Xeriscaping – Rethinking the Lawn – Juliann Breeding

Why do we have green grass lawns? Is it because everyone does? Maybe it is time to change our mindset about what our landscapes should look like. Lawns take lots of water and Ohio occasionally has dry periods but not all areas of the U. S. are so lucky. In 1978 after Colorado suffered its worst drought in 40 years, Denver Water developed the idea of xeriscaping. Extension Master Gardener Maureen McCracken defines xeriscaping as “creative landscaping with the objective of water conservation through the use of drought-tolerant plants.”

Water is becoming an expensive, less available resource and because gardeners in general are conservation-minded, environmentally-educated and wish to make a smaller footprint on the planet, xeriscaping should become a serious gardening concept to use even in the Midwest.

Xeriscaping saves water, maintenance, time, money spent on pesticides and fertilizers and reduces pollution and provides habitat for wildlife. However, replacing grass all at once seems overwhelming. We all make some changes each year, so what makes sense is to devise a long-term design and divide it into small projects so over time we convert our landscapes to conserve water and reduce dependence on fertilizers and pesticides. Homeowners’ associations do not tend to require permits with small incremental changes.

Where to start?

  1. Gradually replace lawns with drought-tolerant turf needing less water.
  2. Reduce lawn size. Enlarge beds, leave natural areas around trees or add paths, walkways or expand hardscape areas like patios. Keep down weeds and help retain moisture in beds with mulch, pebbles or drought-tolerant ground covers.
  3. Replace high water use areas of grass:
    1. Change hard to mow grassy slopes to rock gardens or add drought-tolerant shrubs or ground covers.
    2. Eliminate turf that is hard to water without spilling water onto nearby hardscape such as driveways, sidewalks and streets. Substitute mulch, gravel, ground covers.
    3. Replant grassy areas that need more water because of full sun exposure, drying winds, heat reflected from streets or house walls. Use sun-loving, drought-tolerant plants.
    4. Replace grassy areas that grow poorly because of heavy shade with shade native plants.
  4. Amend soil with organic compost to reduce use of fertilizers. If soil is heavy add grit or pea gravel to aid drainage.
  5. Replace water-dependent perennials and annuals with drought-tolerant plants and shrubs.
  6. Water early and wisely. When you water, irrigate so water falls only on the turf and beds and not on the hardscape.
  7. Replace a tree? Add drought-tolerant ground cover around the tree because as you water the tree the first two years, you will also help the ground cover become established.
  8. Mulch, mulch and more mulch, several inches thick.

Promise yourself to make one change in your landscape this year for the better of the earth; then do it!

Sources: www.landscapingnetwork.com/Xeriscape-landscaping/   Retrieved May 1, 2015.

www.mastergardenersmecklenburg.org/xeriscape-an-introduction.html  Retrieved April 30,2015.

For more information, contact Juliann Breeding, Xeriscaping Chairman, at juliannb.breeding@gmail.com or (614) 451-5245.