A new community contest hopes to demonstrate that conserving water does not necessarily result in a colorless yard.

The Fort Worth Water Department is on the lookout for innovative methods of gardening during the current conservation ordinance that limits irrigation watering to twice a week. The EcoScape contest asks residents with green thumbs to send photos of their environment-friendly gardens to be considered for one of three prizes.

Fort Worth Public Education Specialist Hilda Zuniga said judges from the Botanical Research Institute of Texas will evaluate each landscape using three main criteria: design and the use of composition, color and plant variety; efficient use of water, native or adapted plants, mulches and materials such as fences, walls, walks, etc.; and a healthy, weed-free landscape.

Prizes include a decorated yard sign for all three places, a compost bin for second place and a rain barrel for first place. Winning homes will be announced in early September, and the entry form is available online.

Any Fort Worth resident with a front yard larger than 1,000 square feet can submit an entry, Zuniga said.

“Entries will be accepted between June 14 and August 16, because we want people to submit information and photos about their summer gardens, not their spring gardens,” she said.

There are many different ways to preserve water and still maintain a beautiful yard, Zuniga said.

“Fort Worth residents put about 50 percent of their water use on landscape,” she said. “We want them to learn about the different efficient water use methods that [are] out there.”

Zuniga said native and adaptive plants can change the way you care for your yard.

Native plants are those that have not been introduced by humans, and adaptive plants are vegetation that is not native, but thrives in many climates and conditions. These plants require less fertilizer, pesticides and water. 

“It not only saves water and money, but it also saves them time and effort, as these plants need very little maintenance,” she said.

Zuniga said EcoScape will challenge residents to think outside of the box and make the best out of a “dry” situation.

“We want to showcase to the non-believers the different water-saving methods that can be used to have a lush, green garden during the summer months,” she said.