Tag Archives: garden

Organic Landscaping and Why It’s Important


When referencing produce and food the word “organic” has become a familiar term but is still not something many people understand fully. If a product is certified organic then the contents must be 95% or more organic, which means free of synthetic additives such as pesticides, chemical fertilizers and dyes, and must not be processed using industrial solvents. The same concept applies to organic landscaping and gardening as well.

According to local organic landscaper, Sam Sitterle of Green Grow Organics, “Just because a lawn is green, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. We call it fat grass. When it’s chemically-fed, it’s not necessarily healthy. Balancing the biology in the soils is key. Let the microbes do what they do and plants grow according to their needs. Force-feeding with salt-based fertilizers disrupts the biology and causes unhealthy conditions that create harmful fungal growths and leaves plants susceptible to pests.”

Most commercial landscapers use toxic chemicals, such as Roundup, which besides leaving your lawn malnourished, can also have harmful ramifications for your family. Sam is convinced that many of the autoimmune health problems we’re seeing these days are a direct result of these chemicals. “I’m convinced the problems are environmental and would resolve if people would just eat organic,” he said. Sam also points out that veterinarians are seeing more and more pets showing up with cancer on their paws and noses from running around on chemically-treated lawns.

As an alternative to these common landscaping practices, Sam uses a proprietary blend of actively aerated compost tea filled with healthful bacteria (similar to healthy gut flora) that nourishes the landscape. “The plants love it!” said Sam. “Our brews are so bacteria- and fungal-based that when you spray the leaves of the plant with it, they will occupy the spaces that would otherwise be attacked by a seasonal invader. We bring the good guys to the fight, overpowering fungal diseases like brown patch and powdery mildew.”

Interestingly, Sam can often tell what nutrients are deficient in your soil just by evaluating the weeds that are present. “For instance, grassy weeds are sequestering calcium. Virginia button weed sequesters cobalt.  Clover signifies a nitrogen deficiency.  When spotting weeds, pull them if you like but leave them to be mowed over.  These weeds are there for a reason.  Mother Nature makes no mistakes, ever,” explained Sam.

Tip to Kill Fire Ants Without Harmful Chemicals

Sam offers a little tip for those who wish to kill fire ants without using chemicals. Surprisingly, it’s Mountain Dew to the rescue for this one. Pour it over the ant hill and let it do its work. “The carbon dioxide displaces the oxygen, sickening the queen, and the caffeine is a neurotoxin,” said Sam. Try it, it works!

For a custom home that will perfectly showcase your organic landscape, call us at 210-494-5400 to set up a free consultation. If you wish to be added to our private email list for our newsletter, please sign up here.


How to Make a Sustainable Keyhole Garden


If you’ve never heard of a keyhole garden, the concept was first started in Africa as a way to maximize water and other resources. In Texas, the keyhole garden is growing in popularity for the same reason. It uses minimal water (up to 70% less) and is a great way to re-purpose waste, like banana peels and potato skins, that you would normally just throw away. If you’d rather not spend an hour a day watering your garden, check out this nifty little idea and grow some extraordinary vegetables.

In essence, a keyhole garden is a raised-bed planter that reaches waist-high and is built in the shape of a circle measuring approximately 5 feet in diameter. A hole in the middle holds a composting basket that keeps the soil moist and fed. If you look at it from above, it looks like a keyhole or a piece of pie with a missing slice.

People that we’ve known who have built their own are amazed at how little water is needed and yet how lush and prosperous the plants are in this mini ecosystem. It’s pretty easy to build your own – just follow these instructions:

  1. First you’ll need some bricks or rocks, a compost bin or some wire mesh to make your own cylindrical composter. Of course, you can save yourself some time and effort by shopping for an  attractive, pre-built keyhole planter online.
  2. Next, make a circle with the bricks by stacking them 3 or 4 high, depending upon how you stack the bricks. The circle should be large enough to accommodate the composter in the middle of the circle. Make sure that your arm can reach the composter in the center – this will ensure you’ll be able to harvest all of your crops.
  3. Make sure the wedged section, or keyhole, is large enough so that you can walk up to the composter for refilling.
  4. Fill the planting space with biodegradable materials such as newspaper and cardboard, then top with nutrient-rich soil in such a way that it slopes away from the compost basket. This is to encourage proper drainage.
  5. Plant your veggies in sections – tomatoes go in one pie slice for example, spinach another, and so on.
  6. Fill with compost daily, or as you have it, then water (approximately a gallon a week) over the compost. It should disseminate the nutrients and water nicely throughout the garden, leaving your plants happy and healthy!

