Using a Hoe to Design Your Landscape

Brandon Brooks

Many years ago, I took a trip to central Texas. I was able to spend a couple of months there visiting friends and family. I never realized how much I would learn while there in that small Texan town. The lessons I picked up there would change the way I garden in many ways.

In the past, I had learned that creating a new garden started by carefully drafting a design then going to the nursery to purchase the plants you need. You would then follow the blueprint to install the plants into the ground. If anything else popped up in the garden that messed with your vision, you would treat it like a weed.

While in Texas, I encountered a concept of design that was more relaxed and thriftier. The gardeners in the town practiced what I began to call designing with a hoe. The majority of the plants they used were seedlings that they acquired through other gardeners. Because of this, most of the seedlings had come from a species that could reproduce prolifically and lived well in the local climate and soil. Some of them were native to the area and others were naturalized. Once they were planted in a garden, though, they would seed themselves within the landscape. After planting, the gardeners would use their hoe to design the garden how they wanted through removing the volunteer seedlings that they didn’t want and leaving the rest.

Doing this almost cut out all the costs of buying plants. It was also a great way to encourage robust growth since the germinated seeds were the ones that fell into soil that was hospitable. The end result was generally a lush tapestry that reflected the gardener’s taste and the local ecology.

There is one thing to watch out for in this kind of gardening, though. Some of the plants that are too prolific could potentially become invasive. To keep this to a minimum, planting only indigenous plants to the area is suggested. If you want a plant that is not indigenous, choose one that has a long history of growing well without spreading in your area.