Tips for making your landscape better
Xeriscaping: Coping with Less Water
Xeriscaping (zer-i-skaping) is a word originally coined by a special task force of the Denver Water Department, Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado and Colorado State University to describe landscaping with water conservation as a major objective. The derivation of the word is from the Greek "xeros," meaning dry, and landscaping— thus, xeriscaping.
The need for landscaping to conserve water received new impetus following the drought of 1977 throughout the western United States and the recognition that nearly 50% of the water used by the average household is for turfgrass and landscape plantings.
Unfortunately, many homeowners have cut back on turfgrass areas by substituting vast "seas of gravel and plastic" as their answer to water conservation. This practice is not only self-defeating as far as water conservation is concerned, it also produces damaging effects to trees and shrubs. It is not xeriscaping.
Xeriscaping Planning — an important first step
Whether you want to redesign an old landscape or start fresh with a new one, for xeriscaping to work, planning is a must. The xeriscaping plan does not have to be elaborate but should take into consideration the exposures on the site.
As a rule, south and west exposures result in the greatest water losses, especially areas near buildings or paved surfaces. You can save water in these locations simply by changing to plants adapted to reduced water use. However, don't be too quick to rip out the sod and substitute plastic and gravel. Extensive use of rock on south and west exposures can raise temperatures near the house and result in wasteful water runoff.
See Rock Gardening
Reduce irrigated grass areas
For xeriscaping to work you want to avoid narrow strips of lawn, hard to maintain corners, and isolated pockets of grass that need special attention. These types of areas not only become more costly to maintain, but watering becomes difficult and is often wasteful.
Bluegrass lawn areas can be reduced to areas near the house or that get high use. In outlying areas, use more drought-resistant grasses or even meadow mixes containing wildflowers, particularly if your property is large.
Even if you already have a well-established landscape, you can substantially reduce water use by following some simple steps.
The concept of saving water and landscaping naturally has expanded beyond the parched areas where it first began. The term Xeriscaping has expanded to be more inclusive. It is a way of using native plants for whatever area of the country, that have grown under local conditions without much human intervention to survive.
These local species of plants are accustomed to the climate, soils and other environmental variables. Even if watering is not restrictive, watering does cost money and if we can use local species there will be less demand place on our limited water resources.
Using local species also has boosted the desire to live more in harmony with nature instead of making nature live in harmony with us. Growing local species are also usually accompanied by lower maintenance.
Native plants are less expensive to install and usually require less fertilizers and pesticides. They're also more likely to be drought resistant for the local climate.
Before you begin an extensive landscape renovation, consult with local nurseries and other experts in the field to determine options available to ensure the plants you're considering are indigenous plants, that will thrive in your environment and achieve the special results you're seeking.