Earth Week: How to build a sustainable garden

AUSTIN (KXAN) – From plants and pollinators to irrigation and green energy, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is quintessential when it comes to “sustainable gardens.”

The center in south Austin is home to more than 800 species of plants, designed to not only inspire but also educate gardeners on which trees and flora thrive in our Central Texas climate.

“A lot of it’s often as simple as just picking native plants, instead of going with some of the ornamental ones,” said Sean Griffin, director of science and conservation at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

PHOTO: Red flowers on cactus plant at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Not only do native plants tend to grow easier, but they also have many other benefits like providing habitat for wildlife and nectar for pollinators. They’re even more adapted to local pests and diseases.

Griffin suggests planting annuals like the fire wheels and the bluebonnets, as well as more perennial plants for a more diverse garden.

PHOTO: Bluebonnets growing at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

And these gardens don’t just have to live on the ground.

“A green roof is essentially a garden on a rooftop” explains Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of horticulture at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. “It helps absorb the water that’s coming out of the sky and help slow it down. So we don’t have as much flooding downstream.”

“A lot of green roofs are planted with succulents. And we found that in our climate, the plants that seem to be best adapted would be more the grasses,” DeLong-Amaya said.

The center was once home to the largest rainwater harvesting system in North America. Using a connected system of aqueducts, cisterns, holding tanks and pumps, the center is able to naturally water a large portion of the ground’s greenery.

PHOTO: the architecture at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center plays a role in their rainwater harvesting system
PHOTO: Aqueducts at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center entrance

Much of the rainwater harvesting system is on display for visitors as an example of what can be done in one’s own garden.

Three highlights of building a sustainable garden:

  1. Picking native plants
  2. Building a green roof
  3. Using nature to water

For more information, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s website.