Sense Xeriscaping for Small Lot Owners
By Margaret Kelly,
Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Advanced Master Gardener, Denver County
It's taken awhile, but Xeriscape,
landscaping for water savings as well as beauty, has come into its own.
But, what's a homeowner to do?
Tear out everything you have and start over, in the interest of saving water?
No. Such drastic measures
probably aren't needed. Here are some guidelines that apply especially to owners of
small-to-average-sized lots with traditional landscapes.
Don't do it all at once. Think
about your landscape in pieces. Following are relatively inexpensive, weekend-manageable
projects to get you started.
Think waste-free. Consider
removing a few feet of the grass along the driveway and sidewalk. Plant these areas with
non-thirsty ground cover plants, small shrubs or perennial flowers. This allows these
buffer areas to soak up water from lawn watering that normally would fall on the pavement
and run off into the street.
Consider replacing the lawn on
steep slopes with a rock garden, tiered wall, or low-spreading evergreens. As with
pavement buffer plantings, the water that runs down the slope from other parts of the yard
will be captured by these plants.
Think ease and economy. Try to
re-group flowers and other plants so the yard is organized into different water use zones.
Grouping or "zoning" plants with similar water requirements allows you to meet
their high, medium or low-water needs so some plants in the group are not overwatered
while others are underwatered. To further conserve moisture, use mulches between shrubs,
flowers and in the vegetable garden.
Research an inexpensive, labor
saving drip or soaker water system for non-turf areas.
Think limits. You may have more
lawn than you want. You could remove turf from narrow, hard-to-water strips and replace it
with pretty, drought-tolerant plants. Remove turf from between and behind shrubs; replace
it with mulch.
Now, take a walk through your
yard. Give it a second look. You will come up with ideas of your own. Be realistic about
time and money. Xeriscaping slowly lets you allocate both over a span of years.
Research new plants you're
considering. There are a lot of books out there, and if you don't find what you need, ask
the nursery or landscape experts. Find out the sun/shade requirements, cost, maintenance
needs, and water requirements of the plants you're considering. Ask also about flower
color and blooming time, leaf color and shape.
A good place to start your
research is at your county Cooperative Extension office. Ask for a fact sheet,
"Xeriscaping: how to retrofit your yard to reduce water use."
In your own little piece of this
world, get the most out of every gallon of water you apply to the landscape - think
Photograph of Lamium
maculatum 'White Nancy' and Centranthus ruber Red Valerian, xeriscape plants for shade, by