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What are the Different Elements of Xeriscape Design?

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  • Written By: Kendall Perry
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2016
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Xeriscape gardening is the use of certain principles that allow the gardener to eliminate traditional irrigation and thereby save water. This practice is especially popular in areas where water is scarce. Historically, drought-tolerant plants are preferred for this style, and several techniques are employed to reduce evaporation. The elements of xeriscape design include landscape design, composting, mulching, plant choice, non-traditional lawn grasses, efficient watering and ongoing upkeep.

When deciding on a xeriscape design, the first step should be the landscape design. When the gardener has a clear plan of the final garden, it will save money and natural resources if the steps have to be completed only once. The plan should show where the house is within the boundaries of the property as well as other immovable features such as driveways and large trees. After those items are represented on the plan, areas should be marked off for special plantings, lawn areas and other spots of interest.

Compost and mulch should be the next items considered. After the feature boundaries have been marked off within the property, compost should be introduced into the soil. Depending upon the plant choices, the layer of mulch might be heavy or sparse, but any amount of compost will help the soil retain moisture.

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Mulch comes in many forms. It could be as simple as a layer of leaves from the tree above, shredded bark or a thick layer of small rocks. The xeriscape design plan should be consulted before choosing the mulch, because mulch affects the soil below it as it decomposes. This in turn will affect the plants growing there.

How the plants receive water should be determined during the next xeriscape design stage. Ideally, the chosen plants will not demand much irrigation other than what comes in the form of rain, but it is important for the gardener to prepare for the dry season. Drip irrigation is considered the best form of watering, because the water has little chance to evaporate before it soaks into the ground. If a sprinkler must be used, the best choice is one that sends out the water at a low angle and in large drops. Both of these features help to reduce evaporation.

Plant and turf grass choice is the most well-known step of xeriscape design, and by consulting the design plan, the gardener can make well-informed choices because he or she will see where certain plants will thrive. Shade-loving plants should be placed under trees. Water-loving plants are best for low-lying areas or near downspouts, and this plan will show which areas of the garden receive full sun. Good choices can be made for turf grasses as well. By choosing drought-tolerant varieties of turf grass, irrigation is dramatically reduced.

Maintenance on a xeriscape design garden is much lower in terms of money and time. The grass clippings should remain on the lawn, so time is saved because there is no raking. Money is saved on debris removal because fallen leaves and other clippings are reused in the compost pile. Precious natural resources are thus conserved for times of need.

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