It is finally spring. With that comes spring fever (and, yes it is real — apparently the increasing sunlight changes our melatonin levels, which raises both our energy and our mood) and so the list of projects starts.
Cleaning up yards and gardening is often high on this list, with watering and mowing your yard continuing to take up much of your free time through the warmer and lazier days of summer while your spring enthusiasm wanes.
This period of high energy is a good time to think about trying some xeriscape gardening. Xeriscape gardening uses a combination of low water use plants and reduced lawn areas. Once established, they require far less maintenance and upkeep as the plants tend to be hardy and pest resistant.
My image of a xeriscape garden used to be sand and cacti; instead what I have now looks more like a version of an English Country cottage mix of perennials and flowering bushes, with the advantage that it is also quite deer resistant. I watered only once last summer and everything survived. There will be some minimal weeding and tidying to do this spring, and then that’s about it for a summer of colour ahead in my garden of conscientious neglect.
There are as many ways to approach xeriscaping as there are gardens; you may like tidy and formal, or a wilder less structured approach. You may prefer sand, rocks and ornamental grasses or bark mulch and planters. The key is that you gather your information and start with a plan; there is lots of information available online as well as local plant guides and brochures to help. It could mean getting professional input from a landscaper, and having them do the work or just reading around the subject, picking appropriate plants and going for it, perhaps living with a bit of trial and error along the way.
As with any garden, the soil quality and plant selection are the route to success, so this is the place to start. There is also no reason that you have to do everything at once; perhaps experiment with a small area to start with.
Apart from the reduced maintenance of a xeriscape garden, there many benefits beyond your own workload. Using less water helps preserve and protect our aquifers. Hardy, pest resistant plants, smaller lawns and reduced watering means there will be fewer fertilizers and pesticides heading down our storm drains and into local water ways. (Currently lawns are a huge source of this ‘non-point’ water pollution).
The Conservation Society will have ‘healthy lawn’ creature stakes at the library later this spring on a first come first served basis. Plant one where your neighbours can see and inspire others to start xeriscaping too!
Conservation Tip of the Month: This summer, remember that lawns can only absorb so much water at a time. Only water for 30 minutes twice a week to encourage strong root growth all season.
The Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society’s Water Wise educators and support staff can be reached at 250-398-7929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.