Landscaping a yard doesn’t only mean lush green lawn and blooming flowers. Sometimes, it can be a beautiful arrangement of rocks, pebbles, and cacti. Since a lot of people are now aware of climate change and the limited resource of water, more and more people are looking into xeriscaping.
Preparing your yard for xeriscaping is easier than it sounds. By thoroughly planning your project, preparing your soil and grading, designing your garden, installing irrigation options, maintaining the xeriscape, and putting up the finishing touches, you can be sure that you’ll have a lovely yard in no time.
If you’re looking to create your own xeriscape, it’s important to take your time to plan and prepare your yard. Remember, since you won’t need as much irrigation, you have to ensure that your garden benefits from the little water it has.
Here are 6 steps to prepare your yard for xeriscaping.
Step 1: Planning Your Xeriscape Project
When planning your xeriscape project, there are some essential factors that you need to consider. By determining how your yard and garden are placed, knowing the timeframe of the sunlight, and understanding your climate, you can make a beautiful xeriscape.
Create a diagram of your yard
Draw a diagram of your yard. To be more precise, we recommend you use graph paper to analyze the spacing of your yard. In the diagram, label the areas where you can see permanent structures like fences, buildings, and large trees.
Label the open spaces where, after collecting further data, you can decide what flowerbeds to put.
Create a sun chart
Part of xeriscaping consists of matching the plants in your yard with their environment. While you are planning the diagram, mark the map and label the area depending on how much sun exposure it receives throughout the day. Check the daylight every few hours to see if the area has been shaded by trees, fences, or buildings.
It’s worth noting that sunlight exposure in any area changes depending on the climate since you’ll need to move some of your potted plants according to the time of the year.
For example, when you have perennial plants in your garden, it’s important to remember that these equatorial tropic plants do not do well during dark and cold winters.
Take into account the climate
Choosing the right plants for your xeriscape is crucial. One thing worth taking note of is the climate within your area. Look up the Hardiness Zone on the USDA to check the annual temperature where you live.
On this website, you can check the amount of sunlight and rainfall in your area. With the data you get, you can see which plant can handle the amount of rainfall in your garden.
Choose plants that you can “layer” depending on their drought resistance
After checking your area’s climate condition year-round, choose the appropriate plants depending on their water and drought resistance. As much as possible, choose native plants that you can match with your garden’s requirements.
A xeriscape would often have an oasis and “layer” of plants around it that have great water retention and high visibility. The fundamental idea with this type of landscaping is that the oasis should be eye-catching, have transitional areas, and arid zones with low visibility and low water retention.
Maintaining a yard and a garden typically requires a lot of resources, especially water. But, living in a place that experiences water shortages quite frequently does not mean that you can’t have a beautiful yard. Here are 24 tips to building a drought-tolerant yard.
Step 2: Grading and Soil Preparation
As crucial as it is to understand the weather and choosing the right plants, it’s equally important to grade and prepare your soil properly. There are three things to take note of:
Planning your grading
Grading essentially means leveling your land. It is essential when xeriscaping because it will determine how much your plants can get from the limited water supply. With the right grading, the water can gently flow toward your plants.
Utilize natural rainfall
Rainfall is one of Mother Nature’s gifts you should take advantage of. Use storage tanks and rain barrels to collect water. By doing this, you can minimize your water consumption and ensure that your plants will have enough water for the upcoming weeks.
Add compost to your plants
Some people make the mistake of adding compost when they have done the landscaping and added plants and mulch to their yard, which, in many cases, results in a hardpan layer.
The best time to put compost in your xeriscape is at the very beginning. Right after you grade your land, add your compost so that you can reap the benefits from it because of decreased runoff and an increase in moisture retention.
Step 3: Planting for Your Xeriscape
After preparing the land of your yard, the next thing to do is to plant. We recommend you choose natural plants that will easily co-exist with the planned design of your yard. Here are some things to consider:
Use non-invasive plants that spread
Using non-invasive plants that can spread on their own will not only make your life easier because they can fill up the empty spaces, but will also cut the cost associated with buying more plants for your garden. Here are some of the plants we recommend:
- Annual plants that spread: petunia, sunflower, zinnia, and marigold.
