Xeriscaping: Gardening to Beat the Heat

Xeriscaping: Gardening to Beat the Heat

By Michael Jenkins

Summer’s here, the weather is getting hot, and some parts of the world are struggling for lack of rain. What’s a gardener to do when there’s just not enough precipitation? Rain makes caring for our plants easier, reduces our water consumption, and is better and healthier for our plants and the environment. We’ve discussed best practices for watering plants before and how to help gardens survive and thrive in hot weather. For this blog, however, we’re going to take a look at some different approaches to gardening, which embraces low water consumption in its design. Xeriscaping is the art and science of landscaping and gardening design to reduce the need for irrigation. It’s one of several options we have for helping cut our water use while maintaining beautiful garden spaces, so let’s dig in and learn a bit more about it!

What is Xeriscaping?

The term “xeriscaping” first appeared in 1981 in Denver, Colorado and was formed by combining the Greek word for dry (ξηρός, pronounced xēros) with the term “landscaping”. You may also hear the terms zeroscaping, water-conserving landscaping, drought gardening/landscaping, or smartscaping used for similar concepts.

Xeriscaping designs gardens and landscapes that work with the local terrain and the local climate, reducing evaporation and runoff to avoid losing water, utilizing plants that are best suited to low-water circumstances and local conditions, and using landscaping materials and ground covers like river stones and gravel that help conserve water. Xeriscaping differs a bit from native plant gardening, in that the emphasis isn’t necessarily on using natives but rather on reducing water use and the need for irrigation. Native plants may play a role in that, but so might introduced varietals.

Xeriscaping Principles for Your Garden

Xeriscaping is a process of landscape design, creating a space from the (pun intended) ground up that minimizes the need for irrigation. However, there are some xeriscaping principles that was can embrace in our own garden and landscaping design. By working these ideas into our own spaces, we can help minimize the need for watering and irrigation. This is better for both the environment and our water bills and thus definitely worth considering in any garden:

  • Soil amendments and composting play a large role in xeriscaping. By ensuring that your soil is rich in organic matter, you’ll help it maintain water naturally and thus reduce the need for irrigation when things are dry. Composting also reduces the moisture lost by putting your lawn clippings, kitchen waste, and the like out for trash pickup—all those resources stay in your landscape or garden, feeding your plants.

  • Minimizing runoff is another xeriscaping principle that helps reduce water. There are so many different ways to implement this in our gardens: removing concrete or paving and replacing it with gravel, which allows rain to enter the soil is one example. Planning our landscaping around the contours of the space to keep water in the ground instead of running into gutters and storm drains is another. Water is a resource, and with a little bit of planning we can all help make better use of it in our gardens.

  • Reducing grass lawns and turf are a big step in so many ways. Lawns are a given in many parts of the world, and may be required by your HOA or city ordnance. However, by replacing grass with garden beds optimized to use as little water as possible or utilizing gravel and river stones for ground cover, we can help reduce our lawn space and thus reduce the need for watering and irrigation.
  • Plant selection is a big component of xeriscaping, and for some of us it may be the easiest way to start. There are a wide variety of possible choices for plants that require little irrigation to thrive and are comfortable with low water conditions. Some of these are suitable for container gardening, but we’ll be that whatever your space there are some options that will keep it looking beautiful while reducing your water consumption. For lawn-lovers, there are some native grass options that consume up to 1/3 less water than traditional lawn grasses, and those might be worth a look.
  • Vegetable gardening and xeriscaping can be a bit of a challenge to combine, as most popular veggie plants require a fair amount of water. However, the principles of soil amendments and water management still apply, and we’ll discuss the matter further in a future blog, so please stay tuned.

Xeriscaping is for Everyone!

We’re fond of saying “gardening is for everyone” because we believe it’s true. At Gardzen we’re firm in our conviction that some form of gardening can work for nearly anyone, and that gardening should be open to all of us. Xeriscaping works the same way—we can all incorporate these princples, at least in part, into our garden spaces whatever they may be. We hope this got you interested in xeriscaping and water conservation. If you have tips or tricks of your own, please share them with us—we’re all about community and we love to hear from you!

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