Taking pride in your lawn is a right that comes with having a green thumb. It takes a lot of time and work to keep your lawn and garden in a healthy, lush state. Plus, our outdoor spaces tend to be a center for social gatherings so keeping them in tip top shape is important. While we all love a large sprawling lawn of green grass, it takes a lot of water to maintain it. In fact, the EPA reports that up to 50% of outdoor water use can be lost due to wind, evaporation, and runoff.
Conserving water at home is good for both the environment and your wallet. There are already plenty of ways to reduce water inside the house, so why stop there? Making an effort to reduce water use outdoors can have a tremendous impact on our water supply and your monthly utility bill. So how does one achieve an eco-friendly lawn? That’s where xeriscaping comes in.
What is xeriscaping?
Xeriscaping is a type of landscape design that uses low-water plants and native species to create a natural space that’s both beneficial to the environment and easy to maintain. The goal of xeriscaping is to reduce the need for supplemental water.
A low water landscape is ideal for climates that are prone to drought. However, xeriscaping isn’t limited to desert plants and gravel rocks. Xeriscaping can be replicated in a variety of different climates using native species unique to each region. There are a variety of trees, flowers, and shrubs that can still create a lush backyard oasis.
Along with being eco-friendly, xeriscaping has many other benefits that make it appealing to homeowners and gardeners:
- Reduces water use
- Easy to maintain
- Promotes native species growth
To best identify the plants that will thrive in your climate, you’ll want to research hardiness zones. Luckily, there should be a wide range of plants and flowers that fit your style, no matter your region.
Although you can enlist the help of an expert, xeriscaping can be a great DIY for your next home improvement project. Before getting started though, it’s important to do some thorough research. Xeriscaping was initially started in Colorado but as it gained popularity, principles were developed so that it could be replicated in other climates easily.
Even though it involves a lot of initial set up, you’ll also be happy to learn that a xeriscape yard or garden is very low maintenance. By minimizing grass, you won’t need to constantly water, mow, or tend to a needy lawn. With a xeriscaped space, you can spend less time working in the yard and more time enjoying the beautiful landscape you’ve built.
To get started with your xeriscape yard, you’ll want to follow the principles below:
- Proper Planning and Design: Take a walk around your property to identify areas that receive the most sunlight, shade, and any areas that naturally collect water after it rains. Note any slopes or problem areas you may need to navigate later.
- Soil Prep: Most drought-tolerant plants require well-draining soil, so you’ll want to add organic material to any soil that isn’t meeting the standards. As an extra precaution, you can test your soil to make sure it’s in great condition for your plants.
- Minimize Grass: Grasses can require a lot of water (and work) to maintain. Alternatively, you can use other ground covers like mosses or low-water grasses to create your own water-wise lawn.
- Invite Native Species: Because native species are already adapted to your region, they should thrive in your garden. Research native species and avoid using any invasive species that may be detrimental to your local ecosystem. Just be sure to group plants by similar needs to so that you can water wisely.
- Water Efficiently: Sprinkler systems can use a lot of water and if not set up properly, can waste a lot of water. Instead, look into installing a drip irrigation system to reduce water waste. Try to avoid watering during the heat of the day to reduce the amount of water that gets evaporated before it gets used by your plants.
- Add Mulch: Mulch is a great way to reduce erosion and maintain maximum moisture in your yard. You can use mulch as a design component too by using different colors to create contrast. Adding just a few inches of mulch can do the trick and you’ll only need to replace it as needed.
- Maintain: Besides the occasional clipping and clearing, enjoy your low-maintenance landscape through every season!
For further design inspiration and low-water plant examples, check out this xeriscape guide created by The Zebra. With xeriscaping, you can have a beautiful yard that benefits the environment too.
In addition to xeriscape-friendly plants, you can bring in a variety of outdoor elements to spice up your landscape. You don’t have to be a professional landscaper to design your dream yard. Look for inspiration images and eco-friendly outdoor tips to bring into your own yard. You may also have luck visiting local gardens or outdoor spaces to get ideas on how to use different native species.
Whether you go for a natural, rustic landscape or a sleek and modern design, there are endless ways to make your yard your own! Below are some design ideas to help you add some unique elements to your space.
Water: Just because xeriscaping is used to reduce water use doesn’t mean that you can’t have a water-wise fountain, bird bath, or other water feature. If you have an area that collects water, add rocks to create a natural riverbed.
Planter boxes: By varying heights in your garden, you can create a visually stimulating space. Use planter boxes and different elevations to your advantage.
Hanging plants: Waste no space by hanging low-water plants from your patio.
Lighting: Add some hanging lights or pathway lights that use solar energy to heat up during the day and light the way at night.
Rocks: Use different rocks in varying shapes, colors and sizes to spruce up your space. Larger rocks make great garden bed borders or walking stones.
Heat: If you live in an area that tends to get chilly, a fire pit could be a great addition to your backyard. Cozy up next to the fire and stay warm while you enjoy the beautiful outdoors.
Gazebo: Introduce some shade to your space by building a gazebo or pergola to stay cool as it gets warmer.
Lawn furniture: Couches, lounge chairs, and ottomans come in a variety of styles and can make your space feel more inviting. Host a backyard party and let your guests enjoy your new green space.
Speakers: Turn up the party with outdoor speakers that allow you to play your favorite tunes while spending time outdoors.
Decor: Pottery, windchimes, and lawn ornaments can all bring new life to your garden. When working with a small space, try thinking about ways to decorate vertically too.
Now that you have the basics of xeriscaping down, it’s time to venture out and start planning your yard. Once you have done all of the initial work, you can sit back and enjoy a low-maintenance and eco-friendly yard.
Amanda Tallent is a content creator for The Zebra who develops helpful and compelling stories. Her passion for digital marketing and creative writing has led her to cover unique topics ranging from business to lifestyle.