Green Lawns How to Save by Xeriscaping Green Lawns How to Save by Xeriscaping
Julie M. Young
Xeriscaping is environmentally friendly landscaping that promotes water conservation. It is more than simply putting down rocks or planting cactus. By selecting plants that need less water, or are indigenous or well-suited to the local climate, Xeriscaping requires less supplemental irrigation because a good Xeriscape plan conserves water by reducing irrigation evaporation and run-off.
According to Xeriscape Colorado, a large part of the western United States uses over fifty percent of its residential water to maintain landscaping and lawns. Xeriscaping can reduce landscape water use by more than 60 percent. And, in times of drought and mandatory water conservation, a Xeriscaped property is often the last in the neighborhood to turn brown.
The major benefit to Xeriscaping (other than conserving environmental resources) is cost and labor savings. Xeriscaping lowers water bills and requires less maintenance than a traditional lawn---that means fewer long afternoons behind the lawnmower. Plus, a Xeriscaped lawn often provides shelter for native bees, butterflies, and other fauna.
Before starting a Xeriscape project, you’ll need to plan it thoroughly. Keep in mind that you’ll still have to do weeding and mowing. Consult with a Xeriscape landscaper, garden center expert or your agricultural extension office for advice on plant selection.
How to Xeriscape
1. Draw plans.
First, draw the footprint of your yard to scale. Note every existing walkway, driveway, deck or patio, fence, tree, shrub and garden. Define the use of each space and its needs. Do you need a place for children to play? Do you have a barbeque pit or an outdoor fire? A fenced area for the dog? A vegetable garden? Once your uses are determined, establish your needs. Will you be adding a swingset or a deck? Do you need a privacy fence? Once all this is noted on your plan, start to think about the types of plants and surfaces you’ll need.
2. Carefully select grassy areas.
Even though your yard will use less turf, you’ll still have areas where you’ll want grass - example, a child’s play area, or the inviting open space that is your lawn. You probably don’t need grass in high-traffic areas or under trees where it will be hard to grow anyway. Consider not planting grass on slopes; it’s difficult and often dangerous to mow. Lastly, if you’ve noticed that you end up watering your driveway or the street just as much as you’re watering the grass right next to it, consider edging your property with other plants.
Once you’ve decided where to put turf, select varieties of grass that fit your climate. You’ll need to do further research-—consider consulting with your local extension agent, or even your local garden center.
3. Group plants according to water needs.
If you group plants that need more water together, you’ll focus your water resources on those areas. Similarly, grouping low-water plants together will allow you to water them less-—potentially relying only on nature to wet them. This is called hydrozoning. If you group them like this, you won’t need to water all of your landscaping equally.
A few things to consider when grouping plants: Pay attention to what parts of your landscape get full sun or less light and plant accordingly. Also, keep drier plants near your home to preserve the integrity of your foundation, and water differently in winter.
4. Use soil and mulch properly.
Before planting, check the type of soil you have. You might need to add organic matter to make it more favorable to plants, especially if you have sandy soil or clay. Clay soil retains moisture, but it is slow to absorb water. So, a soaking rain will result in a lot of run-off. The opposite is true of sandy soil; sandy soil is excellent at drainage, but doesn’t retain moisture or nutrients. You can improve both types of soil with compost and manure.
You’ll want to use mulch to retain moisture in the soil and reduce weeds. Common types of mulch include woodchips, stones, and pebbles. However, don’t lay down a thick layer of black plastic first. This actually keeps water out, and can kill helpful organisms.
5. Select an irrigation system.
Drip irrigation is one of the most efficient ways to water, and you can also hand-water. If you are using overhead irrigation (such as sprinklers), run it early in the morning or in the evening so that the water doesn’t evaporate mid-air or blow away. Also consider using water collection devices such as rain barrels.
Once you’ve got your Xeriscaping in place, maintain it by weeding and mowing. You’ll also need to prune and aerate the soil for best results.
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