Xeriscape Your Garden- By: Mike Askins
Xeriscaping is a form of gardening that was designed for dry areas where watering can be a challenge. By spending some extra planning time choosing the specific plants and garden design, you can conserve water and save time on maintenance.
The Basic Fundamentals
Water Conservation: Begin your planning around this one main feature of xeriscaping. Research the drought-resistant and native plants common to your area. Know what the annual precipitation is for your area and how it is spread throughout the season.
Plan your garden on paper by noting the north, south, east and west and any features that may affect your planting choices. For instance are there any large shade trees, or areas that receive more sun than others. On hot, dry areas facing the south and west, use plants that require less moisture. For north and east-facing slopes, choose plants that need more water.
Take note of the shape of the land and the drainage patterns. Plan areas of run off to flow toward plants that require more watering.
Allow areas for seating, and walkways. Plan larger trees, ornamental grasses, and shrubs for extra shade, privacy or sound proofing. They also reduce evaporation by blocking the wind and keeping the soil cool.
Soil Improvement: Ideally, your soil in this type of landscape will do two things – provide quick drainage and store water at the same time. You can do this by improving your soil quality with mulch and compost. If you have soil with a high alkaline (pH) and low phosphorous content, the addition of bonemeal and rock phosphate can help.
Mulch should also be spread to retain moisture, keep the soil cool and block out weeds.
Limit Grass Areas: While you want some grass these areas should be limited due to their high maintenance and high moisture requirements. Wherever possible plant water-saving varieties of lawn seed. Consider converting existing lawn areas to rock gardens, or patio.
Use Proper Plants: Native plants are the best choices for drought resistance and low maintenance. Consider the size of the plant upon maturity and whether it will require pruning or pest treatment. Keep plants with similar needs together. Don't plant drought resistant varieties side by side with those that require regular watering.
Irrigation: Use drip irrigation systems or soaker hoses for regular watering. They prevent over watering and are less prone to evaporation than sprinkler methods. Don't waste your rainwater. Set up some rain barrels and use them with your irrigation system, or direct your drain spouts towards plants that require more watering.
Water plants just to the point of seeing runoff, allow the lawn to absorb the water and then resume when needed.
Put your irrigation system on a timer and set for early morning waterings, before it starts to get hot.
Maintenance: Although there is much less maintenance required in tending a xeriscape garden, it is important to stay on top of any weeds that do pop up and ensure your garden is fertilized regularly. Pick off faded flowers to extend blooming times.
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