No-Fuss Landscaping

Managing city parks can sometimes seem like choreographing a circus performance. Each day involves juggling personnel and fiscal resources; balancing visitor expectations against budget constraints; and walking an environmental tightrope.

This lush garden requires very little maintenance.

When it comes to landscaping, park managers also face the same general challenges:

• Fiscally responsible water use

• Rising costs for maintenance

• Soil and water contamination from fertilizer and pesticide applications

• Competition for available resources

• Dwindling finances

• Shrinking landfill capacity.

The Texas AgriLife Extension Service (part of Texas A & M) has spent the last 20 years developing a complete landscaping system that allows park departments to showcase beautiful landscapes, and overcome the horticultural challenges that accompany their operations.

The Earth-Kind Landscape Management System is a simple and universal approach that allows park departments to:

• Reduce irrigation in landscape beds by 50 to 75 percent

• Eliminate fertilization in all areas except turf, and in all soil types (with the possible exception of desert climates where limited fertilizer applications may be necessary)

• Reduce pesticide applications by 98 percent

• Redirect recyclable plant materials into the landscape (conserving landfill space)

• Use plant materials and landscape practices scientifically proven to work

• Create beautiful places that people want to visit.

The landscape-management system emulates how nature manages a mature forest, and combines soil native to the planting site with materials that are heat/drought tolerant, winter-hardy and tolerant of alkaline clay soils, and have exhibited the highest genetic tolerance to disease and insect damage. Roses were the flagship plant group researched under the Earth-Kind umbrella.

The system provides a vehicle for cities to become proactive environmental stewards through an approach based on years of rigorous scientific research that has been peer-reviewed and published nationally and internationally.

Farmers Branch, Texas

Farmers Branch is the home of the National Earth-Kind Rose Research site, adjacent to city hall. When it was proposed that 400 rose bushes be planted at the mayor’s front door and then be given almost no care, one can understand the concerns of city leaders.

This perennial garden is part of an Earth-Kind trial.

In a partnership between the Houston Rose Society and Texas AgriLife Extension, the city committed a 2-acre field as a site for the research project, and the bushes were available in February 2008. More than 3,000 people attended the grand opening, and 1,000 children went home with their own rose bush as part of the festivities.

“The … rose garden is an inspiring corner of our community,” explains Gary Greer, city manager. “It has created beauty, not only in terms of the aesthetics of the park, but also in the positive spirit of our citizens. It created a rallying interest in environmental gardening and roses throughout every neighborhood.”

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