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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Click here

Saturday, September 4, 2004
By Calvin Finch, Conservation Director, SAWS, and Horticulturist


There are lots of choices to make when you move into a newly built home. The first ones that come to mind are paint colors, carpet quality, cabinet options, and appliances. You probably also think about new furniture. Another major area that should be considered is landscape options. In our climate the choices you make on your new landscape can be at least as important as paint colors and carpet quality. Poor choices on the initial landscape can mean high expenses and misery during the entire time you own the home.

Here are some things you need to consider if you want to enjoy your new home more and have an appropriate landscape:

  • If you are going to have a lawn, insist that there be at least 4 inches of soil under the entire lawn area. The soil should be topsoil that is workable without massive amounts of clay or rock. The best choice for soil is a commercial mix that includes sand and compost along with topsoil. Lawn grass cannot maintain a root system if it is on rock or subsoil. A lawn on less than 4 inches of soil will require watering every few days to keep it alive. The extra cost for soil will be repaid within two years by savings on your water bill. Lawn grass on good soil is also thicker and more attractive.
  • Consider reducing the amount of lawn grass to 50% or less of the total landscape. Even the most drought tolerant lawn grasses (buffalo, Bermuda, and zoysia) require watering every week in the summer to keep them green. They also require frequent mowing. Groundcovers such as Asiatic jasmine can be as neat and manicured as lawn grass without as much work or water. To see a large number of low water use options for landscapes visit the WaterSaver Lane at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. There are examples of Spanish Courtyard, Wildscape, Manicured, Cottage Garden, and Hill Country landscapes. All of them have less than 50% lawn.
  • When you select a lawn grass, choose one that can tolerate at least 60 days of drought without dying. The obvious choices are buffalo grass and Bermuda grass for the sun and zoysia grass for sun or shade. If you really like St. Augustine grass it may survive 60 days if it is planted in the shade and there is at least 4 inches of soil. The variety Floratam appears to be the most drought tolerant. The 60 days of drought tolerance gives you flexibility in case we ever do have to go into severe drought restrictions.
  • Lawn watering can be much easier if you have a sprinkler system but they are unnecessary if you are willing to drag hoses or do not have much lawn. If you decide to purchase a system, insist that it be a high quality system. Use a contractor that is a licensed irrigator. The controller needs to be easy to set and have at least three setting options so you can take advantage of the SIP (Seasonal Irrigation Program) recommendations each week. The recommendation is based on the week’s weather and comes from the Texas Cooperative Extension and tells you how much water it takes to keep your lawn green without wasting any. Visit the SAWS website for more information on SIP (

Your sprinkler system should have a rain sensor so it will not irrigate in the rain and it should be zoned. Zoning means that you can irrigate your lawn separately from the groundcovers, perennials, shrubs, and trees. The groundcovers and other plants require a lot less irrigation than the lawn does.

        One of the favorite landscapes in this area is “Hill Country”. It relies on rock, small live oaks, ceniza, wildflowers, Texas mountain laurel, and native grasses for its distinctive look. Preserve the existing plants and add small plants to fill in any gaps. The small specimens will survive limited soil. Katy or Bonita ruellia make a suitable groundcover for the Hill Country landscape. They will grow in sun or shade. For more information on good plants for South Texas visit