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Maintaining the Home:Principles of XeriscapeA surprising amount of water is used in the home a dry, barren landscape, nor is a xeriscape alandscape. Studies have shown that as much as 70 “no maintenance” landscape. Like traditionalpercent of water from a municipal water system landscapes, a xeriscape may be designed tocan be attributed to residential use. In addition minimize labor or to require frequent care. Manyto municipal water sources, a percentage of people appreciate beautiful landscapes, but havewater from private sources or wells also goes to limited time to spend tending a garden. Byresidential use. Of water used at homes, almost using plants that are well adapted, mulches thathalf is used to maintain the landscape. suppress weeds and conserve water, and drip irrigation to make the most use of water, theseThe problem is that while we live in New landscapes can have color and fragrance with onlyMexico, we have traditionally landscaped with monthly or seasonal gardening chores. Gardenersplants native to England, Japan, the East Coast who like to spend time in the garden can designof the United States, and other regions with a xeriscape to be as labor intensive as a highlymuch higher precipitation. To successfully grow maintained traditional garden, but use much lessthese plants, we must supplement the natural water. There is a xeriscape for every gardener.precipitation with our limited surface andgroundwater. The use of plants with high water Xeriscape is not a landscape style or gardendemands is not our only landscaping option; design. Xeriscape is a concept of waterfortunately, neither is removing plants from the conservation that may be applied to landscapes oflandscape. any style, from traditional to English, Japanese, Southwestern, and others. They may be formal orOur landscapes may remain beautiful and natural looking. The principles used to developproductive if we use water efﬁciently and if we xeriscapes are good horticultural practices applieduse landscape plants that require less water. A to our unique desert environment.secondary beneﬁt is that plants with low waterrequirements are frequently adapted to the Xeriscape incorporates sevenalkaline soils characteristic of New Mexico and waterconserving principles:other dry regions. Landscapes using these water-efﬁcient plants are often called xeriscapes. 1) Planning and design. 2) Efﬁcient irrigation systems, properlyThe concept of xeriscape was developed designed and maintained.in Denver, Colorado, in response to water 3) Use of mulch.shortages. “Xeros” is a Greek word that means 4) Soil preparation.“dry.” Xeriscape refers to a landscape that uses 5) Appropriate turf.little supplemental water. It does not refer to 6) Water-efﬁcient plant material.Maintaining the Home: Principles of Xeriscape2 Home of My Own • Mi Propia Casa http://www.nmhomeofmyown.com
7) Appropriate maintenance. is wise to plan irrigation even in the low-water-use zone to allow for new planting, changes, and years A good landscape and garden begins with a good of severe drought. design. Water conservation in the garden can be maximized if it is considered in the initial The irrigation system—whether automatic, planning phase. Xeriscapes can be divided into manual, or hoses moved as needed—also is an zones with different water requirements. An integral part of landscape planning. It is the “oasis,” a zone with the highest water use, is foundation around which the plantings are usually where people spend more time. The patio designed. The water-use zones—low, moderate, area and perhaps the entry area are candidates for and oasis—should be separate from each other, the oasis. An oasis receives more water and, as a and each managed independently. With in- result, is cooler. This area also may require more ground irrigation systems, each zone should be maintenance and usually will be the landscape’s under a separate valve. most colorful area . The water should be applied as efﬁciently as Beyond the oasis is a transition zone of moderate possible. Sprinkler systems are appropriate in water use. The transition zone contains plants areas of turf, but drip, bubbler, and micro-spray that require less frequent irrigation and usually systems or soaker hoses are more appropriate for requires less maintenance. Further away may shrubs, trees, and annual and perennial plantings. be a low-water-use zone, which requires no Efﬁcient irrigation applies water where it is supplemental water or very infrequent irrigation needed, not where it will be wasted and beneﬁt during prolonged dry periods. Designing the only weeds. landscape with areas of differing water demands is called “hydrozoning.” Mulch Mulch provides a cover over the soil, reducing “Found water” or “harvested water” that runs off evaporation, soil temperature, and erosion. It also roofs and paving during storms can be used to limits weed growth and competition for water and reduce the need for supplemental irrigation. Roof nutrients. Landscape mulch materials vary in their runoff can be directed to the oasis or other areas, suitability for various uses. Impermeable plastic drastically reducing the need for supplemental mulch has a function in the landscape, but is irrigation in the moderate- and low-water-use very often misused. It may be used in areas where zones. Because water harvesting requires grading the soil must be kept dry, for example, next to a to channel and detain runoff, it should be foundation where termiticides have been applied planned when the landscape is designed. and where you are channeling harvested water Irrigation from one area to another. Irrigation is necessary in a xeric landscape, at least Otherwise, permeable weed barriers, bark, gravel, during the ﬁrst few years while the plants’ root and other porous mulches are better because they systems are developing. Following establishment, allow water and oxygen to pass to plant roots. irrigation may still be necessary depending on Dust will eventually collect over the weed barrier the landscape design and plants’ needs. In New fabrics and allow growth of some weeds, so it is Mexico, many landscapes need irrigation for at not a perfect solution, but these porous fabrics are least a portion of the planted area for the life of useful for weed control when the bark or gravel the garden. The oasis and the moderatewater-use covering it is less than 3 to 4 inches thick, or zones have the greatest need for irrigation, but it annual weed potential is great. Maintaining the Home: Principles of Xeriscapehttp://www.nmhomeofmyown.com Home of My Own • Mi Propia Casa 3
