Smart 55: Eight steps to a xeriscape garden

Xeriscaping is the process of choosing plants which are compatible with the water conditions of a given area.

Xeriscaping is the process of choosing plants which are compatible with the water conditions of a given area. Applying xeriscape principles to the landscape not only cuts down on water usage but allows you to still enjoy a beautiful, low-maintenance yard and garden. It doesn’t get much better than that!

With a very dry summer forecast for the 2015 season, here are eight basic steps to get you started:

1.) Planning and Design:  The first step is to sketch out the yard area you want to xeriscape, and assess areas for sun, shade and natural moisture so that you can plan plantings appropriately.

2.) Improve the Soil.  In our region, we tend to have either heavy clay or sandy soils, both of which need to have organic matter added to improve soil structure. Consider adding compost, aged manure or leaf mold.

3.) Water Wise Lawns. Minimize your overall lawn area and choose drought hardy grass species. Or let your lawn follow the natural weather cycles and allow it to ‘go gold’ for the summer, greening again with fall rains.

4.) Water Efficiently and Appropriately.  Xeriscaped gardens prefer deeper, less-frequent watering. Use soaker hoses and drip lines as much as possible; place lawns away from water-needy trees, and avoid sprinklers that throw water high into the air; water early in the morning or later at night; and don’t water when it is windy or raining.

5.) Select Plants Appropriate for the Climate and Group According to Water Needs. Most of our local garden centres now carry ‘drought-hardy’ plants. Not only do they need much less water, they also tend to start earlier in the spring and last longer into the fall. Group plants together according to their water requirements, so you can keep higher water users together and plant these in areas where there may be natural water drainage.

6.) Mulch to Reduce Evaporation. This also cools the roots of your plants, reduces weed growth, slows erosion, and ‘finishes’ your garden. Mulch is your gardening ally, and as it breaks down will also improve the soil. There are many things you can use as mulch, such as straw, wood chips, leaves, grass clippings and compost. Mulch 7-10 cm deep, keep it away from tree base and plant stems and top up regularly.

7.) Rain Barrel. Even a xeriscape garden will need water in times of prolonged drought. Reduce your use of our limited town drinking water supply by collecting water in rain barrels for use in your garden.

8.) Maintenance. No garden is maintenance free, and although xeriscape maintenance chores are much like any other garden, you will find it takes significantly less time to keep things looking good. Good Luck and Happy Gardening!

This article was produced by the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society (CCCS) at 250-398-7929 and ccentre@ccconserv.org. For more information on Xeriscape Gardening, pick up a brochure at the CCCS office, one of the local garden centres, or online at www.ccconserv.org (in Water Wise section).

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