Xeriscaping, not Zeroscaping

Xeriscaping, not Zeroscaping


Source: Murray Lampert

After dry years and low water table the word xeriscape became a buzzword. Many wrongly assume it means growing cacti and covering soil with gravel. Xeriscape means lush dry garden of which plants classified as xerophytic are planted. These plants require less water or have better methods of obtaining water thru long taproots or retaining water thru waxy leaves that retard transpiration. Xeriscaping is a way of planting in areas where water is scarce. In Ottawa it means planting low maintenance water-wise perennials and shrubs. There are several reasons to consider xeriscaping besides the environmentally correct desire to conserve water. You may have purchased property with sandy soil, has steep slopes, a garden that you visit only on weekends at the cottage, the cost of irrigation equipment and water is prohibitive or you simply hate hauling hoses around.

Basic Steps to Create a Beautiful Xeriscape

1) Planning and Design: Limit the manicured lawn to a flat, easily irrigated shape (no long narrow strips of grass). Convert large grass areas to natural meadows with mown pathways. Plant slopes with xerophytic plants or terrace them for better water retention. Group plants according to their moisture requirements with the garden needing moisture located near the water source.
2) Soil Structure: Improve the soil with organic matter to improve water retention and increase fertility.
3) Plant Selection: Select drought-tolerant plants. Good indicators are native or naturalized species from dry habitats, local habitats, plants that have fuzzy, waxy or silver, aromatic or finely divided foliage or plants that are dormant during summer’s heat.
4) Planting Techniques: Planting techniques are important – dig a hole, fill it with water and allow it to be absorbed into the soil. Then open the soil ball spreading the roots so they will quickly grow into the surrounding area. Firm in well and water again. Water regularly until established, gradually reducing the frequency.
5) Irrigate Efficiently: Water grass and garden areas no more often than once per week but apply at least two inches of water at a time. This forces the plants to develop extensive root systems. Drip irrigation cuts down on the amount of water lost to evaporation by sprinkler systems. Harvest the water from your roof in rain barrels. One-quarter inch of rainfall on a 1,000sq.ft. roof provides 150 gallons of water. Measure weekly rainfalls and irrigate or water only when absolutely necessary.
6) Mulch: Mulching bare soil to a depth of 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10cms.) prevents water evaporation, maintains an even, cool soil temperature and prevents germination of weed seeds. Choose a mulch, such as composted pine mulch, that is natural in appearance and will breakdown to become soil. The best time to apply mulch is in late spring after the soil has warmed but before the summer’s heat. A late autumn mulching helps avoid the alternate freezing and thawing of soil.
7) Contact Harmony Gardens Landscaping for the designing, development, installation and maintenance of your flowerbeds. “Creating Harmonized Spaces”

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