Xeriscaping, What is it?


If you’ve not heard of Xeriscaping where have you been?! No ok we forgive you, when you hear or read the word for the first time it sounds complicated, but it actually refers to a very simple concept. Xeriscaping was introduced in Denver, USA as a method of saving water, and over the last 5 or 6 years  it’s begun to build momentum as one of the top ten ‘green’ building trends.

Despite covering two thirds of the Earth’s surface, in practical terms water is a limited resource, so it’s best to try and conserve it. This is especially true when it comes to our own homes, where if nothing else the incentive to do so may be purely financial. In traditional landscaping and gardening, a lot of water is usually used as part of the ongoing upkeep process. If you’re looking to save water and still have a unique and beautiful landscape, then Xeriscaping is the ideal choice for you, but, what exactly is it?

Xeriscaping is a portmanteau of the greek word ‘xeros’, meaning ‘dry’, and ‘landscaping’. It involves both plants and soil, utilizing creative design and landscaping methods with the primary aim of saving water. Ultimately if you can create a space that can be maintained without any supplemental irrigation from tap water then you’ve reached the holy grail of Xeriscaping.

Many people think of Xeriscaping as ugly patches of gravel with the odd cactus dotted around them. This doesn’t have to be the case! Flowers, shrubs and even grass can all form part of a Xeriscaped environment, the only real limit is your imagination.

What Are The Advantages of Xeriscaping?

  • You can save a lot on your water bill. This really depends on how far you take your Xeriscaping strategy as well as a host of other variables such as the size of your garden, wind, and the average temperature and rainfall where you live. However with the correct approach you should expect to save up to two thirds of the water you would use maintaining a traditional garden. This goes to show how much of a drain on water conventional gardening can be… quite literally!
  • The water you save can be used for other purposes if you wish, such as filling up a paddling pool!
  • Less effort is required to keep your garden in shape. Besides not having to water the garden as much, you’ll also find you don’t need to maintain it as much either. Admittedly much of this is as a result of having a smaller lawn, and thus not needing to worry about diseases, pests and weed killer
  • Less maintenance means less pollution. You won’t be using as many pesticides, and you won’t be cutting as much grass. Therefore your waste/chemical footprint on the environment will be greatly reduced

How do I go about creating a Xeriscaped space?

The first challenge in a successful Xeriscaped environment is soil. You need to make sure the soil you use has the necessary organic properties for successful plant growth (so good quality compost made from decomposed organic matter) and is aerated regularly. This ensures the soil is in good shape, and is able to drain effectively. If you follow this simple principle, it will simply allow the soil to absorb the necessary amount of water that it needs naturally, with less intervention from you and a watering can.

When it comes to the landscape of a Xeriscape design, you should pay close attention to factors such as drainage and light exposure. As you choose plants, and in some cases even grass, you need to choose varieties that take advantage of less water and whatever level of sunlight your garden is able to receive. The bottom line from a Xeriscaping point of view, is that the more drought resistant plants you opt for the better. And no this doesn’t just limit you to cacti! There are many other native plants you can choose from, just remember the Xeriscaping philosophy requires that you choose plants that are pest, drought and disease resistant, in other words plants which require minimal maintenance.

It’s important to pay close attention to how you group your plants. Ideally those that are less drought resistant should be grouped together, and likewise the more drought resistant plants should also be grouped together. This ensures that any watering you have to do goes right to the heart of where it needs to be, with not a drop wasted anywhere else.

If you want to have grass in your Xeriscape design, you’ll need to limit it and not have large amounts. It’s important that you concentrate on cultivating a water-saving variety, but it can be done. If you do a bit of research you can track down species native to where you live that will do the job very well.

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