Certain plants grow happy and wild in certain climes—like mosses in shaded forests or cacti in arid deserts. Plants are well-equipped to handle the ins and outs of whatever environment they make home, flourishing on extra water, low light, lots of light, dry conditions, or extreme temperature. Choosing plants that grow well in environments that match that of your own garden is xeriscaping.
Xeriscaping is a great way to plan an ecologically and economically sound garden. Xeriscapes use plants native to the area of your garden, or non-native specimens that grow in similar environments. This approach means the selected plants are much more likely to thrive within your garden. These plants will need fewer allowances made for water, light/shade balance, protection from temperature extremes in the winter and summer, and, in the case of native plants, will likely require less protection from pests.
Many people have reservations about xeriscape, picturing dry expanses of sand or stone covering the ground between street and front step. While some gardeners might choose a rock-filled lawn, that is not the only option for xeriscaping your yard. Xeriscape gardens can be lush and feature several kinds of fauna.
For a long time, the suburban dream in America was to have a house with a thriving, lush green lawn reminiscent of the manicured greens of a golf course. The problem with lawns is that these grasses are seldom suited to the environments in which they are used. They often require a lot of water during hot, dry months, frequent application of fertilizer, pest control, and reseeding if winter weather kills the grass.
For those with gardens, doing a bit of research and choosing plants that enjoy the environment you’re looking to tend can save you a lot of money, time, and energy. Xeriscape landscapes or gardens will require less work to keep happy, and they are more likely to prosper—so you won’t have to replace sick or dead plants and suffer empty spaces in your garden while new ones fill in.
If you aren’t ready to uproot your current lawn and garden to replace them with xeriscaping, consider replacing plants as they die out with xeriscape-friendly choices. Garden centers can help by offering suggestions for plants that do well in your hardiness zone and that would enhance your garden.
While waiting to phase out plants, there are other things you can do to make your garden xeriscape-friendly. Adding mulch or other groundcover creates a layer of protection between the soil and the open air, helping slow evaporation and working as a buffer for temperature variations.
Being conscientious about your watering methods is another great way to get into a xeriscape frame of mind. Drip irrigation is more efficient than a spray-head sprinkler system. If you do have a system that sprays droplets across the garden or lawn, check to make sure the water is delivered to plants— not to fences, walls, and concrete areas where it will evaporate or run off.
While xeriscaping might seem like a massive undertaking, you can begin getting into a xeriscape frame of mind today. Not only will it benefit the environment, but your bank account will benefit from conserving water and energy as well.
Kelly Jacobi is an artist, designer, student, and patio gardener who enjoys seeing her plants thrive and adorning her walls with pieces of art created by local artists and artisans. She is currently in pursuit of a bachelor’s of art and performance and hopes to delve deeper into her art and writing upon completion of her degree.
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