There are many ways to improve the overall look of your home. One of the ways is through landscaping. But as environmental awareness has started to grow, many people are turning to xeriscape and people have many questions about what it is and what the benefits of it are.
What are the benefits of xeriscaping? Xeriscaping helps to conserve water, preserve native plants, reduce pesticide use, and support local wildlife. While it can be used in any location, xeriscaping will bring the most benefits in drought-prone areas.
Xeriscaping has a lot to offer and I’d love to share more information about it to you. Below I’ve put together an extensive guide on the subject so I encourage you to read more.
What Is Xeriscaping?
Xeriscaping is landscaping in a fashion that conserves water within a current area. Another way to describe xeriscape is making an area drought-resistant. By using this method you are supporting the environment and you’re not depriving your plants of valuable nutrients either. I say this as some people believe that xeriscaping is sacrificing greenery and color for a bland and dry garden.
That reality is further from the truth as many homes have used xeriscaping to great effect. This form of landscaping is more beneficial in areas that experience more drought or are dry in general.
For example, you’ll have better luck with this sort of landscaping happening in Colorado or Georgia, than say any of the states in the northeast US or those around the Great Lakes region.
What Are The Benefits Of Xeriscaping?
I’ve mentioned a few of them already, however, those are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the benefits of xeriscaping. As xeriscaping is growing in popularity, it’s worth mentioning that a lot of these benefits stem from specific climates.
Since this form of landscaping incorporates water-wise plants, climates like desert areas, or where there isn’t a lot of rain, will benefit greatly from this type of landscaping. Only a fraction of these will be granted to eastern areas in climates that get a lot of rain and snow.
It Creates An Eco-Friendly Landscape Design
Part of the reason xeriscaping is a drought-resistant method stems from the fact that it incorporates drought-resistant plants. Because of this design, the amount of water that’s needed for these plants to thrive is minimal when you compare it to other landscaping designs.
The reason for this is the plants are picked on purpose to be either drought-tolerant or water-conserving. What this means is the plants either can live without water for a very long time and show no signs of wilting or when you do water them, they keep that water inside of them for a long period of time.
Saves Money In Maintenance, Water, And Energy
As I just said, these require less water so that means you’re not going to have to supply as much water to them. Overall, you can reduce the amount of water needed by 70 percent when compared to other designs.
This also cuts down on the maintenance time drastically since weeding, and mowing the lawn isn’t a top priority. While it’s still smart to be doing these things with xeriscaped designs, forgetting to do them isn’t as bad compared to other designs.
Another unexpected savings is through energy as well. When you have a proper lawn and vegetation cover, you can lower cooling requirements by about 4 percent compared to those who don’t have it. While it’s marginal, it can add up a lot on a monthly basis.
I’d say for those looking to get into landscaping and are looking for a budget-friendly option, try xeriscaping.
While there are things that you’ll need to do in order to preserve your landscaping, xeriscaping designs demand less of your time. Many other designs will require you to mow the lawn regularly, water it and do plenty of weeding as well in order to maintain it.
With xeriscaping – while you’ll still need to do a few of those things in any environment – the amount of maintenance needed is drastically reduced. There isn’t going to be much in the surrounding area of a xeriscape design to weed or mow or trim any of the plants either.
Boosts Property Value
Another benefit you might not expect is that xeriscaping improves the value of commercial properties. While it might not be a massive boost, the increase in property value far outweighs the costs of xeriscaping long-term. It’s a wise financial move if you are considering putting your house up for sale in the near future.
It makes sense from a property standpoint as well. While there are benefits from having a nice lawn, the area where xeriscape designs thrive – in desert-like climates – make it feel natural. I say this because in these areas if you want a lawn, you’re going for turf lawn which makes the area look fake and cheap. If you use xeriscaping, it’ll look more natural since you’re using native plants to your area to make an appealing design.
Less Noise Pollution
In traditional landscapes, you’re going to need various tools to help you maintain the area. Things like leaf blowers, weed whackers, mowers, and more. The drone from all of these equipment adds to noise pollution which can disrupt other people around the area. Through xeriscape designs, you won’t be needing a lot of equipment so there won’t be much noise coming from you.
