Cultivating a beautiful lawn and garden has to be one of the biggest joys in home ownership. Taking a space and enhancing it’s natural beauty brings happiness, gets us outside, and makes us proud of our outdoor space. However, gardening and lawn maintenance can waste a lot of water — up to 50% according to the EPA.
What is Xeriscaping?
Xeriscaping, which joins the Greek words for “dry” and “view,” was coined by Denver’s water department during a particularly heavy drought from the late ‘70s to early ’80s. Xeriscaping is a form of landscape design that aims to reduce the need for supplemental watering by incorporating native species and low-water plants. You may think xeriscaping is only relevant for areas subject to drought but the key principles of xeriscaping can be applied to any climate.
Some people are under the misconception that xeriscaping involves cacti, brush, and barren landscapes, but through xeriscaping, you can create some lush, beautiful settings that reduce water usage by at least 60%.
Using grass alternatives, flowering plants, succulents, brush and even trees, you can transform a garden or yard into an eco-friendly landscape following the basics of xeriscaping.
Basics of Xeriscaping
Interested in getting started? Make sure you follow the principles below to design an efficient and water-friendly oasis:
Plan like a Pro - Whether you consult a xeriscape expert or do it yourself, analyze your yard for areas that receive the most sunlight, the least and any areas prone to rain collection.
Prep Your Soil - Most xeriscape-friendly plants do best in well-draining soil so if your soil isn’t up to par, you may want to add organic matter to make sure it does the job right.
Minimize Grass - We all love a lush lawn, but the upkeep and watering take a lot of time, money and obviously water. With xeriscaping, there are grass alternatives that can still give you all the benefits of a yard without the hefty amount of water.
Invite Native Species - Depending on where you live, there can be quite a variety of native species that can liven up your outdoor space. From flowers to grasses, take advantage of the plants that are already adapted to your climate.
Water Efficiently - Xeriscape yards still need to be watered. Install efficient drip irrigation systems rather than a sprinkler to reduce water waste.
Use Plenty of Mulch - Mulch is a key aspect of xeriscaping because it reduces erosion and holds in moisture. It can also creatively be used in your design!
Maintain Your Yard - The upfront work (and cost) of xeriscaping is the biggest, but if you routinely maintain your yard and clear away debris, you can enjoy a low maintenance yard for years to come.
Xeriscaping Plant Guide
As we’ve discussed, incorporating native plants and grasses into your landscape is a primary component of xeriscaping. Not only will native plants grow better and survive longer than non-native species, they are also more resistant to local pests, require fewer chemicals and fertilizers, have adapted to the local soil and climate, and are ideal for a sustainable, low-maintenance yard.
Plants native to the San Diego area that are great for xeriscaping include:
- Blue Agave
- Silver Leaf
- California fuchsia
- Purple Three Awn
- Desert Willow
- Fairy Duster
- Coastal Sagebrush
To help you get started with xeriscaping your outdoor space, check out this visual guide on plants that do well with little water. It also includes design tips and recommended placements so you can create the yard of your dreams.
Xeriscaping Design Tips
Add contrast to your landscape by using mulch in between planting areas.
Include a small fountain to add some peace and tranquility in your outdoor space.
Introduce new textures with natural stones or rock fillers throughout your yard.
Level up your garden with planter boxes or walls to vary plant heights.
Use native grass species to create your own lawn alternative.
Additional Ingredients for a Low-Water Landscape
Smart Water Timers
These irrigation tools adjust based on changes that impact the amount of water the plants and groundcover need. The newest models implement a sensor system that works with historical data, like the time of year, to inform a watering schedule. These timer systems take some fine tuning but within a few months you can expect them to be working at optimal capacity.
Drip Irrigation Systems
Have you ever driven past a lawn that has several sprinklers running, and most of the water seems to be hitting the side of the house or the sidewalk? This inefficient way of watering lawns and plants wastes energy and money. By using the localized tactic of drip irrigation, water is delivered slowly to the roots and prevents unnecessary watering. Other terms associated with drip irrigation include trickle, micro, or localized irrigation.
Synthetic Turf Instead Of Natural Lawns
By using synthetic turf, you avoid needing to water, cut, and fertilize real grass. Synthetic turf is also much easier to maintain, saving as many as 40 hours of work in a given year. Synthetic turf has a larger upfront cost associated with it but over time it ends up saving the homeowner more through water conservation and low maintenance costs. You can also try other no-water ground coverings like rocks and bark.
Good Soil With Proper Drainage
It’s never wise to skimp on soil quality. Pick a soil that allows for the best drainage and offers your plants the best nutrition. The right soil with proper drainage will mean hydrated plants and groundcover and will make it easier to maintain your lawn.
Water Collection With Rain Barrels
Why not save money on landscaping by collecting water and repurposing it on your lawn? You can purchase inexpensive rain barrels at most home improvement stores with spouts to easily drain the water into watering cans that you can then distribute throughout your landscaping.
Xeriscaping 101 Infographic