Xeriscaping to Promote Water Conservation

By Little House on 23 June 2010 (Updated 13 July 2010) 8 comments
Photo: iStockPhoto

Living in Southern California has made me well-aware of how precious fresh water is and how there is a great need to conserve it. However, standing on my front porch viewing green patch after green patch of well-watered lawns you'd think California wasn't experiencing a water shortage. To confirm we truly are going into our fourth year of drought, our local water and power company has put a moratorium on limiting the watering of lawns to two days a week. Though there are monetary incentives to switching over to a semi-arid, xeric landscape, only a few homes in my neighborhood have drastically changed out their lawn to a more drought-tolerant and arid-friendly garden.

Why are so few people willing to alter their landscaping? Most likely because tearing out a pre-existing lawn is labor intensive, and some people really love their green, water-hungry lawn despite the water shortage. Yet, there are so many more benefits to what is known as Xeriscaping, or "dry" gardening. Xeric landscaping means planting native flowers and plants to your region that require very little water. These are the plants you see on the hillsides, prairies, or open spaces where no one has tended to them, but they flourish anyway.

Before planting a Xeric garden, however, having a plan is essential so that your garden doesn't end up looking like an overgrown, scruffy lot. A couple of great online resources include Sunset.com and Better Homes and Gardens. Both of these online sites have gardening plans that help ease the stress of trying to figure out where to plant what. Better Homes and Gardens even has a custom Plan-a-Garden online application that lets you map out your yard based on its shape and size.

Benefits of Xeriscaping

An obvious benefit of a Xeric landscape is reducing the amount of water used on your landscape. Saving water means lowering your water bill, a two for one deal. A truly xeric garden needs very little water. A drip system that loses little water due to evaporation comes in handy for this kind of garden, since the point is to conserve water. If you are just getting started, new plants need a little more deep watering to help them become established. Once plants have been established, weekly watering during summer months or dry periods can help them flourish.

Another benefit of Xeric gardening is a reduction in overall maintenance. Initially changing out any landscape can be labor-intensive and expensive. Once a Xeric landscape is established, less energy is spent tending to those plants. With Xeric gardening, many native plants need little fertilizing or pruning to help them bloom. Native plants often repopulate themselves on their own so replanting becomes a moot issue. Instead of spending an entire Sunday mowing, watering, weeding, and pruning, you could instead be enjoying your garden and relaxing.

Many communities in the southwest also promote water-saving landscapes through incentive programs. Find

To find native plants in California, visit Be Water Wise's Great California Native Plants.

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Guest's picture

I've been contemplating doing this with at least some of my yard recently. I live way up in the northern reaches of the midwest, so water isn't really an issue here, but it's still a cost. That and the extra time saved on mowing the lawn could be well worth the effort of xeriscaping it.

Little House's picture

I like the idea of less maintenance. It's a great bonus to saving money on water usage as well. Thanks for the comment.

Guest's picture
Brandon

I agree that we need to use less of our water resources in semi-arid Southern California watering lawns, and Xeriscaping is a great way to do so.

However, I disagree that we are in our fourth year of dought. The drought is officially over, as snowpack levels in the Sierra at are above average levels this year, and many of the states lakes and reservoirs are at or near capacity. The LA Times ran a story on the end of the drought and they even include references to data that support this assertion.

http://www.latimes.com/news/custom/scimedemail/la-me-water-drought-20100...

I also agree that we should keep up with the strict water control measures. As Southern Californians, we all need to be vigilant in our conservation efforts and make a lifestyle and cultural change to consume less water.

Little House's picture

Thanks for sharing that article. I feel a little relieved, but it looks likes Los Angeles will continue on drought restrictions. I couldn't have timed that better, could I?

Guest's picture
catastrophegirl

i'm letting the native plants take over my yard the long slow way. i'm next to an unmaintained vacant lot and don't have an HOA.
the clover, mint cousins and wild strawberries are doing great with no help at all this year, but unfortunately so is the previous owner's grass!
our drought is long over here on the east coast, so there's plenty of rain and the grass just won't die.
since i live a couple hundred feet from a major river, i am not going to use herbicides on it and have resorted to spraying it with vinegar on hot dry days. the grass dies in those spots, the next rain washes away the vinegar and the clover moves in within a week
it's pretty ugly right now but by next spring i hope to have all the grass gone and a low carpet of self maintaining strawberries and clover

Little House's picture

CatastropheGirl - I love clover, it's a great alternative to grass: less mowing, more green, dense patches of broad leafy plants. I like your idea of vinegar as a natural way to kill the grass. All I have to do where I live is not water it and it turns brown and hay-like in a matter of days! Thanks for that tip.

Guest's picture
Nancy

I live in west central Florida and would love to xeriscape, but my community won't allow it. How ridiculous is that! It's the intelligent way to go in areas like ours as well as the southwest.

Guest's picture
Becca

Nancy, I live in Gainesville, FL and have a HOA and are about to begin replacing much of our (weedy) sod in the front with Florida friendly landscaping, despite a HOA that demands sites be sodded. A state law passed last year states that HOA rules or deed restrictions cannot be used to stop someone from putting in Florida friendly landscaping. You can do it, and they can't stop you. Just make sure it is "Florida friendly". Check out the document below for the text of the law, which also qualifies what is meant by Florida friendly. Then check out the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods site for help in coming up with a design.

http://www.ccfjedu.net/HOAFLORIDAFRIENDLYLANDSCAPING.htm