Villa Finale’s grounds: A serene getaway

Front gateOur South Texas weather has been perfect recently for enjoying the outdoors here in San Antonio; so if you happen to find yourself in the South Town area, why not stop by Villa Finale and enjoy our recently opened grounds for a stroll or nice picnic on the vast expanse of the lawn.

Having been renovated this past summer, we wanted the public to be able to come explore and enjoy the gardens of this historic site.  Villa Finale’s property backs into the River Walk so access is available straight from the River or street level.  Once you are here, you can take advantage of our Formal gardenhouse tours available daily.

Grounds are free and open to the public Tuesday, 12:00 – 4:00pm and Wednesday through Saturday 9:30 – 4:00.  A free downloadable self-guided brochure of our grounds is available by clicking the link below or at our website

Grounds self-guided brochure

Villa Finale’s landscape restoration begins!

The landscape restoration project here at Villa Finale is well underway and big changes are already evident throughout the site. At the moment, we are finishing the initial demolition and pre-work phase getting ready for the new plant material and hardscapes to be installed. Let me tell you, it is very exciting to see the work in progress and visualize the difference this renovation project will have on Villa Finale! Just the relatively simple task of removing crowded trees and shrubs along both the north and south edges of our landscape has provided a new opportunity to visualize what the restored landscape will reveal.

The irrigation work will start soon adding the much needed sprinkler system to the landscape, especially since we are already in stage two water restrictions here in San Antonio once again. Water conservation and eliminating water waste is very important to us so we added as much drip irrigation to the new system as possible. This will help us manage our water use and get the water directly to the soil where it is most beneficial to the newly installed plant material. In keeping with our organic landscape practices, we are amending all the planting beds with compost to add nutrients and organic life to our soil; this will greatly aid in the health of the plants and in the soil’s ability to retain water.

The landscape renovation project has been in the works for some time now and we’re all happy to see it fulfilling its anticipated promise! Be sure to stop by Villa Finale to see the work and share in our excitement!

Vermicomposting at Villa Finale

Vermicompost bin.

Here at Villa Finale we have chosen to take the organic or “green” approach when caring for our landscape. One of the things we have taken on to help us accomplishing this goal is creating our own vermicompost bin to process our kitchen waste that in turn gives us nutrient rich vermicopost. To accomplish this task a special worm is needed, the Red worm ‘Eisenia Foetida’. Although they do look similar to the common earth worm you see in your garden this worm naturally thrives above the soil where it can get to all the decaying plant matter that falls to the ground. They feed on this and produce a natural fertilizer that is great for all your plants. These guys are not native to the US, they come from Europe and Asia; this species is the best to use when creating your own vermicoposting bin. One of the reasons these guys are the best is their giant appetite, a pound of worms can eat up to three and a half pounds of food a week! That’s half a pound a day and they can also lay eggs every seven days giving them the ability to multiply quickly.

So how do you go about making a vermicomposting bin? Well, here at Villa Finale, we have made a wooden box with a cover using untreated wood. We placed the box below ground only leaving the top exposed. This allows the temperature to stay relatively stable in this South Texas heat. Worms thrive and do best when their bedding temperature is between 55 – 77 degrees Fahrenheit, anything above 84 degrees can be harmful. When I say bedding this means the material in which the worms live and can move around freely. Bedding can be made up of anything from shredded paper and cardboard to dry leaves and manure. Here we us a mixture of finished sifted compost made on site and decayed shredded leaves. We wet this down pretty good so the material feels moist to the touch but not dripping wet. The worms need a moist environment to survive. We add the bedding about 12-16 inches deep in our worm box, our worms seem to love and thrive in this environment. This is just one of the ways to create your own bin, you can use anything from plastic tubs to store bought worm bins.

Worm castings.

Feeding your worms is an important part of the process, like I said before one pound of worms can go through up to 3.5 pounds of food a week. Yes, the worms do also feed on the decaying leaves, shredded paper or compost you use for bedding but they love to devour your everyday kitchen scraps. Uncooked fruit or vegetables and coffee grounds can all be added to your bin to satisfy their appetite. It’s best if you collect your kitchen scraps and let them naturally start to brown and decay. This helps later when adding them to the bin, if the scraps are fresh and green they can create heat when naturally decomposing in the bin and this heat can harm the worms.

Depending on how small or large of a bin you have, regularly collect the worm castings and replacing the bedding is very important. Too much worm castings in the bin and not enough bedding can be toxic to the worms so judging how often to do this important. Here at Villa Finale we collect the castings about 2-3 times a month, this is one of the advantages to regular composting as vermicomposting can take up to 1/3 of the time traditional composting does. The worm compost or castings you collect should look like dark black coffee grounds. This is where all the nutrients are. Worm compost improves the soils ability to hold water, it increases the beneficial microbial activity in the soil, it helps to aerate your soil and prevent compaction, it decreases the chances of pests and disease attacking your plants and it can have up to 5-11 times the N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) than regular soil. Applying this natural fertilizer to your garden or landscape can be as easy as sprinkling it around your plant or in your pots, mixing it into your soil or like we do here creating a “Compost Tea” and applying it as a soil drench or foliar feed. All these ways are very beneficial to your lawn or landscape and are environmentally friendly.

A New Year A New Beginning

The perimeter fence goes up as we prepare for construction.

This new year promises to bring a new beginning to Villa Finale, starting with the commencement of construction at 401 King William in early January.  Updates are to be made to the interior and exterior of this historic house but it won’t stop there.  As the Landscape Technician for the grounds,  I am pleased and excited to say that the landscape will be getting a face lift as well.  Since the landscape is considered historic, we will be preserving it as best we can and attempting to restore the landscape to its original beauty.  Why stop there?  Well, we  won’t.  From the ground up with this landscape project, we will be taking a ‘Green’ approach.  No chemicals or herbicides will be used in the demolition, soil amending will be done with compost and natural materials as opposed to synthetic fertilizers.  As for the new irrigation system to be installed, great care will be taken to efficiently operate it so no water will be wasted or misused.  We will strive to be a self-sustaining and environmentally friendly site. We will not be contributing any yard or kitchen waste to our landfills, we have been and will continue to create our own compost for use in the landscape. In addition, lawn/plant fertilization and weed/pest control will all be done organically so the use of toxic chemicals will not be needed.  We look forward to this new year and eagerly await all the great changes it will bring.  Check back with me, as I will continually keep you posted of things going on with the Villa Finale grounds.