

Garden Prep & Plant Installation: The HCMGA and Kyle Garden Club completed extensive weeding, breaking up of clay areas, and soil amendment and leveling before we started planting. In November of 2018, HCMGA installed 240 plants and 40 more in April 2019. The majority of plants were 1 gallon size and were installed with a mix of compost and then we backfilled holes with native soil. The beds were mulched with a 50:50 mix of compost-to-mulch to 2–3", and we replenish them with 1–2” of this mix annually. 

Care & Maintenance: HCMGA maintain the beds plants and trees per recommendations from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services at Agrilife Extension, GrowGreen.org, and Wildflower.org recommendations. Paul Phelan, Director of the Kyle Public Library, maintains the surrounding acreage.

We’re so grateful to the library staff for their foresight, enthusiastic support and drive to make this beautiful transformation come to life!

Dripping Springs Precinct Four

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When the current administration building for Hays County Precinct 4 was built in 2008 the design included a rainwater collection system from its metal roof to provide water for the drip irrigation system to keep the landscape watered. Local volunteers did the original design and installation of the landscape elements and beds the following year. The design included an earth berm to manage retained water from storms, a rain garden, xeriscaping in the parking lot island beds, and perennials beds adjacent to the building. These community volunteers managed the care and maintenance for a number of years, but maintenance eventually fell to the wayside. The County continued to maintain the surrounding turf with the earth berm and rain garden folded into the turf plan, but the garden beds became overgrown and weedy. 

Early in 2017, Hays County Master Gardeners stepped in. We designated the neglected Precinct 4 beds an HCMGA Demonstration Garden to revitalize the gardens and create a gardening education opportunity for the many Hays County residents who visit Precinct 4 daily. We used the now-mature trees originally installed and maintained some of the spatial intent apparent in the original garden design. We planted the beds immediately adjacent to the building with Texas native and adapted perennials that bloom throughout much of the year and used evergreens for winter interest.  We incorporated a variety of textures and height to draw the eye across the beds towards focal points and used a variety of ground covers to protect the beds from erosion during downpours, particularly the side beds that slope towards the parking lot. 

The parking lot islands have been maintained as the originally designed xeriscapes with ornamental grasses, small specimen trees, yuccas and sotols, also known as desert spoons or desert candles. 

HCMGA maintains the garden beds through seasonal management such as soil amendment, pruning, weeding, strategic replacements/installments, pest and disease management, etc. Plant signage, which includes common name & botanical names to identify the variety of plants, has also been installed for the benefit of our community. 

 

Jacob’s Well Demonstration

Garden and Greenhouse

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Jacobs Well Natural Area is Hays County’s first nature preserve, and it hosts a wealth of ecological beauty and diversity. The 81-acre property is a popular recreational area and educational resource.  When the Texas AgriLife Extension offices moved from San Marcos to Wimberley in September 2017, HCMGA partnered with Jacobs Well Natural Area to develop interpretive gardens and establish an HCMGA base for propagation training and horticultural education.

HCMGA established Garden and Greenhouse Teams to develop plans, which were completed by November.  The demonstration garden would be centered in sunny open area that formerly housed a concrete RV parking pad that the Parks department demolished and removed.  We were literally starting from square one, and the plan included soil acquisition and amendments, along with the design of the garden itself.

The Greenhouse Team researched designs and kits, completed a cost analysis of kit versus traditional build, and determined it was more cost effective to build using purchased materials, discounts and donations.

 

A core Greenhouse Team provided most of the labor and managed outside labor as needed.

 
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Demonstration Garden

Hays County donated soil to get the garden started, and HCMGA hauled in ten yards of mushroom compost donated by Kitchen Pride Mushroom Farms in Gonzales to create three beds totaling 2,150 square feet. In the Texas Master Gardener world, a demonstration garden’s mission is to educate the public about local horticulture. So the garden’s design needed to accomplish a lot—to make the most of naturally occurring rainfall and rainwater stored in two 1500-gallon tanks; to attract wildlife; and to stay in seasonal bloom for as many months of the year as possible.

 

Along with specimen trees, the two pollinator-attracting beds provide consistent color and texture with grasses like Big Muhly and Mexican Feathergrass and flowering plants like Mexican bush Sage, Salvia Greggi, Blackfoot Daisy, Mexican Mint Marigold, Desert Mallow and Texas Yellowbells.  Agaves, Sotols, Prickly Pear and Yuccas dominate the xeriscape bed farthest from the water source. Trellised archways add visual interest and encourage vine growth. 

2021 plans include a drip irrigation system and improved signage with more detailed explanations of the plantings. 

