Seven Principles of Xeriscape

Erin Conant

When I don’t quite understand something new or different, I break it up into manageable pieces. Take xeriscape gardening. It isn’t a new idea, but environmentally conscious citizens everywhere are opening their eyes to its practical and aesthetic possibilities. If xeriscaping is your goal, you can break the idea down into seven manageable pieces.

First, put careful thought into planning and designing. Having those ideas and plans down on paper will guide and motivate you. Work with your site, not against it, by considering areas that get full sun or shade, and don’t forget the space requirements of mature plants.

Second, use any number of available resources to choose which low-water-use plants work best for your plan. Research reliable Internet sources and gardening forums, get advice from local nursery experts, and peruse available books on the topic.

Next, consider the amount of turf you want to include in your design. Because turf uses a lot of water, keep the amount practical and small. A petite, grassy play area for your children and pets is appropriate, especially if you choose a well-adapted variety such as Bermuda or zoysia.

Then, consider how you’ll irrigate your xeric garden. Drip irrigation is the most efficient method and deep, infrequent watering helps develop strong roots that are likely to tolerate lengthy dry spells.

The final three principles include making soil improvements, applying mulch and performing general maintenance. Incorporate a compost-bearing soil mix into your existing earth, and then top everything off with a thick layer of mulch, about 3 to 4 inches. Prune and remove weeds as necessary throughout the year.

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