Tree City USA
The Case for Growing Native
By: Jared Wright, SAWS Conservationist
When it comes to your landscape, there are many obvious reasons to go au naturel. We’ll let you in on a little secret: There are also some hidden benefits to choosing native plants and trees.
The benefits of going native with your landscape are plentiful. Among them: minimal maintenance, less watering and little-to-no use of fertilizers and pesticides, to name a few.
In addition to these obvious advantages, a landscape with native plants and trees has hidden benefits to the environment and atmosphere.
Plants utilize photosynthesis to store carbon that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere as harmful carbon dioxide. A majority of that stored carbon ends up underground in the root systems and soil — instead of wafting about the environment.
Native plants also create positive effects for the nitrogen cycle. Nitrous dioxide is hundreds of times more dangerous to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. All too often, nitrogen fertilizer is applied to lawns at far greater rates than necessary. Native plants, on the other hand, require less fertilizer, if any, reducing runoff and the potential for nitrous dioxide to enter the atmosphere.
Although conventional lawns can store carbon, they do so inefficiently since they require frequent watering and mowing. That adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Also, frequent mowing keeps their root systems shallow.
Don’t have a native landscape? It is possible to increase the carbon storage of a typical yard with some simple steps.
- Encourage deeper roots by watering less.
- Mow less frequently to reduce emissions.
- Leave the lawn clippings on the lawn to reduce the amount of carbon lost.
Simply watering less reduces the carbon footprint cost of maintaining a lawn, along with the emissions from mowing the yard. By utilizing less water, root systems will develop deeper creating greater underground carbon storage.
By: Heather Ginsburg, Garden Style San Antonio
Not sure what to do after visiting and feasting with family and friends? Start a new tradition — buy a tree in advance and present it to the group as a special activity!
The holidays are such a special time of year. My favorite part is visiting with family and friends who come into town. However, after feasting and visiting for days we spend a lot of time sitting around the living room staring at each other.
Instead of breaking out the board games, why not get outside and plant a tree? In San Antonio, this time of year is ideal for planting trees.
You could purchase a tree in advance and present it as a special activity for the whole group. I know the kids and adults in my family would be very excited by that. And just imagine, as the tree grows and the family grows, you can take pictures in front of it every holiday as the years go by.
Visit your local nursery and talk to the skilled staff about what tree would be the best choice for your site conditions. Then bring it home and have it ready to go. Be the leader in your family and demonstrate the importance of having trees in your landscape and how to plant them.
People get excited to plant, especially when they have someone helping and showing them how. Plus, it’s a valued skill that can be passed down to future generations.
This holiday season get outside. Make memories. Plant a legacy.
Here are some recommendations from the Conservation staff.
Top Shade Trees
- Bur oak
- Cedar elm
- Chinquapin oak
- Live oak
- Mexican sycamore
- Monterrey oak
- Texas red oak
Top Small/Ornamental Trees
- Crape myrtle (full sun)
- Eve’s necklace (full sun or understory)
- Mexican buckeye (full sun or understory)
- Mexican olive (full sun)
- Mexican plum (prefer understory)
- Possumhaw (prefer understory)
- Texas mountain laurel (full sun)