Where to Begin

We recommend you dream big but start small, especially if you are new to gardening and doing the work yourself. Here are a few things to think about first. 


Early Decisions To Make

How you will use the space.

Relaxing, entertaining, child’s play area, a haven for wildlife? Maybe all of them.

Your time and budget.

Starting small will let you gauge how much time and money it will take to achieve your goals. Starting small means early mistakes will be small too. You may adjust your goals accordingly. 

Maintenance requirements.

Some landscape designs take more maintenance than others.  A sleek and modern garden with perfect lines will take much more planning and maintenance than a looser cottage garden look. And both can be beautiful.

If you’re new to gardening, welcome!

Take solace in the fact even the most seasoned gardeners make mistakes. If you’re a gardener new to Texas, a big howdy. No matter where you live gardening can be a challenge. Be sure to identify possible new challenges you’ll find here.  

Check out our Basic Design Principles page for additional considerations.

sunny cottage with fiesta theme

Location, Location, Location

Choose a spot you’ll see and enjoy daily. Gardens need attention, especially the first one or two years, depending on the design. Avoid “out of sight, out of mind” locations.  Always understand gardening is a trial and error proposition.

Walkways provide a useful design feature around which drought-hardy landscaping can be placed.

Full Scorch or Shady?

Now that you’ve picked your spot, note how much light your garden bed receives over the course of the day. Match your plants to sunlight conditions. A shade-loving plant will not be happy in the full Texas sun and most plants like a little afternoon shade in August.

In portions of the Texas Hill Country, there's no soil whatsoever, with solid slabs of rock directly exposed at the surface; in such conditions, it can be hard to grow anything but native plants.

How Deep is Your Loam?

Before you start, dig a test hole. You’ll need at least six inches of soil to grow turfgrass; the less you have, the more inputs, jackhammers and water you’ll need to grow anything but native plants. In northern Bexar County and the Hill Country, you may be gardening in solid rock, so design accordingly.

stone walkway with bench

Design Starter

As a rule of thumb, plant tall plants in the back and shorter plants in front except when you are planting close to windows. Remember your views. Planting three or five of the same plant together is often used by professional landscapers for visual appeal.

salvia flowers with wildflowers | SAWS Garden Style Conservation Water Saver San Antonio Texas

Right Plant, Right Place

By now you should know how big your bed will be, if it’s sunny or shady, and your soil type. Measure your new bed and research the plants you like. Pay particular attention to their soil and sun needs. Remember to check how tall and wide they will be when full grown, especially if you are planting near a window.

Transform Your Yard

Turn turf into gorgeous landscape beds with help from our Landscape Coupon. Bonus: You’ll save money and water!

SAWS residential customers can apply for the $100 coupon each spring and fall.

WaterSaver Patioscape Coupons are also available.

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Hand watering a newly planted plant.