According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, “Xeriscape is a style of landscape design requiring little or no irrigation or other maintenance, used in arid regions”. 'Xeros' means 'dry' in Greek. “Xeriscape is a method of landscaping that promotes water conservation. Rather than a specific look or a limited group of plants, Xeriscape is a combination of seven basic landscaping principles.” Each principle must be considered during the planning and design phase, but the sequence of installation is also very important in assuring a successful Xeriscape.” The seven principles of Xeriscape:
1. Planning and Design Trying to create a landscape without a plan is like trying to build a home without blueprints. A plan provides direction and guidance and will ensure that water-conservation techniques are coordinated and implemented in the landscape. This first step applies if you are redesigning an existing garden or planting a new one. Sketch existing structures and vegetation and note what you hope to change or add to your landscape. In addition, identify other existing features on your property such as: slope, view, sunlight, shade, drainage & water availability.
Think about the purpose of the planting. For example: Do you want to add color, screening, attract birds and pollinators, or simply wish to reduce your lawn? Think about tree function, utilities, decks and patios. Think about plant texture, color, bloom time, and plant size.
Group plants by: • Water needs. Create different water zones according to the plant needs. • Soil type • Microclimate • Maintenance requirements When sketching your lawn area ask yourself: • How much lawn will I actually use? Limit the lawn area to that amount! • What is the location, size and shape of the lawn? • Do you really need long skinny strips? It is easier to maintain and water large round areas. • Could you replace some lawn with a water permeable hard-scape, for example a patio deck? • Could you use a more drought-tolerant grass such as Buffalo Grass or a turf fescue?
2. Soil Improvement Soils tend to fall into one of two categories: sand and clay. Clay soil is dense, slow to absorb and release water. If water is applied to clay soil too quickly, it either pools on the surface or rus off. Over watering heavy clay soil can actually drown plants.
On the other hand, sandy soil can’t hold water. Unless irrigated frequently, plants in sandy soils tend to dry out.
To enable your soil to better absorb water and allow for deeper roots, you may need to add a soil amendment before you plant. For most soils adding 1 to 2 inches of organic matter such as compost or well-aged manure to your soil can be beneficial. Rot till the organic matter into the soil at least 6 inches deep.
Note: if you are landscaping with native plants, soil amendments may not be necessary, as they prefer soil that is not too rich. For many of these plants, the only soil preparation necessary is to loosen the soil.
3. Efficient Irrigation A Xeriscape can be irrigated efficiently by hand or with an automatic sprinkler system. If you are installing a sprinkler system, it is a good idea to plan this at the same time you design the landscape. Zone turf areas separately from other plantings and use the irrigation method that waters the plants in each area most efficiently. For grass, low-pressure, low angle sprinklers irrigate best. Drip, spray or bubbler emitters are most efficient for watering trees, shrubs, flowers and ground covers.
If you water by hand, try to avoid oscillating sprinklers and other sprinklers that throw water high in the air or put out a fine mist. The most efficient sprinklers put out big drops and keep them close to the ground. Water deeply and infrequently to develop deep roots. The best time to water is between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. to reduce water loss due to evaporation. If you have an automatic sprinkling system, adjust your controller regularly to meet seasonal needs and weather conditions. Also, install a rain shut off device.
4. Zoning of plants Different areas in your yard get different amounts of light, wind and moisture. To minimize water waste, group together plants with similar light and water requirements, and place them in an area in your yard which matches these requirements. A good rule of thumb is to put high water-use plantings in low-lying drainage areas, near downspouts, or in the shade of other plants. It is also helpful to put higher water-use plants where it is easy to water.
Dry, sunny areas or areas far from a hose are great places for the many low water-use plants that grow well in our climate. Planting a variety of plants with different heights, color and textures creates interest and beauty.
By grouping your plants appropriately, you minimize water waste while ensuring that your plants will flourish in the right environment.
5. Mulches Mulching is essential for Xeriscape gardening. Mulch helps keep plants roots cool, prevents soil from crusting, minimizes evaporation and reduces weed growth. Mulches also give beds a finished look and increase the visual appeal of your garden.
Organic mulches, such as bark chips, pole peelings or wood grindings, should be applied at least 4 inches deep. Because they decompose over time, they are an excellent choice for new beds. As plants mature and spread, they will cover the mulched area.
Inorganic mulches include rocks and gravel, and should be applied 2 inches deep. They rarely need replacement and are good in windy spots. However, they should not be placed next to the house on the sunny south or west sides,because they tend to retain and radiate heat. Mulch may be applied directly to the soil surface or placed over a landscape fabric. (Note: Do not use black plastic because it prevents air and water from reaching the plant roots.)
6. Turf Alternatives Traditionally, the landscape of choice has been a carpet of bluegrass turf. Bluegrass is lush and hardy, but in our semi-arid climate it requires a substantial amount of supplemental watering.
One way to reduce watering requirements is to reduce the amount of bluegrass turf in your landscape. Native or low water-use plantings, patios, decks or mulches can beautify your landscape while saving water. Choosing a turf that uses less water also serves the same purpose. Such choices can include buffalograss, blue grama grass, turf-type tall fescue and fine fescues.
7. Appropriate Maintenance Preserve the beauty of your Xeriscape with regular maintenance. The first year or two, your new landscape will probably require a fair amount of weeding, but as plants mature they will crowd out the weeds, significantly reducing your maintenance time. In addition to weeding, your Xeriscape will need proper irrigation, pruning, fertilizing and pest control. Maintenance time for a new garden is similar to a traditional landscape but it decreases over time. In addition to weeding, proper irrigation, pruning, fertilizing and pest control will keep your landscape beautiful and water thrifty. When your garden is well taken care of, you can sit back and enjoy. Some tips to help your landscape flourish with routine and proper maintenance: • It is important to keep irrigation systems running properly. Ask your landscaper to assess your irrigation for needed improvements. • Change the timers on your sprinklers as the season changes and when plants become more established. • Prune and fertilize when needed. Research what your plants require first. • Weed • Plant in the spring and fall. • Be sure to keep your lawn at least 2-3” tall. A longer cut promotes deep roots and a living mulch, ultimately requiring less water use. Leave your clippings on the lawn. This will help to improve soil structure, fertility, and water retention.
Sawtooth Botanical Garden | 11 Gimlet Rd, Ketchum ID 83340 | PO Box 928
Sun Valley, ID 83353 | 208 726-9358 | email@example.com