What is xeriscaping? You may have heard of xeriscaping as a way of landscaping in the Southwestern United States. You may picture xeriscaping as a lot of gray gravel and cactus in a hot desert yard. People call that “zero-scaping, " and that is not what xeriscaping is. Xeriscaping is a method of gardening and landscaping that will reduce your water use and maintenance requirements by as much as 60 percent. Xeriscaping can be done anywhere by any gardener, and in any yard, with the result being a beautiful, even lush, landscape.
The word “xeriscape" was coined in the early 1980's by the Denver Water Board when creating their water conservation program. Denver Water trademarked the word in 1983. It comes from combining xeros (Greek for “dry") with landscaping. Thus, it is a water-conservative approach to landscaping. Plants whose growing requirements are appropriate to the local climate are emphasized, and care is taken to avoid wasting water to evaporation and run-off.
There are seven established xeriscaping principles. Applying these principles will help you achieve a beautiful landscape that will save you water and work in the long run.
Principle One - Planning and Designing
When you take the first step towards xeriscaping you must do your research and plan and design on paper first. You can convert your traditional landscape to a xeriscape in steps lasting several years. There are books on the market devoted to waterwise gardening and xeriscaping that you will want to consult.
Principle Two - Soil Improvements
As with a traditional landscape you will probably need to test and improve your soil. Add compost and other amendments in areas where you will be planting. This will help your soil retain moisture.
Principle Three - Appropriate Turf areas
Lawns can use four times as much water as anything else in your landscape. They also require mowing, fertilizing, weeding and other such maintenance. Xeriscaping calls for limited turf areas. You might not want any turf at all in your landscape or you may want just want an oasis where the children can play on a swingset.
Principle Four - Pick Water-thrifty Plants
Choose plants that require less water. This includes flowers, ground covers, trees and shrubs. And, group together plants that have the same water requirements. Using plants that are drought-tolerant and native to your area will also require less water and maintenance.
Principle Five - Efficient Irrigation
Efficient watering means using devices and practices that do not waste water. Installing underground sprinkling systems, drip irrigation systems, soaker hoses, timers and the like are all watersavers when used correctly.
Principle Six - Mulching
There are many types of mulch that can be used instead of ugly gray gravel. Actually rocks, and gravel do come in so many sizes and colors that they can be attractive when used artistically. The reason you use mulch is to reduce moisture loss through evaporation and to inhibit the growth of weeds. Organic mulches such as compost, bark, peat moss, and pine needles can also contribute to the soil as they breakdown.
Principle Seven - Appropriate Maintenance
The final principle is properly maintaining your xeriscape. This means keeping your watering systems in working order and watering only when needed. Keep your weeds in check and reapply mulch if it breaks down.
Now that you have had a brief introduction to xeriscaping maybe you can think of how it can be applied to your landscape. Do you really need that sweeping green lawn in your front yard? Imagine how a large colorful bed full of day lilies could be a real showstopper on your block. It would break up all that water-thirsty lawn and save you water and lawn maintenance for years to come. Now, that doesn't sound like a desert landscape does it? No, it doesn't, and it could be the start of your conversion to xeriscape gardening.
Article by Amy Passmore for TheGardeningGuide.com
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