What is Xeriscape Gardening?

N. Phipps

Xeriscape gardening focuses on native landscaping and water-saving gardening techniques. Xeriscape gardening cuts down on water usage through lawn reduction and native plantings, which are drought tolerant and require less irrigation. Traditional lawn grass is often replaced with more drought-tolerant grasses, like buffalo or zoysia grass. Lawns may also be replaced with low-maintenance ground covers or transformed into shrub borders and native planting beds. In some cases, patios, decks, or walkways are increased in an effort to conserve water.

Plants used in xeriscape gardening are typically drought tolerant.
Plants used in xeriscape gardening are typically drought tolerant.

One of the most important elements of xeriscape gardening is its design. Since water conservation is the goal in xeriscapes, special consideration should be given to difficult areas, such as slopes, which do not hold water well. Soil is another important factor to consider. Various types of soil respond to and retain water differently. Therefore, it can be especially helpful to amend the soil with compost. Compost-enriched soil retains water better and drains easier. It also provides additional nutrients for more vigorous plant growth. Healthier plants are more likely to withstand drought, pests, and disease.

Xeriscapes are popular in desert locations.
Xeriscapes are popular in desert locations.

Xeriscape plants should be water efficient as well. Therefore, they should be chosen carefully. While native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees are recommended in xeriscape gardening, there are many drought-tolerant plants that can be incorporated into their design as well. However, these plants should always be suitable and well adapted to the particular area, including climate and site conditions. Grouping plants with those that share the same or similar growing needs and water requirements should be practiced as well. For example, placing moisture-loving plants together in one area of the landscape is preferable, especially in low-lying areas that retain water more easily. Drought-tolerant plants, however, should be grouped in dry, sunny areas or along slopes when xeriscape gardening.

Irrigation is another important aspect of xeriscape gardening. One of the most effective watering techniques for xeriscape gardening is drip irrigation or soaker hoses. This method allows water to slowly soak into the ground rather than simply running off as with overhead watering. Drip irrigation makes it easier for plant roots to absorb water, as it penetrates deeper; thus, the need for watering is cut in half. In addition to watering wisely, xeriscape gardening includes the use of mulch for water conservation. Mulch not only reduces weed growth but also retains moisture and cuts down on runoff in times of excessive or torrential rains. Xeriscape gardens are an excellent choice for water conservation.

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