Xeriscape is low water use landscaping. It involves a series of steps that can result in an estimated 20 percent to 80 percent savings in landscape water usage. Xeriscape can mean moving a few plants around, watering according to need, or designing a whole new landscape.
The seven components of Xeriscape are:
1. Planning and Designing
Make a scale drawing of your lot. Identify sunny, shady, and sloped areas. Determine how much room you need for family activities. Design zones to include plants with similar watering needs.
2. Soil Improvement
Appropriate soil will do more than anything else to help a plant consume all the moisture available to it. Soil improvement may mean changing the physical structure with decomposed organic matter. It is easier to select plants that can grow in your soil's existing pH than try to change the acidity or alkalinity. If the situation seems hopeless, consider raised beds with imported topsoil.
Lawns are the highest users of water and require the greatest maintenance. Fescue and buffalograss are two of the most popular Xeriscape grasses. They are relatively drought-resistant and tolerant of varying soil conditions. They will thrive on low maintenance. A new variety of lawn, Ecoturf, is becoming popular. It combines grass and low growing perennials. Consider decks and patios wherever possible.
4. Plant Selection
Research the library, nurseries, and Internet for plants to fit each zone. Base your decisions on climate, drought tolerance, your budget, and aesthetics. The hardiest plants will be native. Intersperse herbs, vegetables and berries in the appropriate zones.
5. Efficient Irrigation
Select a system that will water each zone most efficiently. Low-volume, low-angle sprinklers work best on grass. Drip, spray or bubbler emitters are most efficient on flowers, shrubs and groundcover. Timers are used to provide the right amount of water to each zone. Dragging the hose around is an option that still requires the right sprinkler and watering time.
Mulches in the form of bark, gravel or crushed rock should be 2 to 4 inches deep. They conserve moisture, control weeds and add visual interest. Apply the mulch directly over landscape fabric.
Maintenance includes weeding, feeding, pruning, pest control, and watering. How much time you spend on these activities is directly related to your initial planning and design.
Xeriscape is a registered trademark of Denver Water, Denver, CO and is used here with permission.