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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.
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.
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.