What’s the Secret to Gardening?

When it comes to gardening, many of us are stumped by all that it entails. But really, gardening isn’t so mysterious.

There are many garden-related tasks and topics that stump people. But truthfully, many are actually quite simple to tackle.

Here are a few questions I’m often asked when I’m working in the field. I hope my answers help you find gardening a little less intimidating and overwhelming.

How do I read the content in fertilizers?

First, it helps to know what the numbers mean. The numbers correspond to elements and are listed in the following order: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The numbers indicate the percentage of each element in relation to the total weight. For example, to know how much nitrogen a 50-pound bag of fertilizer containing 40-0-0 has, you calculate 50 x .40 = 20 pounds of nitrogen.

What are the basic steps to planting a tree?

First, choose one that’s healthy and that actually grows in San Antonio (read the label). Also, note whether it’s for shade or sun, etc. Inspect the roots of your selection carefully. Dig a hole only deep enough to cover the roots of the tree.

What does the irrigation system controller do?

This is the brain of your irrigation system, it “tells” it when to water. The majority of controllers have a battery that needs to be replaced every year and they have the following settings:

  • Date: day, month and year. It’s very important to make sure it’s updated.
  • Many controllers have more than one program. Make sure you’re working on the right program and not enabling another or you could increase your water bill significantly.
  • Start irrigation. This is how we tell the controller what time we want it to start watering. Normally a single start time is required to water the entire cycle.
  • The duration of each zone. Generally we can’t water the entire garden at once. This is why the system is divided into zones; each zone must be assigned a time of irrigation, and the time will depend on what’s being watered.

Why is mulch so important?

Every bed in our garden should be covered with about two to three inches of mulch for several reasons:

  • Maintains moisture in the soil.
  • Helps maintain proper temperature in both winter and summer.
  • Prevents and reduces erosion.
  • Helps control weeds and seed germination.
  • radually adds nutrients as it decomposes (depends on the type of much)

Got more gardening questions? Information is available 24/7 at It’s your resource for inspiring designs, drought-hardy plants and regional expert advice to transform your yard into a water-saving showpiece!

Picture of David Abrego
David Abrego
David Abrego is a conservation consultant for SAWS. David, a native of Panama, likes to spend his time surrounded by plants and fruit trees. So if you can’t find him at home, he’s probably working in a greenhouse. David is also an arborist and an irrigation technician.
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