From Xero to Hero
Apr 10, 2018 09:47AM
● By Ashley Madonna
With an increased concern about drought and the human impact on our ecosystem, xeriscaping – often called zeroscaping – has blossomed over the past few years. Deriving meaning from the Latin root for dry, this landscape undertaking is all about ditching lush lawns for a more minimalistic approach. While greenery has its place in the world, xeriscape experts believe this trend is on the rise because it’s easier on the environment and requires minimal maintenance. You too can bring this approach to your home by learning more about the pillars of xeriscaping. Say goodbye to days spent mowing the lawn and replanting seasonal buds and hello to a year-round property investment.
Water preservation stands at the core of this movement. While lawn maintenance might not be your first cut when looking at ways to reduce your water usage, the gallons that are circulated around your home have a direct daily effect on the community’s environment. According to the EPA, outdoor water use accounts for more than 30 percent of a household’s total consumption. And that number can climb to as much as 60 percent in more arid areas like Tarrant County. Instead of pumping out water to sustain labored landscaping, a xeriscaping plan can reduce a family’s water use by 50 to 75 percent.
“Xeriscaping means your plants and lawn need less water. By using less water, your water bill will go down and you will relieve the stress put on our water system,” Southlake’s environmental coordinator Ashley Carlisle says. “If Southlake residents use less water, that means we don't have to purchase as much water from the City of Fort Worth. So water conservation really is a win-win situation.”
Because using native products can adjust to less frequent watering and the hotter temperatures that hit Southlake. You should also purposefully place items that need more water near an appropriate irrigation system, like a drip-irrigation system, to avoid overwatering the entire space.
“You don’t get that evaporation that comes with traditional sprinkles with a drip-irrigation system,” Calloway’s Garden Center & Nursery Southlake manager Kimberly Evans says. “It’s also just easier because it waters the ground slowly. It’s not necessary, but it definitely helps.”
Reduction of Turf Areas
A quick drive around town will show just how many green lawns stand back to back in Southlake neighborhoods. But that unnecessary open space is creating more work than it may be worth. Instead of rolling out turf to cover every inch of your front and backyard, use minimal grass space around your home. It can still be used for both functional and visual appeal, but it doesn’t need to be the foundation for the rest of your landscaping. Use turf to line your walkways or for a purposeful play location for your family in your home, and leave the rest of the space open for more creative opportunities. A nice gravel or stone section will add a new texture into the space and make your other colors pop in comparison. And while you are being more tactful about your lawn approach, find the right seed mix to create a drought-tolerate environment. There are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives to choose from that will still provide that sharp green hue without needing to be watered daily.
“When you start designing, take a step back from your house and see what draws your eye first,” Kimberly says. “See how much space you are dealing with and start with the backdrop first.”
Incorporation of Drought-resistant Plants
Finding the appropriate plants for your home may sound daunting or limiting, but they will save you time and money in the long run. Whether you want to plant flowerbeds by your house or provide shade to your front windows, there are plenty of native trees, shrubs plants and flowers you can include into your xeriscaping design. And while you are exploring your options, be purposeful about your plot planning. By considering the natural contours and drainage patterns of the space, you can create the most indigenous pattern for walkways, turf designs and shrubbery. This will also help you place plants that have high-watering near similar items and plants that need less frequent watering closer to those with similar needs to ensure everything gets the right level of moisture.
You can find the right plants for you by using resources like Texas Agricultural Extension Service from The Texas A&M University System’s Xeriscape: Landscape Water Conservation report when shopping for new landscaping items.
“Texas is blessed with an abundance of beautiful native plants from which to choose,” according to the report. “Most require less water and fertilizer and have fewer pest problems than non-adapted exotic plants that have been introduced into Texas landscapes.”
These industry professionals have found native items like autumn sage, Central Texas sage and white rain lily perform well in the North Central Texas region.
“It’s pretty easy to go indigenous in Texas. You just need to find the right plants that can withstand the heat,” Kimberly says. “And you can still find pieces that put out some really great showy flowers and have a range of color.”
While xeriscaping promises low maintenance, the upkeep that ensures the quality of this landscaping design is critical. To keep your plants healthy, make sure there is a proper hydration and draining system that your lawn can feed on. You also may want to test your soil for its pH levels to ensure it has the minerals necessary to support your landscaping designs. When you do add in a new plant, cover the open soil with a few inches of mulch, like compost, leaves or gravel. This will help keep the soil moist and bring that smaller amount of water directly to the right plant. Mulch will need to be replaced as the plant continues to grow and more water is circulated throughout your lawn. Also removing weeds that may be lurking in this mulch will help ensure the water is going to the right source. Plus, it will help keep your exterior lines clean and make your lawn look more sophisticated.
“A lot of people think that low maintenance means no maintenance, which is not the case,” Kimberly says. “The goal is to use plants that need less work, so you only have to water them once or twice a week. They are still growing things. They need some water.”