With the new year ahead, many gardeners are making resolutions for getting their yards, flower beds and vegetable plots in shape in 2017.
The Grow Green gardening education program, which is a partnership between the city of Austin and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, offers a lot of help through training classes, printed materials, demonstration gardens and more.
Grow Green focuses on water quality, conservation, recycling and integrated pest management as well as Earth-wise practices.
“It’s all just about sustainability,” says Denise Delaney, environmental program coordinator with the city of Austin Watershed Protection Department.
Grow Green, which started in 2001, holds twice-a-year homeowner trainings, which are free but require registration.
The most recent Grow Green Homeowner Training in November drew a couple dozen gardeners to a downtown building. For this November class, the registration had filled up online. Topics covered basics of landscape design, plant combinations, rebates and resources, as well as a garden walk and talk, and more.
Nancy Homsher, who is in the Travis County Master Gardener Program, says she attended because she is particularly interested in “landscape design that’s compatible with the harsh Texas climate.”
Zelda Laitinen, who grows fruit and vegetables, says she wanted to learn “how can we incorporate both gardening and landscaping,” such as the use of pathways and waterways. Laitinen says her husband is an avid gardener, but “I’m here more for the design part.”
Debbie Wertheim says she stumbled across information about the training online and decided the four-hour length meant it probably had “enough information to make it worthwhile.” In addition, “it was free.” She wished to find out about “native plants and better water options.”
The training is a crash course that covers a lot of ground, Delaney says. In gardening design, Delaney talked about proportion, intention and balance. She encouraged unity, which she says is “having some thread that ties things together,” yet, she says, “you can have lots of diversity.”
Delaney also offered simple ideas, such as assessing a landscape from different perspectives by stepping far back. Or “go inside and look out your windows,” she says.
Other straightforward advice: “Get yourself a rain gauge,” she says. This helps to more accurately assess your specific garden area’s water needs.
Overall, she cautioned, “There’s no landscape that’s no-maintenance.” She also advised that, “There is no right design. It’s what you like. … Don’t feel there’s a right or wrong.”
Delaney also let attendees know that the Grow Green program aims to help. “Any way we can help you be successful, we’re here,” she says.
The next homeowner training will be around spring, with registration starting a month or so earlier.
Interested people can subscribe online to receive notifications about such gardening classes or call 512-974-2550 to get on the email list. They also can find Grow Green tools at growgreen.org.
The Grow Green program also offers trainings for landscape professionals. The series of five daylong trainings, which costs $20 per day or $75 for all five, cover plants and trees, edibles and wildlife, rainscapes, maintenance and treating pests and fire-wise landscaping. Registration has been ongoing for these sessions, which begin Jan. 20.
If you’re thinking about hiring a landscaping professional, a list of who has completed the professional training courses is listed at the Grow Green website. “We get lots of questions from citizens on who should (they) hire. The city can’t endorse particular businesses,” but “these professionals are committed to following sustainable landscaping practices” by taking the training, Delaney says.
The growgreen.org site also lists other events, including children’s garden story times and numerous Streamside Sapling Plantings.
“It’s almost all city activities that have something to do with landscaping and/or land management,” she says.
The Grow Green program also offers many free publications on a range of topics, including “Landscape Design,” ”Lawn Problems,” “Rain Gardens,” “Weeds” and “Beneficial Insects.” The guides are available at local home improvement stores, nurseries and more. Find the list of locations online at growgreen.org.
A popular guide, titled “Native and Adapted Landscape Plants: An Earth-wise Guide for Central Texas,” is a booklet with descriptions and photos of plants. It was created to help people select plants that are good for Austin’s climate and soil. They are also plants that tend to be drought tolerant, pest and disease resistant and are beneficial for wildlife.
Between 40,000 and 50,000 of these guides are given out each year, Delaney says.
Information is also available on a searchable plant database at the Grow Green website.
“We aim to provide the resources that you need to be successful landscaping in Austin,” Delaney says.