Greenhouse

For HCMGA, the keys to an optimally functioning greenhouse were controlling the internal environment and conserving water. To water the plants, we harvest rainwater from the roof into an 850-gallon storage tank. Currently, the greenhouse has thermostatically controlled exhaust fans and shade cloth for the internal space, and portable shade cloth for the adjacent trial area outside. With many thanks to IBM Corporation for their 2020 grant to make technology improvements to the greenhouse, ongoing development includes adding more temperature control features and an automated irrigation system designed to water more efficiently with a continued focus on reduced water loss. 

In 2021-2022, we’ll improve temperature control by adding another thermostatically controlled exhaust fan, installing awnings on the southwest-facing windows, adding louvers under the windows to bring in cooler air as the exhaust fans suck out hot air, and planting shrubs in front of the louvers to help cool the air the louvers draw in.

Work is also ongoing for installation of a programmable misting system with moisture sensors. The system will allow individual settings for each work table and plant rack per the needs of the plant variety for maximum water conservation. Water from the rainwater tank will be pumped into the system through perimeter piping which runs along the base of the internal walls and is covered by the structure’s pea gravel floor. This gives us flexibility to arrangement the work tables and plant racks. From the perimeter piping, each table/rack can be connected where needed and irrigation controlled via solenoid sensors or manually.

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The Container Garden

In the spirit of water conservation, the newest greenhouse initiative is a container garden featuring wicking tubs that use built-in reservoirs to supply water from the bottom up – changing how, and how much, the beds need to be watered. 

 

In the spring of 2021, HCGMA volunteers built and planted 11 containers and a deer-proof enclosure to house them.

 

All vegetables harvested from the container garden currently go to Wimberley’s primary food pantry Crisis Bread Basket.

 

Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center Demonstration Garden

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The Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center in San Marcos underwent major expansion and renovation in 2009-2011.  The redesign created 15 planting beds of various sizes surrounding the new shelter, the counseling building, and the administration building which houses offices and Roxanne’s House counseling space for children.

The Hays County Master Gardeners designed the landscape plan.  The plan included succulents and drought-tolerant flowering native and adaptive perennials including lantana, salvia greggi, Mexican bush sage, and blackfoot daisy.  These complemented the live oak, burr oak, cedar elm, and mountain laurel trees donated by a local landscaping company.  

With the help of Texas State’s Bobcat Build volunteers, the installation was completed in spring 2012.  The Hays County Master Gardeners officially took over maintenance of the gardens and named the location a demonstration garden in 2014.  

The gardens continue to flourish, enhancing the beauty of the structures.  Clients feel cared for and find serenity and comfort in the courtyard and enclosed shelter areas.  The partnership of Master Gardeners, Texas State volunteers, and local landscaping companies continue to make the project a great success.

The Remme Rainbow Room

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One garden project is especially close to the hearts of the Hays County Master Gardeners.  

The Remme Rainbow Room (RRR) team was able to help brighten the lives of at-risk children in a small way by designing the garden that surrounds the building during its recent remodel.  

 

The RRR is a bright, well-furnished 24/7 facility where Hays County Child Protective Service caseworkers can comfort abused and neglected children who have just been removed from dangerous situations, feed them snacks, help them clean up, and find items they need immediately, such as clothing, hygiene products, blankets, and infant-care supplies.  

Cooperation between the community, the county and the state was critical on this project, and HCMGA got involved as part of the community piece of the effort.  We gave landscaping expertise and lent a design team to create a colorful plan that uses hardy perennials in the beds in front of the building.  Our volunteers installed stones, soil, plants and mulch and added brightly-painted benches to the patio area. 

 
 

Dripping Springs Ranch Park Demonstration Garden

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The Dripping Springs Ranch Park (DSRP) demonstration garden is a great example of xeriscape for the rocky, caliche soil found throughout the Dripping Springs area. DSRP is an active 130-acre park that includes a large event center, equestrian facilities, multi-use trails, playground, picnic and gathering areas, pond, wildlife preserve and acres of open space along Little Barton Creek. From weddings to livestock shows, birthdays and quinceaneras, DSRP is a premier venue.

The HCMGA began installation of the demonstration garden near the main entrance to the event center in 2016. With exception of a few plants that existed in the main bed, all of the plants were donated. Given the extensive length of the building, we used a repeating motif in the design to achieve rhythm. We selected native or adapted plants with low water requirements because there’s no irrigation system in the garden.

We included river rock beds to provide a visual break in the design and to create the impression of a water element in this hot, dry environment. The rock beds also control water flow for those occasional ‘gully washer’ downpours. Soil amendment was minimal and consisted of breaking up the ground in each area to be planted and tossing the larger rocks.

HCMGs currently provide seasonal maintenance and management, and we are gradually extending the beds to other areas around the building. We mulch the beds annually for weed control, water retention, and for organic material enhancement. Rainwater collection tanks provide the water used to irrigate new plantings and to maintain some of the beds through summer drought periods.