Whether it’s because you desire low maintenance landscaping, you want to be a responsible water user, or you just don’t want to be water shamed like Oprah, Barbara Streisand, and other celebrities for using too much water on your lawn, xeriscaping just may be the landscaping technique for you. It’s certain to be the landscaping method of the future with the whole climate change thing happening, so you might as well get on board now.
Xeriscaping may sound like a rare disease or something from a sci-fi novel, but it’s actually a landscaping method that utilizes water-conservation techniques like choosing drought-tolerant plants, limiting water-hungry turf grasses, reducing evaporation, and using efficient irrigation methods. The Water Department of Denver, Colorado is credited with coining the term in the early 1980s, which comes from the Greek adjective for "dry,” or Xēros.
According to the EPA, the average American household uses about 320 gallons of water per day, of which about 30 percent is for outdoor uses like watering lawns and gardens. While it can be argued that a vegetable garden is a practical use of water, it’s getting harder to justify the high environmental and monetary costs of maintaining turf grass lawns.
And lest you think xeriscaping is only for those who live in arid climates, think again. It’s possible to incorporate xeriscaping techniques into landscaping for most areas in the U.S. There are a variety of key principles you can implement into your landscape design to add xeriscaping benefits. One such example is to group plants in zones according to their water requirements, which allows for more efficient watering. Additionally, you can introduce drought-tolerant plants, like succulents, in those areas of your yard that are drier. Even in more temperate climates, drought-tolerant plants are great for planters and raised beds. And finally, consider eliminating your lawn grass or choose a drought-tolerant grass that can handle drier times.
Where to Start with Xeriscaping for Your Region?
- As always, a good place to start is with your local Cooperative Extension office. It’s a resource for discovering plants that will do well in your growing area.
- Your local garden design center and local landscape architects are a valuable source whether you want to do-it-yourself or want to hire a professional.
- Xeriscape Gardening Resources from the Colorado State Cooperative Extension.
- Practical Considerations and Implementation from Sustainable Resources.
- Water-Efficient Landscaping publication from the EPA.
- Conserve Water with Xeriscape Landscaping from Cornell University Cooperative Extension.
- Xeriscape Headquarters from the Clean Water Fund.
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Succulent Plants image via Shutterstock