Though our planet is covered with two thirds water, most of the countries in the world are facing a water shortage due to a steep rise in the urban population. Therefore smart Xeriscape gardening with water wise plants is a prudent option to consider.
The ever increasing population of the human race is increasing the demand on our drinking water supply. Limited rainfall and drought like conditions with densely populated areas frequently put a strain on the natural resources of water available. Even if there is a normal amount of rainfall received, the water supply is often not able to meet the demand.
Xeriscape Colorado Book
What is Xeriscaping?
The term “Xeriscape” came into being when there was a prolonged drought condition and saving and conserving water became a real priority. In 1981, the Denver Water Department in Colorado coined this word. The principles that support Xeriscaping are based on the fundamentals of conserving water efficiently. Creating a landscape that thrives without the burden of maintenance and additional irrigation requirements uses the rules of Xeriscaping. Such a landscape will require water and support for the first planting year but by the second year they will not need watering.
However; the landscape and climatic conditions should support such an arrangement year after year. If there is scarce rainfall, the landscape does require watering especially in enhanced drought weather conditions. Even in the second year of Xeriscape gardening, you need to keep an eye on the garden if the large trees and shrubs need a helping hand with water consumption. Rather than letting the plants dry out and your hard labour get wasted, it pays to watch them at regular time intervals and not leave them to Nature or any Rain Gods.
Americans are used to seeing expansive lush lawns and that is fixed so clearly in their psyche that they often cannot call it a garden unless they see some actual turf grass in it. Turf grass is notorious for consuming lots of water, so much so as to increase the consumption of overall water usage in a household by 40 to 50 %. It does not really mean that the Xeriscape gardener eliminated the grass totally. He uses the water efficient ground covers to make the landscape green and water independent to the fullest extent possible.
A Water-Wise Approach to Home Landscaping
Elements of Xeriscaping
- This type of gardening is all about using water economically while retaining the natural beauty of the landscape. There are several ways of doing it.
- Grouping plants with similar requirements is one solution. Low water xeric plants to be planted in one location in the relatively dry south facing areas whereas having the moisture lovers grouped in another location in an easterly direction.
- Lawn area could be reduced or totally eliminated with patios, decks, and paths. Alternatively use ground coverings or local grass that requires much less water.
- Adding compost and mulch to the ground conserves water. Water does not easily do its job if you add organic matter to the soil.
- Instead of wasting water through the use of large garden hoses, water is sprinkled through techniques like drip irrigation and soaker hose usage.
- Adding a water feature can help. How do you add a pond without water?
- Collect rainwater in small aesthetic ponds and surround them with water plants. In summer, if they dry out, don’t bother to refill them. In the rainy season they will fill again to the brim and you can naturally enjoy the fish and the croaking of any frogs. Capture the rainwater in barrels as much as you can. It is a great way to recycle.
- Zen gardens have rocks, pebbles and sand for aesthetics. Try this out in a section of your garden. It does not require water at all.
Low Water Use Plants
Water Wise Plants
Strong healthy plants are tough and drought tolerant. Use small shrubs and trees that are locally available. Large trees that use low water and develop an underground root system to support themselves can also sustain in this type of garden. Hackberry, some species of oaks and Bald Cypress are some of the examples for a gardener to consider. Small trees like Oklahoma Redbud and Desert Willow will not consume much water in the summer. These trees need to be cared for till they firmly develop their root system. That means that you will have to water them in the initial years in the summer months.
Medium size shrubs such as rose shrubs look awesome and the local variety does not use a lot of water. Small shrubs like juniper and jasmine are other examples of low requirement plants that will make your outdoor space green and fragrant.
You should not rule out vines and creepers. They are great when it comes to green foliage, they grow fast with less water and turn the surroundings green. Some of these vines are English Ivy, Boston Ivy, Trumpet vine and Cross vine.
There are a multitude of ornamental grass species that unlike the turf grass that is rampant in American homes, are great substitutes for this type of landscaping. Use Fountain grass, Maiden grass, Zebra grass, Plume or Canada grass in your landscape. The diversity in flora will definitely make your outside area look lovely and aesthetics are bound to increase.
There are many more plants that are classified and listed as ‘Xeric’ plants; the names I have listed do not in any way confine you since you can bring in an even wider variety that really suit the geography and climate of your location.
Creating the Prairie Xeriscape
Benefits of Xeriscaping
There are many advantages. You can reap the benefits for a very long time. Well planned and maintained gardens made in this manner save water, time and money. They require much less maintenance. They also reduce the use of pesticides, increasing opportunities for the habitats for birds, butterflies, bees and beneficial insects. These creatures are all natural enemies of harmful insects and predators.
If you think this type of landscaping is your cup of tea, think and start stocking up on appropriate plants that are easily available in your nursery. A landscape that uses minimal water is the dream of many gardeners and you can create a lush, green and bountiful looking outdoor space that is just as beautiful compared with a traditional garden that uses, and wastes, a lot of water.
Many gardeners think that growing cacti and succulents is what makes this style of garden. Nothing can be further from the truth. It is not about designing a desert themed garden. Your garden can feature much more than yucca and agave plants. There are diverse drought resistant plants that can make a fabulous English cottage style garden.
These types of plants generally will have small, sharp and thin leaves that are often not as big and fleshy as the foliage of tropical evergreen trees. The small surface area of the leaves have less chance of moisture evaporation. Many of these are herbs which are tough and do not require an abundance of water. Herbs like thyme and lavender are great for ground cover, besides giving a lovely fragrance too. Many of these herbs can be used for culinary uses as well.
Featured Image from Pixabay, Mariamichelle, License: CC0 Public Domain
All other images from amazon.com