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Xeriscaping your landscape, part III : Seven fundamentals


Last updated 2/7/2008 at Noon

Xeriscape gardens can provide a tranquil, cool and shady environment.

To the trained eye, a dry landscape can be just as lovely – perhaps more so – than a landscape splashed with frequent irrigations to maintain that everlasting verdant green look.

While attending Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and the University of Davis I had some professors who were very avant-garde in those days and talked about the need to preserve, conserve and plan for upcoming global water shortages with the growing statistics of the global populations and that was back in the early 1960s.

That sank deep into my spirit and took root for my general philosophy in my horticultural career. I have practiced those ideas over the years and I will pass along those solid steps of xeriscaping for your home and garden.

These seven basic steps of water conservation have been around for some time and are not new but must be repeated again and again to get the public educated and informed on landscape alternatives of what can be employed in today’s use of the land.

1. Planning and design

Planning is the most important step to successful water-wise gardening because it allows you to install your landscape in phases, which can minimize initial expenses. Plan before you plant.

2. Soil analysis

A soil analysis based on random samplings will provide information that will allow you to make a proper selection of plants and proper soil improvements.

Soil improvements allow for better absorption of water and improved water-holding capacity of the soil.

Soils that have organic matter also provide beneficial nutrients for plants and can add mycorrhiza to stimulate rooting.

3. Appropriate plant selection

I cannot emphasis this enough in considering and practicing “the right plant in the right place.” The appropriate plants in the xeriscape setting today are the definitive component for the theme, the look and overall setting of the garden’s personality.

Today’s wholesale nursery industry has so many new and exciting frontier plants to offer us. A lot of plants in the trade are not only new but the oldies and goodies are being reintroduced along with various new cultivars and hybrid selections.

4. Practical turf areas

Locate turf only in areas where it provides functional benefits.

Turf is best separated from trees, shrubs, groundcovers and flowering plants so that it many be irrigated separately. Often traditional turf can be replaced with other, less water-demanding, low-matting groundcovers.

The first question to ask is whether we really want and need a lawn, for it is the most consumptive water user in the garden. Besides high water use, it requires lots of food and herbicides to look good, so we grow it to a lush state and then cut and shave it and throw away the clippings. Is there something backward about this picture?

5. Efficient irrigation systems

This is one of the key elements in how we design and treat the existing landscape or design it for a future garden setting.

Well planned irrigation-systems can save you water. Your trees, shrubs, garden flowers and groundcovers can be watered efficiently with a low-volume drip system or bubble emitters.

6. Mulches

I have been an advocate of mulching since I started gardening at the age of 6 in my parents’ backyard.

Mulches cover and cool the soil, minimize evaporation and reduce weed growth and soil erosion.

Organic mulches are typically bark chips, wood grindings, various sawdust products or log peelings. Inorganic mulches include rocks and various types of gravels or cobbles.

7. Appropriate maintenance

When the first six principles have been followed, the maintenance of a water-wise landscape is easier and less expensive.

Pruning, weeding, proper feeding, pest control and irrigation system adjustments further water savings as well. A healthy landscape can be a sustainable landscape.

The California style of gardens that I am suggesting when using these various steps can be a soothing and beautiful garden, designed to your own liking, pleasures and enjoyment.

I am presenting a free workshop on xeriscaping at 9 a.m. on February 9 at L&M Fertilizer located at 1043 East Mission Road in Fallbrook. Come on over to learn more about being water-wise in your gardens. RSVP to (760) 728-1400.

Roger Boddaert, a horticultural landscape designer, can be reached for consultations at (760) 728-4297.


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