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New (big) yard- where to start; phase 1 of planning

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

I'm going to need a lot of help- we just moved in to our new home and I love it- we're kind of in the country now, on 3 acres- lots of elbow room! I'm in zone 8b from 9a, so not too much change there- I'm definitely not missing the humidity! Anyhow- I've got several issues to deal with and am feeling WAY overwhelmed, so remember my name- I'll be posting a bunch. Here's my list of concerns:
1- the previous owner had issues with snakes, so there are no planted beds- I have three that are set up with what looks like good soil, they get filtered sunlight, and are covered by the sprinkler system... irises?
2- the road frontage- we have a ditch between us and the road and then a 3' easement before our white 3-rail fencing- I'd like to dress it up a little because right now it's just that patchy roadside grass- some sort of low-maintenance ground cover- is there a creeping zinnia that will work?
3- along the riding trail- a bridle path easement goes through the back of the property- I'd like to dress things up along that fenceline, no sprinklers back there or even access to a hose, so it'd have to be native/low maintenance and MUST be horse friendly.
4- lava rocks- the previous owner has them in the beds at the front of the house, so it's just those with two rose of sharons (I think that's what they are- no leaves right now, so it kind of has a haunted house look to it) Is there any benefit to keeping the lava rock, because I am just about to haul it off.
5- LOTS of pine trees- we're thinking about thinning them out a little and slowly replacing them with some hardwoods- my husband and I both love live oaks, but I'm scared after reading about disease, etc.- anything sort of similar to go in that may be hardier? Again, I'd like to stay native if at all possible!
6- a huge plat (20'x15'?) that was probably intended to be a vegetable garden- I've never done fruits or veggies and actually can't eat too many of either, but I love butterfly gardening- is it possible/wise to do half with veggies and the rest with butterfly stuff (ie asclepias)?
7- lateral fenceline now borders an empty lot but will be built on in 3 or 4 years- I'm thinking we should take a pre-emptive strike and put some sort of privacy hedge up there to cut down on dust/noise and exposure to work crews since that is inevitable... I'm looking for cost-effective ideas since that side of the lot is around 200 yards long, at least.

I'll take whatever advice you guys can give- including advice on what order I should attack these in- I just don't even know where to start!!!!

Kyle, TX(Zone 8b)

Sellier, My wife and I are retired and operate a small 'mom & pop' propagation nursery just south of Austin. In re item 7, we bought 100 Thuja Occidentalis 'Brandon' for that very purpose but only used 15 or so. They will get to about 12 to 15 feet high and 2 to 3 feet wide. We have a son living in Conroe and get to the Houston area once in a while and could deliver them. They are about 15 to 18 inches high now in one gallon pots. I could email you a picture if you are interested. These would get you started and we could propagate enough to do the 200 yard line. In that time frame, they should be 4 to 6 feet tall. Gene

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi Sellier, what an offer from Gene, wow, wish I lived close by you Gene. anyway Sellier, to start with, I would go along the roadways where you live and look at all the wonderful plants/trees etc that grow well in your area, get to the book store or library where you will find books about landscaping in your area, for colour, size and names of plants that catch your eye, fruit should not be a problem for you, even if you cant eat it, the citrus family give you wonderful smelling blossom to enjoy and colour too, you also need to take into account how much free time you have to spend working in the new garden as new plants and trees do take a good bit of TLC for the first year to make sure they survive the conditions they get planted in, next your soil type, there will be some plants that will grow like weeds for your conditions, others will struggle to start with IF you have the time to watch over them to start with. to give you colour at the front onto the roadway, you can grow annuals for a great splash of colour till you decide on a permanent style of bed or border, for them you sew the seeds, water and watch them grow, they flower and die the same year. for a new gardener in a new setting, I always recommend you get a hose pipe out, lay it along the earth where you want a bed or to see if it will be the right spot, then curve, bend, and move it into different shapes till you feel happy with the size, shape etc, also go inside to look out at the shape to make sure you will enjoy looking at this bed/border from indoors too, then set about cutting this shape out and prepare the soil by adding as much manure to the soil as you can, this helps feed the plants, but also helps retain moisture for them too. just work this way a bit at a time so you dont over stretch your abilities before you get used to the soil and plants. As for the rocks, if you dont like them, best to lift them, but I would try store them somewhere so IF you need them for a later scheme of mulch, then you will be able to get them back again, they are a good bottoming for raised beds if you ever wish to do any of those. so before you spend a lot of cash on plants that you might like but cant really grow, do some research within your area first, it saves you time and money, you can always doodle on paper for a way to design your plot and do an area as time/money allows. hope this helps you some, good luck and happy gardening. WeeNel.

Kyle, TX(Zone 8b)

This is off topic but wanted to say 'HI'. I bought some gardening software from a country- man of yours. Simon Kelly in Dromore, Co Down. I'm not sure Sellier knows what a "hose pipe" is, but surly they can figure it out LOL.
our best to you and yours, Gene & Ivy

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Thank you both for the great advice! I'm thinking annuals are a good, easy way to start, and I think storing the rocks is a better idea- I may do a raised bed down the line, like you said, and I'd be kicking myself if I had to buy something to help with drainage, etc. I think the thuja will work, Gene, but let me do some more picture-research, etc.- do you know if horses will obliterate them? I have a couple of grazers next door who will probably taste them a time or two. Conroe's an easy trip from here, so if it works out, I'd love to get some of them from you. Could you d-mail me a picture and what you'd be asking for them? Thanks again to both of you!

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

I looked up the Brandon and saw that it's a favorite amongst deer- that may or may not be an issue- I don't know... there are tons of deer here in my neighborhood, but I've yet to see one in my yard. I think the dogs keep them away, so maybe it would work. Also, the property line I'm thinking of using them along isn't in full sun- the whole lot is covered with tall skinny pine trees, so I get lots of filtered sun and shade, but not deep shade.

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