Xeriscape is quality landscaping that conserves water and protects he environment using seven basic principles. The concept was developed in Denver in the early 1980s in response to a severe drought. But really, xeriscape is just common sense gardening. And regardless of whether you are developing a new landscape or improving an established one, you can begin using the principles of xeriscape today. (It might seem easier if you could start from scratch, but with good planning your landscape’s transition from water hog to environmental protector will be painless and profitable.) Begin using the seven principles of xeriscape now – take it one step at a time. You’ll save money on your water bill, protect the environment and end up with one of the prettiest landscapes on the block.

• Step 1 – Start with a plan. Create a scale drawing of the lot. Consider soil type, drainage, water availability, sun and shade, wind direction and views. Consider how the property will be used – for play, entertaining, gardening, storage, etc. Develop a master plan that can be installed in phases. Each phase can be installed as time and money allow.
• Step 2 – Analyze and improve the soil. Most soil will benefit from adding organic matter. Soil amendments can improve water drainage, moisture penetration and the capacity of the soil to hold water. Compost is the best organic matter available. Compost can be made at home or purchased commercially.
• Step 3 – Use practical turf areas. Grass normally needs more water than any other element in the landscape. Consider how you will use an are an if grass is the best choice for that area. It may be, but ground covers, shrubs, a deck or a patio may be good options also.
• Step 4 – Select appropriate plants. As much as possible, use native or drought tolerant plants in your landscape. It just makes sense. They naturally thrive on the amount of rainfall you get in your area, and therefore won’t need additional water. Of course, most everyone has favorite plants and those favorites may or may not be water efficient. If your favorites are water guzzlers, don’t hesitate to include them in your xeriscape landscape. Just make sure that your group them together so that you can water efficiently. You should plan different zones in your landscape according to their water needs: hand water, frequent water, occasional water and natural rainfall.
• Step 5 – Us efficient irrigation. The most efficient hoes-end sprinklers throw large drops of water close to the ground. Water from misting sprinklers that throw water high into the air often evaporates before it hits the ground. Soaker hoses are inexpensive, easy to install and ideal for planting beds. Drip irrigation applies water more slowly to the soil directly surrounding plant roots and may save up to 60% of the water required by other methods of irrigation.
• Step 6 – Use organic mulches to conserve water and prevent weed growth. Mulches help reduce soil water loss and erosion. They can also slow weed growth. Some common organic mulches include pine bark, shredded cyprus, pecan hulls, cotton seed hull, composted leaves, shredded cedar and shredded landscape clippings.
• Step 7 – Maintain properly. Xeriscape landscapes require less maintenance then traditional landscapes. However, a properly maintained yard is hardier and better able to withstand drought, freezing and pest problems. So woody plants such as trees and shrubs should be checked for pruning needs once a year. Dead, diseased or damaged wood can be removed at any time. Flowering perennial plants may need frequent pruning to stimulate blooming and, after going dormant, to keep a neat appearance.

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