It’s about this time of year that we start fielding questions about how people can transform their lawns and gardens to better withstand the heat of the brutal Independence, Kansas summers and how they can use less water. One of the best answers to these question is to replace your flower garden with a xeriscape garden. Some people think this means replacing your lawn with rocks and calling it a day, but this isn’t so. You can choose to go in this direction for some or part of your flower bed, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a lawn, too. You can decide for yourself where you want to place the priority of water use. Many people who choose xeriscape landscaping minimize their lawn space, but you can choose whatever you want. In this week’s article, we’ll go over some basic facts and tips about xeriscaping.
What is Xeriscaping?
From the Greek root “xeros” meaning dry, xeriscaping is a type of landscaping that aims to use very little water. There is not just one step to xeriscaping. You don’t just put in plants that need little water, though this is an important step. There are seven generally accepted steps to creating a xeriscape garden. These are outlined by the K-State Research and Extension and we’ll summarize, and add to, the ideas presented by them.
Planning and Design
The first of thing you need to do is to the planning. You’ll want to look at the areas of the garden you are looking to transform and do a bit of an inventory. Are some in areas that get some drainage water? Are some areas in the sun all day? Are some areas shaded? Do you want to add some hardscaping such as flagstone paths?
Preparing the Soil
As with any flower bed, you need to make sure the soil is enriched to give your plants what they need. Xeriscape plants don’t need as much water as some other plants, but they do need nutrients and providing them with soil that holds water efficiently will decrease their water needs even further. Be aware that dry soil will always wick away moisture from more moist soil, so make your soil enrichment widespread instead of just in individual holes.
Giving your plants, including your grass, less frequent, deep drinks is better than daily shallow waterings. Soaker hoses are a good options for flowerbeds since you will lose less water to evaporation and they give the water time to go deeper into the soil.
Mulch your Beds
The power of mulch should not be underestimated. Mulch acts as a barrier to evaporation and helps to keep the water in the soil. You will end up using much less water if your flower beds have a layer of mulch on them. Mulch also degrades into organic matter, and so enriches the soil further. It looks great, too, so don’t skip this step.
Plant Choice and Location
Using what you learned in your original inventory, you can choose plants that will thrive in different places in your yard. Place shade-loving flowers under a tree or on the north side of the house. Flowers that thrive with direct sunlight will do well out in the open. When you plan your flower beds, group plants that have the same needs together. Be sure to provide all your new plants sufficient water until they are established.
If you love grass, you might consider some low water ornamental grasses for some areas. If you love your green lawn for the kids to play on, play fetch with the dogs, or just for the lovely look of it, ask one of the lawn care experts at TLC Nursery & Outdoor Living for some advice on reseeding. We have found that planting a cool season grass, such as a Fescue for the wetter spring and fall, and a warm season grass such as Bermudagrass for the hot summer season increases your chances of having a green carpet of grass.
If you want to experiment with xeriscaping, you can choose just one flower bed to switch over to low water use flowers and see how you like it. The beauty and variety of plants you’ll have to choose from might surprise you. To learn more about your xeriscaping options, stop by our nursery in Independence and talk to one of our gardening experts.