Water conservation benefits homeowners and environmentalists alike. From high-efficiency washing machines to taking shorter showers, small changes can make a big difference in both utility bills and sustainability efforts. But water use doesn’t stop in the home; the average North American household uses 50% of its water supply on lawn, landscape and garden maintenance. In fact, one of the biggest opportunities for water conservation exists in homeowners’ backyards.
What is xeriscaping?
Xeriscaping is a method of creative landscaping that focuses on strategic use of flora, soil and planting patterns to cultivate gardens that require minimum hydration. These techniques have been able to reduce water use in lawn and landscaping by as much as 75%. Developed in drought-afflicted Colorado, xeriscaping uses seven basic planting principles to minimize water use. Today, a wide variety of drought-resistant plantings and countless aesthetic options encourage gardeners in all geographies to get creative and personalize the trend for themselves.
How does it work?
In general, xeriscaping focuses on two major components of the landscaping process: careful planning, followed by creation and maintenance of the xeriscape.
Planning is the most important step to reduce water use and maximize the benefits of natural precipitation. Xeriscape gardeners assess natural grades and contours in the land, predicting areas most susceptible to rainfall and planting accordingly. Rain harvesting methods, such as rain barrels and Rain Chain systems, also aid in the capture and direction of nature’s water supply toward thirsty plants. To prevent water evaporation, trees or shrubs are used to shade the property, and exposed turf is kept to a minimum. (For turf lawns, native grasses like buffalo and bluegrass are drought-resistant alternatives to typical lawn grasses.)
detailed plans, soil optimization is key for long-term success. The addition of
nutrient-rich compost aerates and primes the land to both drain and retain
Layering mulch is another important step as it cools plant roots, slows evaporation and reduces
weed growth. Finally, ongoing irrigation is achieved through soaker hoses or drip-irrigation
systems, methods that target plant roots rather than spraying drops into the air.
What are the benefits?
In addition to lowering household water use, the benefits of xeriscaping include less time spent on property maintenance, healthier soil, and less need for fertilizer. To try your hand at xeriscaping, explore the seven principles in detail. Adopt a drought-resistant iris, plant more trees, or choose inventive ways to recycle rainwater. Your garden - and your planet! - will thank you.