Xeriscaping

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Aug 162007
 

The term ‘Xeriscape’ describes landscapes and gardens designed to conserve water.
When you plan your garden to suit your environment, some thought towards water conservation has many
advantages. Not only do you need to spend less time watering, especially on those scorching hot days, but the
savings on your water account will be considerable. Water is a precious resource and scarce supplies should
compel gardeners to make the most of it through careful consideration in the design process.

There are seven principles to Xeriscape design:

Planning and Design

The first step is to draw up a plan putting in place all built structures in the garden and any large trees.
The next step is to zone the plan. This is the identification of different areas of the garden that have a different microclimate. Some of the criteria to look for include how much sun or shade does an area get, is the area high up or low down on the site, is the area windy, are there a lot of established trees around, are there a lot of brick walls around that will absorb heat during the day and radiate heat at night, what is the soil type in this zone (remember soil will not be uniform across your property). Now you can start to fill in appropriate plants according to the zones you have identified.

Soil Analysis

Take time to identify the type of soil you have in different areas of the garden. It may be
appropriate to improve the water holding capacity of the soil by adding organic matter to the soil such as
compost and manure.

Appropriate Plant Selection

Choose plants according to the soil type and conditions in a particular zone.
Group plants that have similar water requirements together. Try to incorporate some plants that are
indigenous to your particular area. Chose plants that have low water requirements and that are relatively
drought hardy.

Practical Turf Areas

Only have areas of turf that are really needed, or better still get rid of the lawn altogether. Even large gardens do not necessarily require lawn. Widen existing garden beds, use groundcovers and ornamental grasses, or pave or mulch some surfaces.

Efficient Irrigation

Through identifying micro climate zones in the design process, and using plants with similar irrigation requirements, irrigation is able to be efficiently applied. Reduce the frequency of watering, but apply more water at a slower rate. This reduces run off and encourages plants to develop a deeper root system. Make use of devices that deliver water slowly closer to the soil surface, such as drippers and soaker hoses, rather than traditional overhead sprinklers. Water in the morning or in the evening to reduce wastage through evaporation. Try to keep track of the weather conditions, obviously if it is raining then you should not be irrigating.

Use of Mulches

Mulch should be applied at a depth of 7.5cm on top of the soil surface. Any open material
is suitable including barks, chipped wood and prunings, straw, some composts, pebbles and gravels, sugar
cane etc… Mulch reduces evaporation of moisture from the soil surface, helps to retain moisture in the soil,
helps to keep roots cool, and supresses weeds.

Appropriate Maintenance

Through zoning plants with like needs together, maintenance should be reduced. Try to keep on top of weeds in your garden. Weeds will use water and nutrients that would otherwise be available to other plants, particularly if there are a lot of them or they are allowed to get to a large size. The use of mulch will help to keep weeds at bay, but it is important to regularly weed the garden and if the weeds are pulled out before they set seed you can compost them.

Pruning and fertilising at the appropriate time will result in healthy plants with a reduced requirement for water. High applications of fertiliser will require a lot of water to support the vigorous growth of the plant. Therefore only fertilise plants that require it and only apply at the recommended rate. Pruning back plants can help to reduce the volume of the canopy, and therefore help to reduce the transpiration rate of the plant.

Keep an eye out for pests and disease on your plants and treat the problem early. Also learn to recognise that plants which are constantly attacked by certain pests and diseases are probably stressed in their present environment. Pests and diseases tend to attack plants that are not growing vigorously, and may not be getting enough moisture or too much.

Bulleen Art & Garden displays

Our bookshop stocks a selection of books which helps with plant choice, as well as several free brochures. A free booklet is available which lists indigenous plants to the Yarra Valley area, all of which can be considered as xeriscape plants, adapted to the local environment.

We also have information beside each plant which details its water requirements so that you can make an informed choice when selecting plants for your garden.

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