What is Xeriscaping?
Xeriscape, pronounced (ZER-i-scape), is a landscape practice used to promote water conservation through the design of creative and attractive water efficient landscapes. Xeriscaping is not the same as “zeroscaping” where the designed landscape consists mostly of hard surfaces with very few plants. Xeriscaping is also different from “natural/native” landscaping because here the emphasis is on the selection of plants for water conservation, not necessarily selecting native plants.
It is not a specific look or style. Rather, xeriscape is a combination of seven common-sense horticulture principles that save water, time and resources while creating a beautiful landscape.
The Seven Principles of Xeriscape:
1. Planning and Design:
A plan is an essential first step. A good design will provide direction and guidance to ensure that water-conserving techniques are coordinated and implemented into the landscape. Think about how you want to use your new Xeriscape, while considering maintenance.
We will perform a thorough site analysis of your property, documenting existing site features such as the location and orientation of your home (north, south, east or west), other site structures, slopes, soils, drainage, downspouts, prevailing winds, sun exposure, high and low activity areas, desirable views, privacy/screening needs, possible locations of future structures and other site improvements. We will draw a base map of your property to scale (i.e., 1”=10’-0” or 1/8”=1’-0”, etc…) and begin to design your Xeriscape according to your future vision and needs.
2. Improve the Soil:
A good soil, one that supports healthy plant life and conserves moisture is an important part of any healthy landscape. Before any planting, organic matter such as compost or well-aged manure is highly recommended.
3. Appropriate Plant Selection:
We will select plant species according to their sun and water requirements as it pertains to your specific site and areas within your property. Each property has its own set of criteria when it comes to sun exposure (sunny and shady areas) as well as drainage areas (dry or wet areas). Plants shall be grouped according to their specific sun exposure and water requirements and placed in an area of the site which matches these requirements.
4. Practical Turf Areas:
Thoughtful placement of turf areas of manageable size, shape and selection of appropriate drought tolerant turf species are a must. Consider limiting turf grass to high-traffic areas close to the house or other building, such as areas for play, recreation, and pets, with turf grasses that have been hybridized for arid conditions, such as Hybrid Bluegrass varieties and Turf-Type Tall Fescue. Native turf grasses such as Buffalo Grass or Blue Grama perform much better in low-traffic areas.
It is important to establish hydrozones for water use. As mentioned above, we group plant varieties and turf areas according to specific watering needs by dividing the Xeriscape into zones: High (regular watering), Moderate (occasional watering) and Low (little to no watering). An irrigation system will be designed to water appropriately and conserve water by zoning the irrigation system to serve plant groupings of similar water needs. This can be accomplished by irrigating turf areas separately (with a pop-up sprinkler system) apart from other planting bed/shrub areas (with low-volume drip irrigation). It is important to irrigate areas according to their specific needs by applying the correct amount of water at the correct time of day, early morning or late evening.
6. Mulch Planting Beds:
Organic mulch, such as shredded wood and bark chips, not only give planting beds a finished look and increase the visual appeal of your landscape, it will also help keep plant roots cool, prevent water evaporation from the soil and will reduce weed growth.
Inorganic Mulch such as rock and gravel do have their place in the landscape. However, extensive use of rock on south and west exposures can dramatically raise temperatures near the house, building or other structure, and result in poor plant health and wasteful water runoff.
7. Landscape Maintenance:
Unfortunately there is no such thing as a “zero maintenance” landscape. However, a well-maintained landscape will be healthier and hardier to better withstand drought conditions. Mowing, weeding, pruning, watering and fertilizing at the correct time will preserve the beauty of the Xeriscape.