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Top Ten Tips On Xeroscape Gardening

May 31st, 2009 by Alison · 7 Comments · home & garden, nature, simplicity, sustainability

Xeroscapes and drought-resistant gardens can be vibrant, colorful and beautiful. They can also be less work and create lower water bills than needier, higher-maintenance lawns and 3564604112_933fda402f2gardens. Water is increasingly dear in the world in general, and using it with care is smart and forward-thinking.

As an admitted biophile [lover of life-forms in general] who gets lots of compliments on my gardens, I’ll give some tips here on growing beautiful things with little water. A true xeroscape has only drought-tolerant plants, and I don’t pretend to have that. But we ousted our back lawn four years ago and our front lawn two years ago. This did not exactly save water since we had refused to ever water our lawns when we had them. Water is surprisingly costly in Portland, plus it’s ironically green to sport a brown lawn here. :) But now our land, just a standard 50′ x 100′ city lot, is all about fruits, vegetables, and flowery,  drought-tolerant treasures like sage and catmint (pictured). We have no sprinkler system; we water just by hand.

    1. If this is new to you, be willing to experiment by first creating a drought-tolerant section of your garden, or replacing part of your lawn with water-thrifty plants.
    2. Choose the right plants for your xeroscape. Here is a partial list:  Lavender and other Mediterranean species;  geraniums; the salvia family; tall and bunch grasses including blue fescue; succulents like hens-and-chicks. More here. My sage and catmint, both drought-tolerant, are blooming like gangbusters right now.
    3. Use the best quality soil you can, because good soil with lots of organic matter holds water much better than poor or tired soil. We amend our soil whenever we plant anything; this season I’m using a potting mix called Waterhold cocoblend that’s designed for water conservation.
    4. If you really need a sprinkler system, use drip hoses. The gadgets that fling water through the dry air are evaporating lots of water into that air that will never reach your  plants.
    5. Scoop little bowls in the soil around the base of each plant to hold water. When you water it, the water should be going into the ground, not running away from the plant. Water heading down your sidewalk or into your street means you can be doing better, for sure.
    6. Water deeply, directly onto the root systems, and not too often, early in the morning or in the evening. Deep watering helps plants to grow deep roots. Young plants need more frequent watering than older, well-established plants.
    7. Mulch! Mulching is the most powerful thing we can do to protect our soil and all the valuable, living microorganisms in it from the punishing summer sun. To mulch, lay a carpet of  shredded bark or leaves, fine gravel, straw or grass clippings down all around your xeroscape.
    8. If any plant is water-stressed, do not fertilize it. Hydrate the plant thoroughly and let it recover before introducing any food; otherwise, the fertilizer will ‘burn’ the plant.
    9. Trim and prune as a steady habit; in general, the less excess growth a plant has, the less water it needs to support that growth.
    10. Have I mentioned the importance of mulching? It suppresses weeds as well as conserves water, and less time spent on weeding means more time for creating bouquets from our beautiful drought-tolerant flowers.

      photo courtesy of  gailf548

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      7 Comments so far ↓

      • BeWaterWise Rep

        Great Post!! Today when fresh water levels in many parts of the world have dropped significantly, the need to spread awareness about Xeriscaping and water conservation gains in importance. Your post will help a great deal in making people aware about water wise landscaping. BeWaterWise.com also has a nice section on gardening tips and water conservation in general - http://tr.im/n94u
        Hope it’s useful.

      • Tristen

        Excellent post on tips for xeroscape gardening. Good work, thumbs up from this critic.

      • Alison

        Thank you, Tristen! Please let me know if you’d like to do a guest post; I know you know a few things, yourself.

      • Colin

        Thats the way the world is going at the moment, we can’t just keep watering and watering for ever greater demand on this resource.

        I like the term Zeroscape Gardening.

      • Gardening For Dummies

        Just looking for information on maintaining the lawn and possible more extravagant things as I’m a new gardening enthusiast; Excellent activity for pastime I might add, anyway excellent, I found it insightful and informative.

      • Jade

        I believe it is spelled Xeriscaping. Your spelling seems to be wrong.

        • Alison

          Jade, You’re right. It is spelled xeriscaping. I realized that fact a couple of years after I wrote the post. But it’s turned out that a whole lot of people have thought, like me, that it’s spelled with an ‘o’, and so hundreds of Google searches for xeroscaping have brought people to my blog. And so I’ve become grateful for my error, since it’s helped people to find me. That’s the story. You’re the first person to point up the misspelling — I like your mindfulness and your communication :)

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