And on the occasion that you are using equipment it’s not for long periods of time compared to other landscapes. For example, xeriscape designs benefit from a weekly mowing of the lawn, some pruning and watering. While that creates noise it’s not a lot when you compare it to people mowing their lawns for an hour and a half or more – let alone making more noise from removing weeds, blowing leaves and so on.
Preserving Native Plants
When you get into traditional landscaping, most designs will incorporate new plants to liven up landscaping designs. While that’s nice, this usually pushes out indigenous plants that don’t fit the look of the latest landscapes.
With xeriscaping, the practice is more on making what you’ve got work. And if you’re in one of those drought-heavy areas that means you’ll have plenty of drought-resistant plants. The same applies to plants that are water-conserving plants. Naturally, since the plants are built for xeriscaping, they’re going to thrive in those environments.
This is ideal since new plants run the potential risk of not surviving in certain landscapes. When you’re using xeriscaping, your focus is on drought-resistant plants. Because these plants are used to low water intake, these plants are able to bloom in low-water environments.
For those xeriscaping in non-dry environments, you can still conserve native plants due to micro-climates. For example, you can add xeriscaping in areas where there is a lot of shade during summer and spring and move other plants that prefer more sun and water to other areas.
No Fertilization Or Pesticide
Considering this form of landscaping is low maintenance, you might have expected that these plants require no pesticides or fertilization to thrive. You’d be right in this case and it further enhances their low maintenance costs.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with using organic fertilizer in order to jumpstart the growth of your plants in your xeriscaping design. This will give the plantings a nice boost. But after those plants are established, they will require little to no support for soil adjustments.
By the same token, pesticides are also unnecessary since you’ve picked out plants that have adapted to their current environment. Since these plants know how to fend off pests within their specific environment, you can expect to never deal with pests in any xeriscape design. You can argue this same thing in non-dry environments since most animals wouldn’t be interested in the type of plants that thrive in xeriscape designs as well.
Better For The Environment
Xeriscaping also helps the environment in many ways.
First, you have the pesticides and fertilizers I mentioned above. While going organic with your fertilizer is better, many urban areas dump a lot of chemicals through the fertilizer and pesticides into the water. Since xeriscaping doesn’t really need those to thrive, you can remove all of that.
Another way it benefits the environment is xeriscape designs send fewer materials to landfills. Grass clippings specifically create a huge amount of waste in landfills that persist through winter and spring. Since xeriscaping requires less mowing, there are fewer grass clippings. Even if you mow the lawn, it’s smarter to keep those clippings on the lawn since they provide nutrients for your lawn to absorb all over again.
And on the note of mowing, you’re also helping with air quality too. Even though mowers aren’t as bad as cars, you still use a lot of tools to maintain your property. Mowers, weed trimmers, blowers, and more. Many of these are gas-powered and release fumes in the air – be it smaller amounts. Even so, that will hamper the air quality given enough time and can impact you, your neighbors, and the rest of the environment. With xeriscaping, you’re removing all of that air pollution.
Supports Local Wildlife
Xeriscaping is landscaping that benefits from dry environments in order to thrive. Therefore, this type of landscaping, and this benefit, will have a greater impact in places where there is a dry environment for long periods of time.
The reason is that many of the native plants are often a food source for the wildlife in those types of environments. Furthermore, native plants rely on wildlife to assist with pollination and seed distribution. If you’re dedicating even a small portion of your landscape to native plants, this benefits the birds, butterflies, and other wildlife which in turn benefits you in so many ways.
While some people may be firm in that xeriscaping provides a dry or dull garden, it’s hard to argue when you consider what can thrive in these landscapes. Not only can you incorporate native plants, but other plants that can thrive are things like cactus plants, succulents, ornamental grasses, as well as other blooming plants.
Some more specific examples are Russian sages, manzanita, lead plants, false indigo, rabbitbrush, sumac, sandcherry, barberry, and more. It is also recommended to include shrubs, evergreens, and deciduous trees into the mix. These help in providing shade which is crucial in xeriscaping. All the while, these things will add more color to the area which can provide all year round.