- Low-water groundcovers that spread: Angelina stonecrop, speedwell, and thyme.
- Drought-tolerant plants that spread: bee balm, bearded iris, Russian sage, coneflower, lupine, sedum, and salvia.
Assign your oasis zone
Your oasis zone will be the area that receives the least sunlight and frequent watering. Choose your largest and most attractive plants that can maximize the water they get. Your oasis zone should be the one closest to the permanent structures in your yard, which include your house, trees, fences, etc.
The best areas to create your oasis are in the open spaces at the base of roofs and slopes and next to ponds and ditches. Choose the areas where you believe there will be fewer chances of water evaporating.
Arrange your chosen plants around your oasis
After choosing your oasis zones, the next thing to do is plant your greeneries. The side areas of your oasis will most likely receive more sunlight than other areas, so choose drought-tolerant plants that can handle the sun’s heat.
Also, choose growing plants to put near your water containers for maximum water retention and to minimize the runoff in your garden. If you think that your current water containers are not enough, you can opt for a retaining wall to improve your water preservation.
Fill out any transition zones in your yard
Once you’ve filled your oasis with large and attractive plants, the next thing you want to do is fill out any transition zones. These areas should have just enough water, visibility, and sunlight needs.
A great idea to bring more focus on your oasis zone is to do a “cascading” effect, and go from tall plants to medium-sized plants, like ornamental grass clumps, shrubs, and bushes on the transition zones, to subtle and drought-resistant plants on the arid zones.
Although, it’s worth noting that if you have a retaining wall in your yard, a transition zone is no longer necessary.
Put up plants on the arid zones
The arid zone is where you can put up the plants that require the least amount of water. This area has the most sunlight exposure but, as much as possible, contains the most subtle plants. Here are a few ways you can design your arid zone:
- If you have an expansive arid zone, you can use water features that can cover a large span of the area. A good example of such would be a make-shift wheelbarrow that’s covered with flowers, stones, pebbles, and other plants.
- If you don’t want an arid zone that will take away the focus on your oasis, you can choose low lawn substitutes that would form a “carpet” for your plants, such as a good amount of ornamental grass, native prairie, and clover lawn that’s surrounded by mulch.
- If you want another set of plants that will co-exist within your garden, you can choose some drought-resistant shrubs, cacti, and succulents.
Plant your lawn wisely
Of course, your lawn will not be exclusive to your xeriscape. If you have kids or pets, they will probably want to roam and play around your garden as well. If this is the case, you may want to provide a specific area on your lawn where you can readily access water.
Some good ideas for this lawn would be buffalo grass, fescues, and blue grama grass.
Step 4: Irrigation Options
Experts would agree that having an established irrigation system, even when xeriscaping, would benefit all your plants. You can tell how good the plants are being kept with their roots.
If you have deep water irrigation, your plants will more likely be able to withstand stress and drought. Additionally, it promotes a longer lifespan for your plants, water features, and lawn as a whole.
Create a point source drip irrigation
One of the most traditional and easiest types of garden irrigation is point source drip irrigation. The idea of this irrigation system is that each plant gets its own emitter at a specified planting time. What’s good about this system is that all your plants get the right amount of water at the right time to ensure that all of them remain healthy.
However, there are two disadvantages to this system. First, you need to integrate the system if you’re planning to add a couple more plants. The second disadvantage is that once your plant grows, it won’t need as much water as before, which is why you need to update your irrigation system every few years or whenever you add or remove plants.
Use drip irrigation on a grid layout
The grip layout drip irrigation is best used when you have a full xeriscape scheme. This layout works when the grid irrigations are spread out onto the entire yard and are placed 12 inches apart from each other.
