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What is Xeriscaping?

September 30 2009

In many parts of the country, such as Southern California and the Southwest, green lawns of grass are not indigenous to the region, requiring copious amounts of water to keep them looking their best.

Non-native landscaping contributes to water shortage in some areas, requiring watering restrictions. The problem is so great in Los Angeles that approximately 40% of the city’s water usage is for watering lawns.

The L.A. Department of Water and Power has begun a “cash for grass” program. The Residential Drought Resistant Landscape Incentive Program, pays homeowners $1.00 per square foot of turf they replace with less thirsty alternatives. See: http://www.ladwp.com

Water shortages are growing. Nevada’s Lake Mead has reportedly dropped 28 feet in the last two years, and could be completely dry by 2021, reports Earthfirst.com, http://www.earthfirst.com.   

Xeriscaping is simply creating a landscape that features native plants that don’t require extra watering and are capable of withstanding drought conditions.

How can homeowners help? By adopting a concept called Xeriscaping.

While the look of a xeriscaped garden or yard of cacti and hardy shrubs is very different from St.Augustine or Bermuda grass, landscapers are creating attractive arrangements that demand less water. Additional benefits are less maintenance, fewer pests, and less fertilizer. 

Grasses, plants and flowers that are “native” to your area can grow on the typical annual rainfall, without additional watering needed.

To start a xeriscape of your own, group plants and flowers with similar watering requirements in zones, so that any watering you need to do becomes more efficient. Add mulch to accent the plants and flowers, as well as to provide a healthy root environment, which also reduces the need for extra watering. 

As water resources diminish, xeriscaping is becoming increasingly popular, even in high-end communities such as the gated community of Santa Luz in San Diego.  The homeowners association requires that all landscaping is xeriscaped using plants native to California only.

The key to a successful xeriscape is the same as any other landscape: paying attention to the site’s shape, size, slope, sun, shade, and other conditions.
Your goal is create a “compatible alliance among the garden, landscape, and natural world,” writes Gayle Weinstein, author of the Xeriscape Handbook.

No matter what part of the country you live in, you can adopt the principals of xeriscaping to create a more natural landscape for your home.