Having attractive landscaping is an important element of any home. Not only does it provide curb appeal, which affects your property value, but it also makes your yard a welcoming place for you and your family to relax and entertain.
Although having an expansive lawn has been the traditional way to beautify outdoors, turf grass requires a tremendous amount of water, is expensive to maintain and often needs fertilizer and other polluting chemicals to look healthy. What’s the alternative? Welcome to xeriscaping!
What is xeriscaping?
Xeriscaping is a method of landscaping designed to conserve water. Originally promoted in areas prone to droughts, the benefits of this approach have made it more appealing to homeowners in all kinds of climates. Of course, where you live will determine the kind of plants you should grow. For example, if you live in a dry, hot climate, you’ll need heat-resistant plants that need very little water. In coastal areas, you’ll need to make sure your plants can tolerate soil with a high salt content.
How to xeriscape
Before you run out and begin tearing out all your sod, take a step back. You’ll first need to do a bit of research since this type of landscaping involves more than simply planting what you like. Here are some of the basics you’ll need to consider:
- Design your xeriscaping according to plants’ watering needs. Start with an overall plan for your “makeover,” creating different zones based on plants’ watering needs. Why? You’ll waste water and harm plants if you mix those that need more water with those that are drought resistant. It’s usually a good idea to put the zones containing needier plants closer to your home and work your way outward according to water requirements.
- Start small. Replacing an entire lawn is a huge task. Select one zone (or part of a zone) in which to get your feet (less) wet. Working in manageable chunks will be less overwhelming, detract less for your yard’s overall appearance and give you a greater sense of accomplishment.
- Choose native plants. Native plants do not require as much water or maintenance and are often more resistant to diseases and pests. Visit nurseries near you, or contact your local Master Gardener program to find out which ones are native to your area.
- Water plants efficiently. The most efficient way to water plants is with a drip irrigation system. This type of system drips water directly where it is needed – onto the roots – and reduces the amount of water that is evaporated. Although the up-front cost will be more than simply using sprinklers, you’ll reduce your water bill significantly, which will save you money in the long run. If this type of system isn’t in your budget, try to reserve your watering for early mornings to reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation. You may also want to consider installing a water recycling system. These systems redirect greywater (water from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs and laundry) to your irrigation system.
- Incorporate mulching. Mulching has many benefits, including helping to retain moisture and the soil temperature, preventing erosion and minimizing weeds. Mulch doesn’t just mean wood chips, either. Other options are leaves, compost, gravel or pine needles. Be sure to lay it on thick, and to top it off if it decomposes into the soil.
- Add potted plants. The advantage of potted plants is that you can add some variety and color in areas that may not be as hospitable to some of the plants you love. In addition, you can bring these plants indoors during seasonal changes or adverse weather.
Whatever the reasons for wanting to try your hand at xeriscaping, the results can be very rewarding. Your home will stand out, you’ll feel good knowing you’re reducing your water consumption, and you’ll probably save a good bit of that other kind of green!