Less Water, Less Maintenance, More Xeriscape
You likely already understand the importance of conserving your water use at home. There are many things you can do inside your home to reduce water use, but in this blog we’re going to discuss how to reduce water use in your yard, while keeping your yard as a comfortable, green, enjoyable space all by using xeriscape.
If you live near the coulees, it’s especially important not to overwater your lawn. Overwatering causes erosion of the coulees, and there are many homes in erosion-affected areas that are seeing adverse outcomes for their foundations and walls.
In fact, we don’t recommend a lush, expansive green lawn anywhere, even if it has somehow become the status symbol (you can blame King Louis XIV of France for that). If you’re concerned about the environment, don’t grow a traditional lawn. And if you don’t want to endlessly labour to your traditional lawn, don’t grow one.
Going with Xeriscape, not to be confused with Zeroscape, means less mowing, or possibly no mowers at all, no more labour and time-intensive maintenance, and much less watering. This could be achieved by filling your yards with only rocks and wood pellets (Zeroscape), but that’s not the yard you want either.
Xeriscape is the middle ground. You can have plants and still a small lawn, without the labour and waste of resources. If you’re curious, Xeriscape is by no means a downgrade in yard appeal. It will be a huge upgrade to those boring blades of grass.
Another big benefit of xeriscape? Using less water means keeping more money in your pocket.
So, What is Xeriscape?
According to the Oldman Watershed Council, based in Lethbridge, “Xeriscape is a method of landscaping that uses drought-tolerant and/or native plants that naturally thrive in dry prairie environments and therefore require less water and maintenance, once established, when compared to traditional lawn.”
There are 7 main principles of xeriscaping, which are as follows:
- Planning & Design
- Soil Improvement
- Practical Turf Area
- Efficient Irrigation
- Low Water-Use Plants
- Appropriate Maintenance
Planning & Design
With Planning & Design, you need to breakdown your vision of your yard. At which areas of your yard will which activities be taking place? How much sunlight do different areas of your yard get? This will help you determine what goes where.
The second principle is soil improvement. This is a requirement of xeriscape as you will have to rely on the health of your soil to take care of the plants (as opposed to your own labour and maintenance).
Practical Turf Areas
This means be reasonable about where you have an actual lawn and be reasonable with how much of your yard your lawn will cover. Lawns are great for many reasons, like providing a safe and soft place for children to play and are great for playing fetch with your dog. However, a traditional grass lawn is water inefficient. If you’re looking for a great grass replacement, consider using clover instead.
Whether you’re xeriscaping or not, you should be watering your plants/lawn/yard efficiently. Lethbridge and Southern Alberta is arguably the sunniest place in Canada, and as nice as those sunny days are, the sun takes a toll on your yard. The sun’s direct exposure increases evaporation, so if you’re sprinklers are shooting high in the sky to reach those far ends of your yard during the middle of the day, a lot of that water will evaporate before it touches down.
The best time to water your yard and lawn is when the temperature is cooler, so during the evening. Note that if the sun exposure doesn’t affect your sprinklers, the wind still can, so it’s best to research some equipment that waters more effectively such as underground drippers/sprinklers systems.
A good watering system will also help keep water away from the foundation of your home, increasing the longevity of it.
Your xeriscape yard will get by on rain alone after it’s established in just a few years, but if you must water it consider installing a rain water collection system to collect water from your roof. Rain barrels are best stored underground to keep algae from accumulating. At the very least, keep them out of direct sunlight.
As we now know, the sun’s radiant exposure takes a toll on your lawn and plants. Not only can it harm the roots of plants, it also acts as a catalyst for evaporation, leaving your plants needing more water.
This is where mulch comes in. Mulch creates a beautiful, low-maintenance look that will reduce evaporation around your plants.
Low Water-Use Plants
The goal is to use plants that grow naturally in this part of the world. Nobody waters our coulees, and yet many plants thrive there. If you want to diversify your yard more, water-dependant plants should be placed where runoff will occur. ie. downhill.
Xeriscape will require some maintenance as it establishes its roots. Once those roots are established, most of your work is done.
From there on out, you’ll just have to prune dead branches to keep plants alive and well and remove the odd weed that surfaces.
The rest of your time will be spent enjoying your beautiful, low-maintenance haven of a yard with the added peace of mind knowing that the gas lawnmowers you no longer heavily rely on emit about as much pollution as 11 cars in the same time frame.
If you do eventually tire of hearing your neighbours’ lawnmowers firing up at preposterous hours, you can always build a Greener Home. with thick, well-insulated walls that not only reduce your utility bills, but also keep the noise outside, you can live more comfortably.
For more information on native plant species in Southern Alberta, check out this list by the Oldman Watershed Council.
Your Dream Home… Only Greener
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