Definition of Xeriscape Landscaping
Xeriscape landscaping, by definition, is landscaping designed specifically for areas that are susceptible to drought, or for properties where water conservation is practiced. Derived from the Greek xeros meaning "dry," the term, xeriscape means literally "dry landscape."
Note that "xeriscape" is pronounced as if it began with the letter, Z. This sometimes leads to the misspelling, "zeroscape." But xeriscape landscaping techniques needn't result in a "big zero" for landscape design aesthetics. In fact, as most people employ the term, xeriscape landscaping needn't be limited to desert plants, such as cacti. Rather, a xeriscape landscaping policy allows you to use the plants you want, but insists on common-sense measures that will help conserve water, such as grouping plants with similar water requirements together.
Nonetheless, a common element in xeriscape landscaping is the reduction of lawn grass areas, since lawn grass is often one of the worst offenders against water conservation. Another widespread tactic in xeriscape landscaping is the deployment of indigenous plants, since they are adapted to the local climate and consequently require less water. Plants most suited to xeriscape landscaping are sometimes referred to as "xeric" plants.
When many people think of Xeriscape landscaping, they think of cactus and rock gardens. But this is a misconception. Xeriscaping is a set of seven common sense principles that lead to saving water:
- Planning and design, which includes grouping plants with similar water requirements, increasing shade areas to decrease the water needs of plants, and preserving areas of native vegetation.
- Analyzing soil to determine if soil improvement is needed for better water absorption and improved water-holding capacity.
- Creating practical turf areas. Turf grasses can be used as a planned element in the landscape; however, you want to avoid impractical turf use, such as long, narrow areas.
- Selecting appropriate plants to keep the landscape more in tune with the natural environment. You can use both native and exotic plants in Xeriscape landscaping.
- Watering efficiently. Efficient irrigation can save 30 to 50 percent on a water bill. This step includes using rain gauges and a rain shut-off device to avoid over-watering and irrigating in early morning hours when less water evaporates. Watering intelligently helps your plants become stronger, use the moisture in the soil better, and consequently better withstand drought, insects, and disease. For example, instead of watering frequently and quickly, water occasionally and deeply.
- Using mulches in flower and shrub beds to prevent water loss from the soil through evaporation and to increase water penetration during irrigation.
- Using appropriate maintenance. Adjustments to pruning, weeding, fertilization, pest control, and the irrigation system can all conserve water.