Xeriscape is a systematic concept for saving water in landscaped areas. The word Xeriscape is often misspelled or mispronounced. Because the word is unusual, misconceptions may be attached to the concept. Why? The answer may be that Xeriscape represents a departure from the norm. And, perhaps a lack of understanding or knowledge leads to misconceptions. Thousands who have taken the time to become involved with the concept of Xeriscape will attest that information as contained in this information handout will alleviate misconceptions and begin a new beautiful vision of landscaping for the future.
Even though dry-only landscaping can be quite spectacularly colorful, and even lush, limited areas of more highly-watered landscape are completely consistent with wise water use. For example, heavily-irrigated athletic field turf makes sense, since it recovers quickly from heavy use.
Although dry (xeric) rock gardens can be truly marvelous, there are many wonderful choices other than rock for the xeric portions of Xeriscape designs. Xeric implies no added water. By definition, Xeriscape means some water applied in well-controlled amounts and locations in the landscape.
Some lawn, even of species that are more highly watered, can be consistent with wise water use. "Less-lawn landscaping", rather than "Lawn-less landscaping" is an appropriate statement.
Although there are vast arrays of wonderful plants indigenous to all regions, non-invasive introduced plants, that are well-adapted to the local regional climate, are wonderful additions to landscaping that uses water frugally. For example, many iris, tulips, and even roses are examples of introduced plants that are well adapted to nonirrigated landscaping in the Rocky Mountain region.
On the contrary, well planned Xeriscapes are splendid examples of the beauty and diversity that make neighbors envious. For more information on Xeriscape and other horicultural topics visit www.planttalk.org.
For most of the country over fifty percent of residential water used is applied to landscape and lawns. Xeriscape can reduce landscape water use by seventy percent or more. Effective water use doesn't mean changing our lifestyle. It means reducing water waste, such as improper irrigation, and finding ways to achieve attractive, comfortable landscapes without excess water use.
Your landscape is an investment in your comfort and in the value of your property. A good Xeriscape will increase your property value by as much as 15%. Xeriscape can also reduce water and maintenance costs by up to 60%. Xeriscape helps extend water supplies. When water use is restricted, inefficient water-thirsty landscapes suffer first. Protect your landscape investment by droughtproofing it.
Be sure to know and follow your water districts rules on outdoor watering. If you follow the 7 steps of Xeriscape™, you can have a beautiful garden and landscape in spite of the drought. Remember all plants need moisture to get established and most plants are considered established after one growing season, trees and shrubs need two seasons.
It’s always a good idea to start with a plan. Sketch out the yard area to be created or renovated. Include in it the trees & shrubs that you want to keep, driveways, hardscapes such as decks, play areas, building dimensions, etc. Color code or mark on a second seethrough page the sunny areas, shade areas, water requirements, and functions such as play, garden, pool, etc. Once these areas are firm in your sketch, draw a more defined plan to scale.
Most soils in the west are sandy or heavy clay and need to have organic matter added to improve the soil to give the plants/grass/ trees/shrubs a fighting chance. Compost, aged manure and redwood soil conditioner are all great additives. Adding one or two inches to the existing soil and tilling it in to a depth of 6 inches will give great results. This is time to amend the soil—it will never mean more or be easier. Don’t skimp.
Bluegrass has its place in a low-water landscape when it provides a functional benefit. Substitute groundcovers in areas where turf is hard to grow or maintain such as on slopes or in the shade or very narrow strips.
Plan the irrigation system at the same time as you plan your design. Zone the turf areas separately and group the plantings by water requirements. Use drip, micro-spray or bubbler emitters for trees, shrubs & perennials. You can also plan to water by hand but avoid oscillating sprinklers, sprinklers that throw water high into the air or produce a fine mist-these loose too much to evaporation. Water only between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00a.m. and never when it is raining or with high winds. Adjust your sprinkler system regularly to account for changes in climate.
Group plants according to their water requirements. Use the X-rated plant list to help you with selection. Place low water using plants together and in areas that are hardest to get to with irrigation or hand watering. Place high water using plants in a low laying area where natural drainage will help with their maintenance. Reduce the likelihood of over watering by thoroughly thinking through and investigating plant needs before you start.
Mulches will help you in many regards in the garden: reduce evaporation, cool the root zone, reduce weed growth, slow erosion and give a finished look. Apply directly to the soil surface or over a landscape breathable fabric. Organic materials like wood chips, bark or wood shavings work well but do need to be replaced periodically. Rocks & gravel usually do not need regular replacement.
No garden is maintenance free. Xeriscape gardens also need regular or seasonal care: Winter: prune deciduous trees & late blooming deciduous shrubs and water root zones of plants if there is no precipitation. Spring: Aerate lawns and mow to height of 3”, check sprinkler operations, prune evergreen shrubs, work compost into the soil and plant trees & shrubs. Summer: plant annual, control pests, weed and trim dead flower heads. Fall: apply lawn fertilizer, compost leaves & green plant matter and water new plants.