Xeriscape is a landscaping method that utilizes water-conserving techniques such as drought-tolerant plants, mulch, and efficient irrigation. It is very beneficial in semi-arid regions such as ours. The Commerce City area experiences extreme temperatures, intense sunshine, high winds, and an annual average rainfall of approximately 16 inches. Nearly 50% of residential water use is applied to landscape and lawns. Xeriscape can reduce landscape water use by 60% or more. Saving water and money by designing or retrofitting your yard to match your needs while accounting for environmental conditions makes sense.
Below are 7 basic principles to successful water smart landscaping to get you started. Links to more detailed information and resources have also been included. to get you started.
Design and Plan
Develop an overall design that takes your existing space into account. Think about slopes, shady spots, high-traffic areas, and what your yard is used for. Preparing a plan will help provide direction and ensure that water-saving ideas are incorporated into your vision.
Think About Your Soil
The soil in the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District is usually either sandy or clay. Sandy soil doesn't hold water well and clay soil takes a long time to absorb and release water. Amending your soil with organic material such as compost can help your lawn and plants by retaining moisture in the root zone. Click on the following link for more detailed information from CSU Extension on choosing a soil amendment.
Create Practical Turf Areas
Create turf areas that make sense for your use. Lawns can add beauty and value to a landscape but should be practical and have a purpose. The less turf grass you have, the less you will need to water, mow, fertilize and maintain. Consider using native grasses in areas that aren't heavily used.
Select Appropriate Plants
Choose drought-resistant plant materials for your yard. There are hundreds of native and non-native species that thrive in our semi-arid climate. For more detailed information on drought-tolerant xeriscape plants for every application click on the following link to the Colorado State University Xeriscape page.
Use Efficient Irrigation Practices
Design your irrigation to zone turf areas separately from other plantings. Low-pressure, low-angle sprinklers irrigate best. Avoid hand or automatic sprinklers that throw water high in the air where it can evaporate. Drip systems are often the best choice for watering trees, shrubs, and groundcovers. If you have an automatic sprinkler system keep your eye on changing weather conditions and adjust your controller accordingly.
Mulches such as bark or wood chips prevent evaporation and maximize moisture retention. Mulches also keep plant roots cool and prevent weed invasion. Organic mulches are best and should be applied at least 4 inches deep. Mulches can also add beauty to your design by adding eye-catching color and texture.
Like all landscaping, xeric landscapes need regular maintenance. Much of the maintenance needs will be determined by your initial design. Mowing, weeding, pruning, and fertilizing will keep you xeric landscape healthy and beautiful.