Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Is Xeriscaping right for You?

Xeriscape is one of those words that most people don't like to hear. Kind of like flossing, or eating your vegetables, it's something that's good for us, that we know we're supposed to do, but that we don't want to do! However, there are also some misconceptions about what xeriscaping means. Many people conjure up images of a barren desert yard with no color and no watering system. And while this is a great example, it is not the only example.


Xeriscape comes from the Greek word "xeros" (meaning dry) and "scape" (as in landscape), and essentially refers to creating a landscape design that has been tailored to withstand drought conditions. Today, many landscape architects are taking a more common sense approach, and using the term a little more loosely to include strategies which use "less" water. Here are some ideas you can consider as you design &/or modify your yard:

Grass Yard - Grass takes a lot of water throughout the year, and a lot of energy to maintain it. And in most cases it's purely ornamental. This should be the first place to look for water conservation. Reducing the size of your yard (or eliminating it completely) can have a dramatic impact on your water usage. Converting to desert, or replacing the grass with a synthetic lawn, are good choices, but they aren't the only choices. Extending the patio, adding a deck or seating area, and replacing a portion of the lawn with water-friendly shrubs or hedges are other ideas.

Choose the right plants - A cactus will use less water than a desert shrub, which will use less than a non-indigenous plant, which will use less than a large tree. And so on. There are many water-tolerant plants with beautiful colors; choose the most efficient plants that "work" for you, and you can have a beautiful (and water-friendly) yard.

The basic concept is pretty simple – anytime you implement the option which uses less water, you're getting closer to the true definition. However, there are other things you can do which can reduce your overall water usage and don't have anything to do with your plants or foliage:

Automatic Sprinklers - Studies have shown that using an automatic watering system can reduce overall water usage. In other words, people who water by hand tend to use more water than necessary to keep their plants healthy. (just remember to change your watering times with the seasons.)

Routine Maintenance - Check your system regularly for broken sprinkler heads and drip emitters, and for underground leaks. Change your sprinklers' watering times with the seasons. Use adjustable emitters (or add more emitters to a particular plant needing attention), rather than adding time to the entire system. Give your lawn a winter off from over-seeding.

There are a lot of things we can all do to reduce our overall water usage, without any one of us having to take drastic action. It may not be "xeriscaping" in the truest sense of the word, but by working together, we can make a big difference!

- Chris Butterworth

[tags] xeriscape, xeriscaping, water conservation, Fletcher Heights [/tags]