The Principles of Xeriscaping

by Rachel Laurendeau on April 21, 2012

In honor of Earth Week 2012, we are dedicating a number of this week’s blog posts to actions that can be taken by homeowners in an effort to make our homes more eco-friendly.

When it comes to landscaping, there is no need to sacrifice esthetics for sustainability. With some thought and planning, you can achieve a beautiful landscape design which conserves water and is gentle on the environment, while being quite low maintenance.

Xeriscaping is not so much a particular style but rather an approach to landscaping which aims to reduce the use of water and maintenance. Many people think this means rocks and cacti but as you’ll soon understand, a xeriscape garden can be lush and green.

The Main Principles

Water Conservation Design
The main principle of xeriscaping is to design your yard for water conservation. You can do this by grouping plants with similar light and water needs together, grading the yard towards the planting beds, and making the most of the shade provided by your house, trees and shrubs.

Improve Soil
In xeriscaping, you ideally want to improve your soils ability to hold water and nutrients and also to store water. You can start by having your soil tested at a local garden centre, agricultural extension office or by using a home kit. The results will lead your next steps. The best way to improve your soil is by adding organic matter such as compost into the soil prior to planting.

Reduce Lawn Area
Limit the amount of turf in your yard, choose hardy, drought-tolerant grass species for your climate zone, do away with pesticides and herbicides and reduce your watering. Also, do not cut the grass too short and leave the grass clippings where they fall.

Appropriate Plant Selection
Your best bet is to use native species that have evolved over centuries to grow in your climate. Again, consider your local climate and plant according to the planting zone that you live in. By using plant materials that are hardy for your location, they will require less attention, watering, and fertilizing.

Efficient Irrigation
Much of the water that is wasted by homeowners is used inefficiently in the landscape. It is best to avoid watering in the heat of mid-day, to water deeply and less often. Irrigation systems such as soaker hoses and drip irrigation are an excellent investment to reduce wasted water from evaporation and reduce maintenance. You can also collect rainwater in a rain barrel to use on your potted plants.

Placing an organic mulch on the soil surface around plants will help maintain soil moisture thus reducing the need to water and weed while improving the soil. Some possible mulch materials are leaves, woods chips or bark.

Xeriscaping conserves water and creates a low maintenance landscape but low-maintenance does not mean no-maintenance. Following the above principles, keeping weeds from growing up and understanding that your yard is a dynamic environment that may need to be fine-tuned over time will allow for success in your foray into sustainable landscaping.

Related post – Water Conservation Tips

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