A relatively new form of landscaping, called Xeriscaping, is gaining popularity. Xeriscaping is a special form of garden/yard-based designing wherein the emphasis is upon creating aesthetically-appealing outdoor spaces with minimal water usage.
A xeriscape garden is easier to maintain than conventional gardens. For starters, the reduced irrigation requirement means a substantial decrease in garden moisture levels. This restricts the spread of fungal and bacterial infections that prefer humid conditions. Drier soil beds translate into less of a need to till, water, weed or trim the plants. One of the biggest challenges in this form of landscape planning is to establish a practical and pretty setting in smaller yards.
You shouldn't look upon xeriscaping as a one-time task. It is a process needing constant planning and improvisation. Water conservation efforts form the basis of xeriscaping. Such water saving techniques need to be constantly reviewed to check their overall effectivity. Set small goals to xeriscape your garden. Establish manageable, landscaping tasks as a number of weekend activities.
Vegetation Spread Management
You should constantly trim the grass spread growing along the sidewalk or driveway. Grasses around the outer edge do not necessarily add to the yard’s appearance. However, they compete with other plants for soil-water. A better idea is to remove all grasses along the outer margins of the yard. Instead, plant fast-spreading, perennial shrubs. Such shrubs support water conservation in the garden. They absorb water splashed along the pavements/sidewalks and direct it towards the yard’s soil bed. Further, they can survive periods of sustained dryness. This is often called creating Vegetation Buffer Zones around the yard.
Increase Water Retention
One of the easiest ways to decrease water loss is to lower the temperature of the soil bed. Mulches are the most affordable and effective form of water conservation in the garden soil. Use wood and bark chips as mulch instead of plastic/fabric mulches. These organic mulches allow greater ventilation and water penetration. This in turn helps to keep the soil bed cooler. Limit the amount of gravel spread in the yard. Gravel is common to most yard settings but isn't friendly from a water conservation perspective. If you still insist on using gravel, ensure that it is dark colored. Gravel with lighter shades reflects more heat. This creates a system of continuous water evaporation and garden soil heating. For irrigating the garden, use a drip or soaker system that ensures precise watering, reducing water wastage.
Yard Shape Planning
Ensure that your yard does not have steep slopes along the borders. Sloping boundaries are a major reason for draining-away rainwater. Instead, ensure that the boundaries have a uniform spread of small rocks or a gravel spread. This helps to create rainwater buffer zones where water is directed towards the garden soil.
Establishing Yard Zones
Try to establish dry and wet zones in the yard. This kind of planning will help you choose the appropriate plants according to their water requirement. Drought-resistant plants can be grown in the dry zones that need little water and still help to maintain a green cover. Dry-season plants can survive such dry zones. Water saved from this can be diverted towards watering plants growing in wet zones.
Affordable Xeriscaping Plants
Despite all the above measures, you cannot create a xeriscaped yard without selecting the appropriate plants. Consider the following suggestions:
Prickly plants like cacti are a universal favorite for xeriscaped gardens. They can be planted in the designated, dry zones of the yard. To ensure that the cactus spread doesn't appear dull, try combining it with succulents like gazania. This desert shrub adds color the cacti spread and needs little water.
Consider the Cape Marigold or the African Daisy. This perennially flowering plant does well in dry soil beds. Its bloom varies from bright shades of yellow to dull white. You can combine a Marigold flower spread with sedums to create a dense, compact-looking green cover. If you are willing to spend a bit more, try growing Dragon's Blood to add a dash of bright red to the garden.
Rabbitbrush is a hardy shrub that is suited for the driest of gardens. Often called the Rubber Rabbitbrush or Chamisa, it is a common xeriscaping shrub. It is ideal for creating durable, water-conserving garden borders. It produces a seasonal bloom and is resistant to most garden diseases. Other Deciduous Shrubs recommended for establishing xeriscaping, buffer zones:
- Desert Willow
- Dwarf Leadplant
- Hidcote St. Johnswort
- Silver Sagebush