The Seven Principles of Xeriscape Gardening: Xeriscaping Can Wean Your Landscape Off the Wet Stuff
Water-wise gardening Xeriscaping can wean your landscape off the wet stuff X eros is a Greek word that means dry. Xeriscape gardening is the planning and development of a landscape that uses little additional water to maintain its environment. It can be applied to any landscape design, from formal to informal. Although it may take two to three years to establish, a xeric landscape aims to reduce the amount of water being used. Seven water-saving principles of xeriscaping are outlined below. A yard divided A good plan divides the yard into three water usage zones: high (regular watering), moderate (occasional watering) and low (natural rainfall only). High water zone Moderate water zone This zone is a small, highly visible and Plants are watered only when they show signs of Low water zone highly maintained area, such as moisture stress. Newly planted ornamental plants Plants are watered by natural 1. around a patio, where plants are watered regularly in the absence of rainfall. and turf grasses require regular irrigation during the establishment period, generally eight to 10 weeks after planting, regardless of their intended zone. rainfall and receive no irrigation. Once established, many types of plants grow well in this zone.THE SEVEN PRINCIPLES OF XERISCAPE GARDENINGSTEP 1 STEP 3 STEP 5Planning a design Appropriate plant selection Efficient Irrigation Take a pencil and a piece of Consider the design of the planting site when choosing plants. Xeric landscapes need good irrigation in the first few yearspaper and sketch your current Group plants with similar soil, light and watering requirements. to establish the root systems of plants.site, including buildings, Many varieties of plants will fit in a xeric landscape. turf Water wiselydriveways and existing Some steps for choosing plantsvegetation. Note the Plants wilt when they need watering. If wilting continues into deck ᔢ Mature size and form: Consider the plant’s scale as itorientation to the sun. the evening, water the next morning. Some plants wilt during resid grows; control overgrown plants that will compete with other ence the heat of day and recover later. plants for nutrients and moisture.Consider: way ᔢ Plant health: Look for well-developed roots throughout the How much to water? driveᔢ How long you plan to root ball and for an abundance of small white roots Once established, most plants,live in the house. turf (absorbing roots) on the outside of the root ball. trees and shrubs need littleᔢ How much you want ᔢ Color: Add color to the landscape with flowering watering. This usually takes aboutto spend. trees, shrubs and perennials. Use ground covers three years from the initialᔢ Whether you want a high- or low- with variegated leaves instead of annuals, which take planting time. To water, moisten 5maintenance landscape. a lot of water. the soil 10 to 12 inches deep forᔢ What type of plants you want and any additional 4hardscape materials such as decks, patios and walkways. shrubs and 6 to 8 inches deep Planting tips for annuals, perennials and 3 Use a rain Identify problems and potentials. List needs and wants to be gaugeincorporated into the plan. A good plan divides the yard into for trees ground covers. As a guide, 1 inch 2 to monitorwater usage zones: high (regular watering), moderate and shrubs: Construct a of water wets the soil to a depth the output(occasional watering) and low (natural rainfall). It also 4- to 6-inch earthen of 6 inches. A small shovel may 1 of your Do not dig dam around plant. be used as a probe to determineincorporates shade and appropriate plant selection. sprinkler. deeper than Water will collect how much water is saturating the 0Now, lay a piece of tracing paper over the sketch and height ofnote where plants will be located and the placement of water and slowly ground. root ball run into theand shade zones. How to water planting hole Sprinklers and drip irrigation systems are the best methods for watering. Sprinklers are better for lawns. Drip irrigation RemoveSTEP 2 nylon strings (plastic tubing placed below or above the ground surface) is best for watering plants. With both systems, watch for runoff,Soil analysis and fold and avoid watering streets and sidewalks. Soil will