Written by Randy Watson

Xeriscape landscaping is a revolutionary, comprehensive way of conserving water and protecting the environment. The dwindling supply of high quality water and it\'s inefficient use in Texas has placed the future prosperity of the great state into question. In South Texas, roughly 25 percent of the water supply is used for either landscaping or watering gardens. Increasing population, limited water supply, droughts, and fluctuations in rainfall have all contributed to this critical issue.

While more traditional landscaping techniques address a couple of water conservation concepts, the Xeriscape method incorporates seven basic principles that all have the precise intention of conserving water.One positive note for this water-conserving campaign is that the Xeriscape method is compatible and efficient with both the green, Texas-style landscapes we are accustomed too, as well as the cactus and rock gardens found all throughout the state. The seven basic principles of the Xeriscape method include plan and design comprehensively, evaluate soil, practical turf areas, use of appropriate plants, efficient irrigation, use of organic mulches, and maintenance. All seven principles combine to form the most productive ways of conserving this natural resource while gardening.

In order to see how this method is able to conserve more water versus traditional landscape and gardening techniques, we will analyze each major step. To start out, you must construct out a well-thought design for your landscaping area. After sketching your yard while noting the location of permanent structures, you should also take into account your landscaping budget, function, maintenance and requirements. When using practical areas for turfing, try to avoid impractical turf areas by remembering to never use narrow passageways or other obstacles which could upset your irrigation or proposed design. Remember, though, that gradual changes in your design can always be implemented at your desire.

After the design is constructed and evaluated, you can begin the process of soil analysis and plant selection. To increase the health and water conservation of a shrub or plant, adding organic matter to the soil or flower bed increases the ability of the soil to absorb and store water. 4-6 inches of the organic material should be tilled into the soil. After the proper soil is established, plant selection is the next step. Ideally, one should choose trees and shrubs based on their adaptability to the region’s soil and climate. Luckily, many plants that are native to southern Texas happen to be very beautiful and naturally adapted to the region. On top of this, Texan plants are known for their low water demands, fewer problems with pests, and a lesser need for fertilization as compared to the exotic plants brought into the Texas landscapes.

Upon determining the soil and plants you will use in your respective landscape, you must determine the landscape’s water requirement. There are a few basic rules of thumb that will help you to determine this. Firstly, turfgrass, as opposed to most every other landscape plant, requires much more frequent watering. To benefit the gardener, one should analyze the intended use, planting location and maintenance requirements for each type of grass. As for trees and shrubs, frequent watering should be established until the plant begins to be well-rooted. After the trees and shrubs have been established, the watering of these plants should take place everyone or two months. For more serious gardeners, irrigation systems greatly help to conserve water in any situation. Both sprinkler and drip irrigation may be used.

At this point, the design, soil, plants, and all of the watering requirements and techniques of your landscape or garden have been instituted. The next step you could take to greatly reduce the inefficiency of water use is to use any kind of mulch. Organic mulches such as pine bark or woodchips are great, but inorganic materials such as lime stone or lava rock may also be used. The use of mulch benefits water conservation in that it greatly reduces the moisture evaporation from the soil, while also eradicating weed populations, maintaining moderate soil temperatures and preventing the soil from too much compaction.

Once all of the major components of the garden are put into place, the maintenance and upkeep of the landscape or garden is now a major priority. Knowing at what length to cut your grass will help preserve water, anywhere from one to three inches in length. Always fertilize your lawn at least twice a year – once in the spring and once in the fall.

All of the methods used in Xeriscape landscaping have been used for decades. What makes this particular method unique is combining all seven of the guidelines into one major effort. This water-smart landscaping technique can be used for the greater good of not only Texas, but for all over the world.