Beyond that, these can add natural beauty to your area as well. In dry areas where xeriscaping is most beneficial, this will feel more natural compared to a lush green lawn. While that looks nice, xeriscaping designs fit more of the desert environment.
Again, it goes back to what I said above about raising property value. Having something that looks natural means you can get away with a higher selling price for your property.
To further expand on plant appeal, one thing I mentioned was turf landscaping. It serves as a solution for homeowners in order to conserve water and save money in those particular areas. While that’s one way to go about it, turf isn’t all that appealing. People these days are able to tell whether you have grown grass or have used turf.
You could even say to a degree that using turf can devalue your home when it comes to selling. People can tell it is fake and might not want to deal with the hassle of it. Especially if the potential buyers are thinking of doing extensive yard work.
With xeriscaping though, there are several kinds of designs that make it more pleasing than tossing down turf.
While I already mentioned this in the section on saving time, weeds cause more problems to a landscape design than you might think. In turf and other landscapes, removing weeds is something that is to be expected to happen.
Neglecting this duty means allowing pests into your landscape design while also killing off a lot of your plants as a result. After all, weeds will take up the resources your plants need and begin to spread further, eventually killing the plants in the surrounding area.
When you’re using xeriscaping though, you’re using particularly rough soil along with gravel, and rocks. In these kinds of instances, there’s only a handful of plants that are able to survive in that type of soil, and weeds aren’t one of them.
With that in mind, you’re going to be having fewer weeds with most of them being in areas where you’ve got a lawn growing. While that’s important, you’re only going to be focusing on that area for removing weeds since that’s the only area where it can grow.
It’s a stark comparison to the turf where weeds are a huge problem or other landscapes that don’t have water-conserving or drought-tolerant plants in the area.
I mentioned above that these designs work best in dry or heavy-drought areas, but this technique can honestly be used anywhere. Best of all, this doesn’t require a massive amount of space to commit to.
If you are thinking about this, consider taking up a small corner with these plants. Or maybe put these in an area where you know the sun shines down on that spot a lot of the time. The idea with this technique is to experiment with it before getting too invested in it.
Are There Any Downsides To Xeriscaping?
As much as there are plenty of benefits, there are some downsides to xeriscaping too. In most situations, this involves non-dry environments where xeriscaping is picked up in those areas. That said, there are some legitimate ones worth considering where xeriscaping is predominant.
You’ll Have Rougher Soil And Fewer Insects
This one depends more on how much landscaping you’ve done so far in your yard. Since xeriscaping demands specific materials, this could disrupt other areas where you’ve already done yard work.
Because you’re using different materials and different plants, this can disrupt the ecosystem that you’ve already built up and cause it to shift. One such way this shift happens is through the insects and birds that frequent your area. Since you’re going for rougher soil and plants, this will force insects to move away which can cause problems.
You’ll Get Savings After Taking Some Big Losses
Even though there are plenty of savings to be had from this method, there are also a lot of costs. Landscaping is costly via the tools and the equipment. It’ll cost more when you get professional help. But xeriscaping is more expensive in terms of materials used and professional help will be more necessary since the design is usually more complex than with a lawn.
In the end, though, you’ll be saving money in a big way. Less water and other materials long-term, those savings will pile up on a long-term basis. However, it’ll take years to recoup the initial costs.
You Have To Design The Garden Carefully
Xeriscaping is nice, but it requires careful planning to get it right and get nice results. I encourage you to do more research beyond this and to seek professional help or guidance from others as well around this. The more information you have about xeriscaping, the more you’ll be prepared for it.
What Are The Principles Of Xeriscape Design?
Unlike other landscaping methods, xeriscaping design is something that takes a lot of work. There is more planning, careful consideration, and thought into the placement, materials, and more. It’s something that most beginners will have trouble with and is one of the downsides to this method.
Xeriscape is based on seven water-wise landscape principles that I go into detail below.