The advantage is that all your plants will have even water coverage. Plus, there’s little to no need to update the irrigation for a couple of years. It will also be easy for you to add or remove plants as you don’t have to adjust your irrigation system.
On the other hand, you waste water in areas where there are little to no plants. This does not only make your xeriscaping unproductive but can also result in weed growth in your yard.
Hand watering is the most traditional way of irrigating a landscape. For people who are always home, it’s easy to water plants manually, regularly, and deeply. Although, in most cases, people have a hard time doing this since landscapers might get ill or find another job, which makes hand watering difficult for homeowners.
There are a lot of things that you need to prepare before you begin your landscaping project. One of the things that you have to pay attention to is your soil. Since your soil is vital to the survival of your plants, you need to put a significant amount of effort into making sure that it is in good condition. To get started with this task, read our guide to preparing soil for landscaping.
Step 5: Maintaining Your Garden
After creating your lawn graph, choosing your plants, and designing your garden, the next thing to do is maintain the beauty of it. Here are a few things to remember when doing upkeep in your yard.
Pick the right mulch for your garden
Choosing the right mulch for your garden is crucial to ensure that your plants and xeriscape last for years. With many kinds of mulch to choose from, it can be mind-boggling to pick the best one for you. Luckily, we’ve designed a quick guide to mulches.
- Gravel or stone mulch – This can handle a good amount of heat, which can typically damage fragile plants.
- Wood-based mulch – This can retain the most moisture out of all the mulches. Over time, it improves your soil because of its decomposition. However, it should be replaced regularly to ensure that you have the right amount of mulch in your yard.
- Plastic and mulch created from other materials – As much as possible, avoid choosing this type of mulch since it does not allow air and water to pass through it, which can hurt your plants in the long run.
It’s worth noting that you need to lay out about 2-4 inches thick of mulch around your flower beds, shrubs, and trees. Make sure you don’t put it directly on the stems of your plants so that you don’t destroy them.
It’s best to choose slow-release equipment to spread your fertilizers easily. In most cases, if you put too much fertilizer on your plants too soon, you will end up making the plant resource-intensive and can shock the plant’s growth development. When that happens, it can no longer keep up.
Schedule your garden’s upkeep
For a xeriscape to be successful, doing regular maintenance is necessary. You should always keep an eye on your garden to ensure that you can solve any problems that may occur. Here are some things to remember:
- If your plants are growing weakly, give them less fertilizer and water.
- Remove any weeds you may find by hand.
- Mow your lawn up to 1/3 of the grass height and not more than that and always use a sharp mower blade.
Step 6: Finishing Touches
Completing the five steps mentioned above is all it takes to create a beautiful xeriscape. But by doing these finishing touches, you can make your yard even more attractive and efficient.
Add some decadence with a water feature
Adding water features to your xeriscape will bring more life to your garden. Be careful though, since water can evaporate fast on the surface. So, make sure you have an underground reservoir to minimize your water consumption.
Use shallow-root planters to decorate your tables and walls
If you’re planning to have succulents and xeric plants, get dish-shaped and shallow pots to ensure that your plants will access the water at the bottom of the pots.
Harmonize your décor
Having a specific theme in your yard will make it look like it’s been well-planned and integrated properly. Spread out some similar types of flowers and color compositions and put up some artwork, paint selections, sculptures, and cushions. To some extent, you can also put up some benches on which you and your friends can spend some time.
Green lawns are always a nice addition to any home, but if you live somewhere with water shortages or if you simply want to lower your water consumption, maintaining this kind of yard will be very difficult. But, this does not mean that you will be stuck with a bare lawn because you still have other ways to beautify your yard while minimizing your impact on the environment, like xeriscaping.
If you’re planning to do xeriscaping, make sure you have carefully thought out your plans and followed the steps mentioned above. In doing so, you can rest assured that you’ll have a beautiful and water-efficient xeriscape ahead of you. A beautiful yard does not always equate to green lawns and blooming flowers. With careful planning and excellent execution, your yard can both be beautiful and great for the environment.