retain more moisture if properly prepared. Root ball back burlapIn high and moderate water zones, adding and wireorganic matter, compost or leaves can help soil basketsretain moisture. In low water zones, tilling the soilwill open it up to moisture and air and help Dig planting hole two to three times as wide as root ball. STEP 6roots develop better. MulchingComposting Mulch provides a cover for soil, keeping it moist and Building and maintaining a compost heap STEP 4 preventing evaporation. Mulch also controls weed growth Turf planning and erosion.will replenish your soil’s nutrients andmaintain moisture in the garden. Turf provides a play area for the yard. It also controls erosion Types of mulches and how they are used:Compost may be bought or made. and absorbs heat, cooling the environment around it. TYPE ADVANTAGE DISADVANTAGEPut the right type of materials in the heap. Pine straw Excellent for water Flammable when dry.They include: When planning the turf area: conservation. Decomposes quickly.1. Carbon-rich “brown” materials: leaves, straw, dead flowers ᔢ Designate a rectangular area large enough for practical use but with a small perimeter Pine bark Conserves moisture Noneand shredded newspaper. well. Use the mini2. Nitrogen-rich “green” materials: grass clippings, plant-based to conserve water. nuggets.kitchen waste (vegetable peelings and fruit rinds, but no meat ᔢ Limit watering to high- Leaves Readily available. Not as neat inscraps), barnyard animal manure. visibility, high-impact Hold moisture well. appearance as bark.3. Garden soil: A heaping shovelful. areas.Find a container or site thats at least 3 feet long by 3 feet wide. ᔢ Use drought-tolerant Grass clippings None Use for compost. covers or mulch instead Gravel Long lasting. Absorbs too much BUILDING UP COMPOST of turf on slopes or Shallow roots heat; can damage plants. and deeper LID areas that are hard to drought-resistant Newspaper Layer two sheets Acts as a moisture Green material mow. under organic mulch. barrier if placed too thick. roots (several inches) Helps conserve moisture. Slats for air circulation ᔢ Never water turf daily unless you are trying to establish it. Daily watering will Fabric Keeps moisture, Hard to install. Layers of brown and green material encourage shallow root growth and reduce the turf’s drought nutrients in, weeds out. Moisture layer tolerance. Plastic None Blocks oxygen, water 3 feet Brown material ᔢ Divide watering sessions into 1-inch applications once or and nutrients. (several inches) twice a week to maintain health. Thin layer of soil Green material Varieties of grasses used in the Piedmont region and their STEP 7 (several inches) drought tolerance: Maintenance Brown material GRASS SHADE HEAT COLD DROUGHT WEAR All landscapes require some maintenance, but proper (several inches) Bermuda grass Very poor Very good Very poor Excellent Excellent planning and design make it more efficient. (common) 3 feet Centipede grass Good Good Poor Good Poor Things to do:Layer material as shown in the diagram. Every couple of weeks, Kentucky blue Good Good Very good Very good Very good ᔢ Control weeds. They take water intended for plants.use a shovel to mix the rotted material to the center of the bin or tall fescue ᔢ Reduce fertilizer applications. The more a plantpile. Keep the compost material moist, not wet. Air should St. Augustine Very good Very good Poor Good Poor grows, the more water it needs.circulate through the pile, or compost material can turn to slime Tall fescue Good Good Very good Very good Very good ᔢ Remove poorly growing plants that consume time and water.and be useless in the garden. Good compost is brown/black and ᔢ Avoid heavy pruning. Plants that are left alone require lesscrumbly with a sweet, woodsy smell. Zoysia grass Good Very good Fair-good Excellent Good water to maintain themselves. MARGARET BAXTER/News & RecordSource: City of Greensboro; N. C. Cooperative Extension Service; University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences; “Xeriscape Gardening” by Connie Ellefson, Tom Stephens and Doug Welsh. RESEARCH AND GRAPHIC BY MARGARET BAXTER/News & RecordA CLASS ON XERISCAPING WILL BE HELD 7 P.M. MARCH 14 AT THE AGRICULTURAL CENTER. THE PROGRAM IS FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. CALL 375-5876 FOR INFORMATION.