Organic mulches keep the soil moist and reﬂect glare from the sun. Other ground cover plants canless heat. They work well with plants adapted to perform these functions—except providing a playcooler microclimates. Bark mulch should not be area. Consider where and how large a turf areaused on steep slopes or in drainage ways because it is desired, how it will be used, and during whichwashes away in heavy rains. seasons it will be used. You are then prepared to limit turf to useful spaces and determine whichSome plants native to very well drained soils grow grasses will best serve your needs. In northernbetter in gravel mulches. Remember, rock mulch New Mexico and higher elevations of thebecomes very hot in our climate and can injure state, cool-season grasses are best for areas usedor limit growth of some plants. Ultimately, the extensively as play areas, especially if this usemulch should be shaded by landscape plants that extends into the early spring and late fall. Fescuewill provide environmental cooling. Using gravel or a fescue-bluegrass mixture is appropriate formulch alone as a landscape element may result in these areas.increased home cooling bills and require greaterweed control efforts. If the use is light or mostly in the warmer months and in southern New Mexico, use aSoil Preparation grass that needs less water such as buffalograss,Soil preparation is an important part of successful blue grama, or bermuda grass. If the area isxeriscaping and gardening. When done prior to only for appearance, other ground cover plantsplanting, soil testing can help determine which may be more appropriate and may be irrigatedplants are best adapted to the site and which more efﬁciently. Choose the best plants for eachamendments are appropriate for improving purpose by carefully deﬁning your needs andthe soil for the selected plants. In the oasis and purposes before selecting speciﬁc plants.moderate-water-use zones, adding compost Plants that Require Less Waterincreases the soil’s water-holding capacity. In thelow-water-use zone, soil preparation may only Plants that require less water are becomingconsist of rototilling to loosen the soil and reduce more readily available in the nurseries. There arethe soil compaction associated with building many very attractive plants for use in water-wiseconstruction in planting areas. Loosening the landscapes. While you may use many of your oldsoil improves root development and allows better favorites in the oasis zone, there is a wide varietyinﬁltration of water and air needed by plants’ of colorful, fragrant, and beautiful plants for theroots. This is important in all water-use zones. less irrigated part of the landscape. Many haveHowever, since soil disturbance promotes the long blooming seasons and attractive leaves. Somegermination of weed seeds, limit tilling to areas provide autumn interest with colorful foliage andbeing planted. fruit, while others offer winter interest with their fruit, seed stalks, and winter colors ranging fromOne of the most controversial and misunderstood silver, to gray, to many different green and brownof the xeriscape principles is the concept of shades.appropriate turf. Turfgrasses have a place in turfthe landscape, even the xeriscape. Turf is easy Xeric plants depend on the formation of extensiveto maintain, although it requires more frequent root systems to effectively gather water for propercare than many other landscape plants. Turf growth. While they may look unimpressive inprovides a play surface for children and pets. nursery containers, they rapidly become beautifulIt is an important element in cooling the local plants in the landscape.environment, reducing erosion, and preventingMaintaining the Home: Principles of Xeriscape4 Home of My Own • Mi Propia Casa http://www.nmhomeofmyown.com
Maintenance Maintenance cannot be forgotten, even in a xeriscape. While many gardeners ﬁnd the time spent gardening very relaxing, people with less time or other interests may prefer a landscape that requires minimal time working in the garden. The design will determine the required maintenance. Any garden will require some maintenance: pruning, removing trash that has blown into the landscape, occasional weeding and pest management, checking that the irrigation system is functioning properly, and adjusting automatic irrigation systems as the seasons change. Xeriscaping offers a way to have beautiful, livable landscapes without excess water use. It allows areas close to us to be cooler and hospitable, while investing less water on parts of the landscape in which we spend less time. Even lowerwater-use areas can be very attractive if the seven xeriscape principles are employed. Using xeriscape makes our landscapes more compatible with our New Mexico environment. Maintaining the Home: Principles of Xeriscapehttp://www.nmhomeofmyown.com Home of My Own • Mi Propia Casa 5
This resource is one in a series on Maintaining the Home which include:Interior Maintenance FlooringPreventive Home Maintenance Checkup Buying new carpetMake a Basic Toolkit for Simple Home Repairs Carpet Care and Cleaning Wood Floors Care and CleaningSelection and Use of Home Cleaning Products Ceramic Tile Floors Care and CleaningDiscovering the Secrets of Successful Storage Vinyl Floor Coverings Care and CleaningHeating Furnace Care Walls Selecting and Applying Paint Fireplace and Chimney Care Wallpaper Selection and CleaningCooling Repairing Walls Evaporative Cooler Air Conditioner Furniture Furnishing Your New Home: Color and Design Ceiling Fans Selecting Fabric For Home FurnishingsPlumbing Fixing Plugged Sink Drains Exterior Maintenance How to Unclog a Toilet Home Exterior Repairing Dripping Faucets Foundations, Basements and YardsElectrical Exterior Walls, Windows, and Doors How to Set or Reset a Circuit Breaker Roof How to Replace a Fuse A Guide To RoofsAppliances Roof Maintenance How to Buy an Energy Efﬁcient Home Appliance Landscaping and Lawn Care Choosing a Water Heater Principles of Xeriscape Maintenance: Watering Your Lawn Dishwasher Care and Dishwasher Cleaning Dryer Care and Dryer Cleaning Home Safety Freezer Care and Freezer Cleaning Child-Prooﬁng Your Home Garbage Disposal Care and Cleaning Is Your Home Safe From Fire Hazards? Range and Oven Care and Range Cleaning Smoke Alarms Save Lives Refrigerator Care and Refrigerator Cleaning Carbon Monoxide Alarms Small Electrical Appliance Care and Cleaning Are Your Children Safe From Poisons? Washer Care and Cleaning Protecting Yourself Against BurglaryMaintaining the Home: Principles of Xeriscape6 Home of My Own • Mi Propia Casa http://www.nmhomeofmyown.com