Xeriscaping Garden Ideas
While a beautifully landscaped garden can make any home look nice, the amount of water required to sustain lush yards can put a drain on your wallet and the state's water supply. With 50 percent or more of daily water usage going to landscape maintenance, many people are now turning to xeriscaping in an attempt to lower costs for themselves and reduce their impact on local water supplies. Here are a few simple steps to planting a more water efficient, environmentally friendly garden, also known as xeriscaping.
What Is Xeriscaping?
Xeriscaping is defined as landscaping that requires little to no added water or irrigation. See Xeriscaping in the Home & Garden glossary.
1. Choose Plants Native to Your Area: By selecting plants that naturally grow in your area, less water is required for them to take hold and thrive in your garden. This is especially important if you live in a dry climate. Planting drought resistant landscaping, xeriscaping, dramatically reduces the amount of water required to sustain your plants, and helps ensure their survival even in the harshest dry seasons. Sunset Magazine's website offers a search tool providing plant suggestions based on your location in the United States. To find out which plants best fit your water smart garden, go to Sunset.com/plantfinder and select your region on the map.
2. Reduce Your Lawn: Lawns are most often the number one water consuming part of a yard or garden, and many aren't used in full. By reducing the size of grassy areas in your yard to only the portions you frequently use, your water consumption can drastically decrease. Replacing grass with more water friendly or drought resistant plants will not only give your home a new look, but ease the pain of mowing, and paying your water bill.
3. Use Drip Irrigation Systems: Less wasteful and more precise than sprinklers, drip irrigation systems not only reduce your water usage, but can actually better nourish your plants. Between wind and sprinkler rotation, up to 70 percent of the water from a sprinkler can miss the plants it's designed to water. Irrigation systems are standard in vineyards and greenhouses for their effectiveness and water saving capabilities, and would benefit a home just as much. While xeriscaping does tend to avoid irrigation systems, this is the best way to water your yard if you do still use some plants that require more moisture than your climate provides.
4. Install Rain Shut Off Devices: Installing a rain shut off device on your sprinkler or drip irrigation system can prevent one of the worst water wasting mistakes. Systems set on automatic timers can't tell when it's raining, leading to sprinklers and irrigation lines going off in the rain, wasting water and money. Installing a small rain sensor can prevent this issue, while saving your plants from excessive watering during rainy seasons, as well as reducing water bills.
5. Add Mulch: By placing a two to three inch layer of organic mulch around the base of your plants, soil will remain cooler throughout the day, reducing evaporation and the subsequent amount of water needed to sustain plants. Whether it's ready-made organic compost, or old garden clippings and other green waste from around your home, this thin layer of mulch provides a protective, water saving barrier between your plants and the sun.
6. Install Permeable Patios: Though concrete remains one of the most popular patio materials, it prevents rain and sprinkler water from penetrating the soil below and ever reaching surrounding plants' roots. Instead, use permeable or semi-permeable walk ways and patios. Generously spaced stepping stones, gravel and decomposed granite all provide a harder surface to walk or sit on than dirt, while still allowing water to penetrate and soak the soil underneath. Your xeriscaping will need access to all the rain water provided by nature, and permeable patios and walk ways are the smartest choice for allowing all available water to access your plants.
7. Adjust Your Watering Habits: When first planted, plants require more water to begin growing and spreading their roots. After their first season, reduce the amount of water given to them by sprinklers, drip irrigation or by hand. Native, drought resistant plants in particular need very little water apart from rain, and should only be sparingly watered by hand. Waterings should be even less frequent during the winter. Since xeriscaping is designed with minimal to no extra waterings in mind, you'll need to adjust your understanding of how often, if ever, you water your yard.
8. Plant in Fall or Winter: Because plants require more water in their first year, one of the easiest ways to reduce water consumption is to plant in fall or winter, depending on the severity of your climate. Natural rainy seasons will accommodate the plants' needs without increasing your water bill. The cooler temperatures will also provide a gentler environment for the young plant to grow, rather than a hot, dry summer.
By following these simple steps, any home garden or yard can be transformed from water sucking to xeriscaping. Adjusting the time of planting, switching to irrigation systems if necessary and installing rain sensors will help lower water bills, as well as ease pressure on local water supplies. With a few easy changes, xeriscaping can be both beautiful and efficient.