If you're a friend of ours on Facebook, you probably noticed our new weekly, environmentally-minded themes. Well, this week, we're focused on water, and most importantly, how to conserve it and use it wisely. Today, we want to talk about xeriscaping. The term, part "landscaping," part "Xeros," a Greek word meaning dry, was coined by the Denver Water Department in 1981 to give the city's residents an easily recognized landscaping term that incorporated water conservation. It caught on like, well, wildfire.
I've been dreaming of a xeriscaped yard for years, and someday hope to roll up my lawn to do it. At my first home, I transformed the many bare flower beds into mini xeriscaped islands, complete with drought-tolerant, low-water perennials like yarrow, Russian sage, goldenrod, blue salvia, coreopsis, purple coneflower, and butterfly bushes. We added a half dozen juniper shrubs and a cozy brick paver patio one summer to further lessen our yard's dependency on water. It was beautiful and I was incredible proud of the work we did. Then we moved, and now my new-to-me yard is pretty water-loving and one of these days when I'm not in school, I'll change that.
Xeriscaping is definitely a labor of love. And you might as well plan on pouring some money and sweat on the project too. But after all that, it has tremendous, long-lasting benefits, things like:
Saves Water - For most of North America, over 50% of residential water used is applied to landscape and lawns. Xeriscape can reduce landscape water use by 50 - 75%.
Less Maintenance - Aside from occasional pruning and weeding, maintenance is minimal. Watering requirements are low, and can be met with simple irrigation systems.
No Fertilizers or Pesticides - Using plants native to your area will eliminate the need for chemical supplements. Sufficient nutrients are provided by healthy organic soil.
Improves Property Value - A good Xeriscape can raise property values which more than offset the cost of installation. Protect your landscaping investment by drought-proofing it.
Pollution Free - Fossil fuel consumption from gas mowers is minimized or eliminated with minimal turf areas. Small turf areas can be maintained with a reel mower.
Provides Wildlife Habitat - Use of native plants, shrubs and trees offer a familiar and varied habitat for local wildlife.
Before embarking on a monumental yard re-do, it's best to do some research on plants, soil types, and irrigation systems, just to name a few things. Also, don't forget to check your city's ordinances for landscaping; some cities have restrictions that may not allow a 100% xeriscape. For more helpful tips and information, check out Eartheasy.com.