We hear the term “Xeriscaping” thrown around a lot here in Colorado Springs. So what is xeriscaping? Xeriscaping is defined as landscaping of an area that requires minimal irrigation. Basically, low water landscaping. Does this mean you spread rock across your entire yard with no plants as you often see here in the Colorado Springs region? No, it doesn’t. A properly designed and installed xeriscape can be one the most attractive yards on the block and still be low water usage when you follow these 7 xeriscape principles.
Design and Planning
As with any project, it is good to have a plan before you go out in your yard and start installing your xeriscape. Aspects that you will need to take into consideration for your low water landscaping can be, but are not limited to:
What sun exposure do different parts of the yard receive during the day?
-Southern exposures receive the most sun, northern exposures stay shaded.
Are there steep slopes that will be hard to hold water on?
-Possible terracing opportunity? This can add visual and aesthetic appeal.
What is going to be the use for the different spaces in the yard?
-Entertainment, curb appeal, kids area, privacy?
Where are the drainage patterns within your landscape?
-Do you have a spot that stays wet/dry consistently?
What are your goals and objectives for your low water landscaping project?
-What do you want the end result to be visually and functionally?
When you finally know the answer to “what is xeriscaping?” you then need to get to work on selecting soils. Most of our “soils” here in Colorado Springs are either very sandy (decomposed granite) or are compacted clay. Either way, the best thing you can do for your plants is add organic matter in the form of compost to our regional soils. The addition of organic matter adds nutrients to the soils as well as helps retain moisture within the soil profile. Bio compost can be found at all the landscape material supply yards here in Colorado Springs.
With xeriscaping, your goal for plantings is to select plants with similar water and sun exposure needs and group them together in the different spaces to maximize your low water landscaping. For instance, group low water usage plants that love the sun on southern exposures and group shade loving plants that can withstand more moisture on northern exposures. Strategic placement of shade trees within your landscape can also provide a “mini climate” for the plants it will shade below.
One of the most common questions after, “What is xeriscaping?” is “Great, well, can you have grass in a xeriscape design?” Absolutely, but you just limit it to usable grass areas and use the proper product. If you have a space that you know will be used as a yard area then yeah, let’s put enough turf in there to satisfy that end goal of your low water landscaping project. Is it a good idea to install grass in the 5’ wide medians between the sidewalk and curb or on the narrow side of a house? Probably not, just incorporate turf where it will be used as such. Another question to ask yourself is do you want an artificial turf that will use no water or do you want a live turf grass? If you choose the latter, it is all about soil preparation and adding those amendments as stated above. If you are in the Colorado Springs area, Green Belt Turf Farm provides a “Survivalist Fescue” blend grass that uses much less water than a Kentucky Bluegrass once established.
Once you know what xeriscaping is, you’ll know that, with low water landscaping, it is always a great idea to incorporate a mulch in planting beds. Mulch can range from large or shredded bark to rock. The key here is that mulch will help retain the moisture in the ground by preventing the sun or wind to make direct contact with the soils. Mulch should be applied at 3”-4” thick but should not make contact with the stem of the plant. Mulch will also help keep weeds, and therefore maintenance, to a minimum.
A properly laid out irrigation system is one of the best ways to conserve water in your landscape. The key here is not to overwater your plant material. A drip system is the preferred method to get water to plants in planting bed areas as you can input an emitter sized appropriately for each plant. When it comes to low water landscaping, a drip system lays on top of the soil but under the mulch so no water is thrown in the air, eliminating evaporation. For turf areas, a properly designed sprinkler layout will maximize watering efficiency as well as minimize overspray of non-turf areas. There are also many SMART controllers on the market that will adjust watering times and schedules according to the natural amount of water you are receiving at any given time.
Maintenance of your xeriscape can be a key factor in your success. When choosing plants take note of the mature size and plan as such to minimize pruning at mature growth and keep your low water landscaping as low water as possible. Mulch will help keep the weeds down, but stay on top of weeding your xeriscape as the unwanted growth can steal water from your xeriscape plants or can choke them out if left unattended for too long. When mowing turf areas, set your mower to the highest setting. Cutting your turf too short can burn your grass, leaving your grass taller allows the blade to shade the root, minimizing evaporation and therefore water usage.
Please Contact Us to find out more about any of these xeriscaping principles or to set up a consultation with one of our professionals, we are here to help you! Learn more about how we can help your Xeriscape project and see what we’ve done in the past in our Portfolio!