Planning And Design
Whether you’re developing a new landscape, renovating an existing one, or only looking to conserve water, proper planning and design are essential to xeriscaping. Below are the steps to properly do this:
- First, you want to map it out. The goal is to identify permanent features around your property. The idea is to know how much ground you want to be covering.
- Second, identify even more specifics. Take note of slopes, sun exposure, existing shade, the typical direction of summer breezes, street noise, soil types, and rainwater that can be harvested.
- Identify your wishes. If there are specific things you want to be adding, these should be put into consideration.
- Start doing some rough outlines for ideas. Remember you can make shaded areas by putting in shrubs, walls, or fences.
- Another design consideration is looking at watering zones.
- Finally, pick out plants based on those microclimates. Only research them for now. No need to buy them.
Here are some steps on how you can improve your soil:
- First, know what to look for when it comes to good soil. With xeriscaping, water preservation is key, but you also want soil that can provide plenty of nutrients.
- If you’ve already got soil, you can consider testing your soil. It’s smart to do this as you can get more specific details on how you can improve your soil overall. To get your soil tested, you’ll need samples and to find a soil testing agency. They’re a quick google search away and should provide instructions for how to send samples.
Practical Turf Area
By this point, it pays to have a practical turf area, and keeping this in mind when you plan it is important. Here are some considerations:
- Cut back on the grass areas. This doesn’t mean ensuring you have no more grass or anything like that. Instead, you can see it as a place of pride, a focal point for your yard.
- Work one patch at a time. You probably have done this already in your planning but when you’re putting it into practice, work on it in small patches. First, focus on the areas that don’t get much use and then start building out from there.
- Pick out the turf itself that will support xeriscaping. You want to be picking a low water-use turf and you may want to be talking to your local cooperative extension or garden center for that. They should point you in the right direction
The next consideration is how you will provide water to all of the plants. As simple as it sounds, there are a lot of considerations that you have to keep in mind. Things to note:
- Overwatering and underwatering are the two big things that can kill plants long-term. You need to strike some balance with these and have a system in place to support that. Things like rain sensors help as they can turn off sprinkler systems when plants get enough water.
- Have other alternatives for watering as well through drip irrigation and hand watering.
- Another way to mitigate water needs is to learn how to water by the numbers. All that you have to know is the amount of water the plants need, what your water system applies, and finding a way to match the two.
What About Watering The Lawn?
But what if you have a system in place to water your lawn? Well in the case of a sprinkler, you’ll need to test the output and adjust the watering time. Here is how to do that:
- Place six to eight shallow, flat-bottomed cans at scattered locations around your lawn.
- Run your sprinklers for about 15 minutes.
- After that, stop the sprinklers and use a ruler to measure the depth of water in each of the cans. After that, add all the numbers and divide by the number of cans to get the average amount.
Think of mulch as the way to block the sun’s rays from the roots. You’re only going to need about two to four inches of mulch in order to provide adequate protection.
Below are some steps on how to mulch:
- Remove all the weeds. The earlier in the season the better.
- Work a thin layer of mulch into the soil and then add two to inches on top.
- Mulch the entire root zone of the plant out to the drip line.
- Lastly, when mulching around shrubs and small trees, make an earth basin and keep the mulch pulled back a few inches. This prevents the trunks from rotting.
Low Water Use Plants
This principle is where you pick out plants. As mentioned, xeriscaping incorporates two plants: water-conserving plants and those with drought tolerance. This allows you to conserve water since the plants either retain the water for longer or don’t need much water at all.
After that, you want to consider other plants to help provide shade. Trees and shrubs are ideal and make it feel more natural.
The final aspect of xeriscaping design is the appropriate maintenance. Every single week, you should be mowing, weeding, fertilizing, and pruning where you can. Considering this is a low maintenance landscaping, you don’t need to do a lot of it and it’ll help the overall growth of your xeriscape overall.
Xeriscaping does have its downsides, but also offers a lot of merits as well if you plan things out carefully. There are all kinds of benefits and ways to go about shaping your property’s area into a lovely spot to be. Out of them all, xeriscaping is one such way to have nice beauty while requiring little effort to maintain it once it’s established.