If you're like most homeowners, you're very much aware that water conservation has become an important factor in planning and maintaining residential landscaping. You may also be wondering how you can do your part to conserve water without sacrificing the aesthetic value of your outdoor space — after all, no matter how well-kept, no home looks its best when surrounded by dead, brown grass and languishing shrubbery. Additionally, dried-out lawn grass and shrubbery pose a potential fire hazard.
Xeriscaping is a landscaping strategy designed to use as little water as possible using well-chosen plants and a bed of gravel. The gravel helps keep moisture in the soil and provides insulation that helps keep the roots of the plants from becoming overheated during summer and protects from damage due to freezing temperatures in winter. Following are four steps in creating a xeriscaped yard.
Build Your Soil
Healthy, well-drained soils retain water and nourish plants better than their compacted and nutrient-deficient counterparts, so be sure to build your soil before you install plants and gravel. Work in plenty of organic compost to a depth of at least two feet. This should be all that most soils need, but if you have doubts about the health of your soil, have it tested to determine what type of amendments you'll need to add.
Select Plants Wisely
Ideally, the plants you choose should be able to survive on the amount of rainfall your area gets. This often means choosing indigenous plants that are genetically acclimated to your area's climate conditions. However, there are types of non-native plants that will work provided they only require minimal watering, so don't be afraid to think outside of the box.
Install Drip Irrigation
In xeriscaped gardens, irrigation is only meant to provide supplemental water on an as-needed basis in times of drought. Drip irrigation is ideal for this situation because it's designed to provide water directly to the root zones of the plants, resulting in far less waste from runoff, evaporation, and the wind than with traditional overhead watering.
Add the Gravel
The last step after the plants have been planted and the drip irrigation installed is to add the gravel. Not only does the gravel act as a layer of mulch that keeps plant roots cool in summer and warm in winter, but it also brings an appealing aesthetic to the picture. You can work with a gravel supplier to choose gravel in an array of colors for a fun, creative look or go with traditional gravel to create a classic ambiance.
Some homeowners xeriscape the entire yard, while others choose to only xeriscape part of it. Either way has advantages, and both will result in a reduction in water usage and the addition of an attractive, interesting element to your outdoor living space.