The Ranch landscape appeals to our senses of rural beauty, nature and living in a slower time. Ranch properties usually have vast acreage, old buildings that might have been built at different times and land uses that have changed considerably over time.
Often times, the sheer scale of the rural landscape can be overwhelming for the average landscape contractor, landscape designer as well as the owner who no longer works the land but uses it for rest and retreat.
The prospect of maintenance, care, and management of a Texas Horse Ranch, Farm or Estate can be overwhelming. The approach is two-fold and should be one of the phased management and implementation of landscape design.
Comprehensive Management Plan
A comprehensive management or maintenance program for a ranching landscape defines zones of management, prioritizes tasks and determines if various maintenance areas should be expanded or deleted altogether to make the job of maintenance much more manageable.
Defining zones of management for ranch landscaping would look something like this:
1) the most intense and highest maintenance takes place around the perimeter of the house. These include weekly tasks such as mowing, shrub pruning, and weeding.
2) The next zone might include bi-weekly or monthly maintenance tasks such as weeding and pruning around less used walk, patio or pool areas for entertaining. Both zones one and two should receive regular fertilization, mulch and have an irrigation system as well.
3) the next zone might include biannual spring and fall clean-up such as fields that are seasonally mowed, shrub brush edges that need regular thinning out or filling potholes in the entry road all categorized as spring and fall clean-up.
Simply by organizing tasks by their intensity, a zone of management and time of year for tasks to be done a yearly maintenance schedule of tasks and budgets even the largest estate can be created and brought into reality.
Master Plan Design for the Ranch Landscape
Because many rural landscapes have been built at different times, with many different pieces, a Master Plan Design can be a tremendous help in providing cohesiveness and unifying even the largest property by its various uses.
It can be a very rewarding process in piecing together farm history of the past with the present. Below are design approaches utilized on large ranch properties to create cohesiveness:
Approach to the House-the first impression up the gravel, dirt, or long paved drive is the entry to the home in the rural landscape. A colonnade of oak or fruit trees along one or both sides of the drive can be a wonderful approach lending order and accentuating the length of the drive and size of the property.
1. Windbreaks strategically placed in patterns can provide a sense of scale and shelter to the entry approach as well.
2. Lawn-Landscape-Garden-Orchard-Woodland-start to define the landscape
And give it some structure as well. As referred to above, the closer to the home. The more intensive the maintenance, as one gets further from the home the less Intensive maintenance should become.
3. Outdoor Fountains the wonderful sound of water and appeal of the rustic rural fountain. These may need to be built in a simplistic manner, easy to maintain, or only for use during social events. Materials might include old stone, brass or copper weirs.
4. Outdoor Kitchens-covered open outdoor kitchens that before air conditioning was built as not to heat the house in the summer. Materials that reflect the home can be repeated such as matching roofing or molding details giving it a county nostalgia feel and creating unity with an old farmhouse.
5. Walkways-similar to English Gardens, walkways of gravel, limestone chips and reused brick or stone from the original construction can lead around the property and link to arbors, benches, or swings.