For a luxury custom home to go with your awesomely sustainable garden, call us at 210-494-5400 for a consultation. If you wish to be added to our private email list for our newsletter, please sign up here.


How to be an Urban Farmer


Just because you live in San Antonio, and don’t have a ranch in the country, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the country lifestyle. Urban farming is growing in popularity, which means you can still enjoy owning a brand new contemporary custom home with easy access to all of the amenities of living in the city and at the same time connect to the land and animals around you.

Starting Your Micro Chicken Flock

If you’re looking to expand your farming instincts beyond just a bit of gardening, consider starting your own micro chicken flock. People all over the city are starting these mini flocks in order to enjoy farm fresh eggs in their own backyard. It’s much easier than you think, and the benefits far outweigh the hassle.

The chickens will help your lawn and garden flourish – it will look greener than ever before – because they are nature’s fertilizers. They’ll also help maintain any potential bug problems. Yes, it’s true – chickens are not naturally vegetarians. This is a good thing!

Here are some tips to help you get started:

-          If you have an HOA, check with them first to make sure you’re even allowed to have chickens.

-          Get the chickens when they’re baby chicks, especially if you have kids. They’ll love watching them grow, and if you’re only going to use them for eggs, it’s okay to name them! You can order them online or purchase them in and around town.

-          It’s important to know what you want the chickens for, because different breeds are good for different things. For example, the Orpington and the Silkie are affectionate and therefore good family pets while the Ameraucanas and Cream Legbars will lay you the most beautiful pastel blue eggs.

-          Baby chicks and grown chickens have different needs so make sure to thoroughly research before buying, but you’ll definitely need a chicken coop. If you’re super handy, build your own, or you can also buy one. You want to make sure whatever home you give them keeps them safe from predators and can facilitate a heat source on those rare occasions it freezes.

-          Save your compost and feed it to the chickens. They’ll pretty much eat everything.

-          Beware of roosters – they’re noisy!

For more information on how to make city life as country fun as life on the farm, check out the Urban Farm Magazine or a zillion other resources online.


Vegetable Gardening in Texas – Tips and Tricks

Veggie Garden

Veggie Garden

Gardening is just one delicious and eco-sustainable way to enhance your landscaping. It may only be April, but savvy South Texas gardeners know that this is the best time to start planning your garden because spring is, well, here!

If you’re a first time gardener, be aware there are a lot of factors which determine the success of your plants – your soil, sun and shade, plant food, and the type of plants you’re trying to grow. While it’s always good to consult with the nursery where you purchase your plants or seeds, you should also do your own research to ensure you’re giving your plants the right amount of water and sunlight.

Not all plants do well in the heat, which is why planting early, after any potential frosts, is a good way to go. In Texas, we’re able to plant in both the spring and fall because of our long summers.

Picking a spot for your garden that offers the right amount of shade but can also be seen from the house is important. What’s the point of planting the garden if you can’t enjoy it, right? Also take into consideration when the sun hits your site. Afternoon sun will be hotter and more drying than morning sun.

Most vegetable plants flower, adding an extra aesthetic beauty to your yard. You can even identify which ones have just the right color palette, and if you don’t find what you’re looking for you can always intermingle non-edible plants with your vegetable garden to give it that extra flair.

A few extra tips to help with your new garden:

-          Plant a little extra for the animals. Even if you plant deer-resistant plants and spray the heck out of your garden, it’s almost impossible to avoid having some of them eaten. Of course, planting an organic garden will be even more challenging (although certainly well worth the effort!), so planting a little extra will avoid future frustrations.

-          Tomatoes need calcium to achieve their full flavor potential, which is something often lacking in our soils. To supplement, you can use dry egg shells. When planting your tomatoes, add about 4 or 5 egg shells crushed to a powder in the bottom of the hole before planting. This will provide all the calcium they need and prevent blossom end rot.

-          There are some veggies you only need to buy once and they’ll continue to grow indefinitely. By using the scraps of certain vegetables, you can regrow to your heart’s content. These include scallions, carrots, bok choy, garlic, celery, basil, cilantro and romaine lettuce.

If you want to dig a little deeper, check out Dough Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac and Cheryl Hazeltine’s Central Texas Gardener. You can find both of these books at our San Antonio public library.

Of course, if all of this just seems too overwhelming, you can also choose to grow hydroponically and do away with concerns over weather, bugs and even dirt!

For assistance on planning and building your next stunning custom home and garden, please call us at 210-494-5400.