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Seven Principles

Xeriscape - Based on Sound Horticultural Practices

Follow these steps for a low water-using, yet beautiful, landscape.

1- Plan Ahead

  • Create a scaled drawing of the lot, including buildings and walks. Identify sunny and shady areas, slopes and views.
  • Evaluate the needs of people using the landscape. Do kids and pets need a big open area? Is a large deck for entertaining important?
  • Group plants with similar water needs to make watering easier.
  • Phase in the landscape plan as money and time allow.

2- Improve the Soil

  • Good soil absorbs and retains water better than poor soil.
  • Send a soil sample to a soil lab to determine nutrient content.
  • Most Colorado soils benefit from adding two to three cubic yards of organic matter, such as commercial compost or aged manure, for every 1,000 square feet of landscape area.
  • Even the lowest water-using Xeriscape needs supplemental water during extended hot, dry periods.

3- Irrigate Efficiently

  • Grass: use low-volume, low-angle sprinklers.
  • Trees, shrubs, flowers and ground covers: use drip, spray or bubbler emitters.
  • Adjust your watering times monthly to meet seasonal needs.
  • Install a rain shutoff device.
  • Efficient hose-end sprinklers throw large drops of water, not a mist, close to the ground.
  • Water deeply and infrequently to develop deep roots.
  • Water between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. to reduce water loss due to evaporation.
  • Read about water-efficient sprinkler systems.

4- Limit Turf Areas

  • Confine the lawn to high traffic areas and areas where it will be used.
  • Kentucky bluegrass requires 24-26 inches of supplemental irrigation in a normal precipitation year, compared to Fine Fescue which requires 18-20 inches and Buffalograss which requires 8-10 inches.
  • Wildflowers and native grasses are excellent lawn substitutes.
  • Shrubs, perennials and ground covers use less water and provide a cool, green appearance.
  • Place mulch around driveways or as paths.
  • Expand outdoor-living areas by installing decks, patios and walkways.

5- Select Appropriate Plants

  • Zone together plants with similar water and sunlight needs.
  • Nurseries carry trees, shrubs, perennials and groundcovers that are low water-using.
  • Install a variety of plants with different heights, colors and textures.
  • Choose plants for their seasonal interest, including fall color and/or interesting berries, bark or seed heads.
  • Check out Utilities' Xeriscape Plant List.

6- Use Mulch

  • Cover planting areas with 2-4 inches of mulch to conserve soil moisture, control weeds and add interest to the landscape.
  • Bark chips, shredded wood chips or pole peelings decompose and improve soil texture but need to be restored from time to time.
  • Rock and gravel mulches are practical in windy spots and unplanted areas.
  • Apply mulch directly to the soil surface or over a landscape fabric.
  • Do not use black plastic; it prevents air and water from reaching plant roots.
  • Proper maintenance is essential for getting the most out of your xeriscape.

7- Maintain It

  • Check trees and shrubs for pruning needs once a year.
  • Frequently prune flowering perennials to stimulate blooming.
  • Mow grass when it is about 1/3 higher than the desired height.
  • Leave clippings to recycle nutrients into the soil.
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Tip #202

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