Xeriscaping means using native and adaptive plants that can grow and sustain themselves with low water requirements and tolerate heat and drought conditions.
This does not translate into cacti and thorny succulents found in arid environments, but to ANY plant that meets that criteria including soft ornamental grasses and flowering perennials. You can have a xeriscape without sacrificing color, texture or structure – the normal elements of any landscape.
The advantages of Xeriscaping include:
– Substantial cost savings on water bills
– Conservation of diminishing water resources during drought periods
– Prevention of pollution of surface and ground water, from environmentally harmful runoff.
– Reduced yard maintenance requirements.
– Pride in knowing you are doing something substantial to protect our fragile environment.
Non-turf areas can contain a decomposed granite, ground hardwood mulch, crushed limestone, flagstone, or loose stone material for a ground cover that is maintained to prevent weed growth without using toxic or environmentally harmful chemicals. Concrete surfaces should be limited to driveways and sidewalks only. Use plants adapted to the the pH created by your choice of inorganic ground cover – e.g. don’t use a plant requiring acidic soil with an alkaline ground limestone surface.
Hardscapes can include large boulders, dry river rock beds, or other natural materials that are used as part of xeriscape landscaping design. Water features, Urns, ornamental plant containers, and other man-made ornamentation can add variety. For public safety, no boulders or large rocks exceeding 12” should be used on strips between public sidewalks and the street curb. Also for public safety, no plant with thorns, spines, or sharp edges should be used within 6’ of the public sidewalks.
Perennials which die back during winter should be cut back to remove dead materials during winter. This includes ornamental grasses and other flowering perennials. Any xeriscape should include a blend of evergreen plants along with deciduous.
If you have narrow strips of turf between sidewalk and street, you should seriously consider converting those from turf grasses to xeriphitic areas as these areas are difficult to water without significant street runoff.
There are no turf grasses ideally suited for Central Texas. St. Augustine, a warm weather grass requires moderate amounts of regular watering, is disease prone,but it does choke out weeds when actively growing. Bermuda is drought tolerant but a rampant and invasive grower invading your bedding areas. Zoysia is another warm weather grass that is high maintenance and doesn’t compete well with weeds. The most drought tolerant is Buffalo grass, but that turns brown in winter and doesn’t compete well with weeds. So, with that in mind, doesn’t xeriscaping make good sense!
For information and recommendations on plants to use, pick up a copy of the new 2009 edition of the City of Austin’s free 52 page booklet Native and Adaptive Landscape Plants, an Earth Wise Guide for Central Texas, commonly known as the “Grow Green” book. These are free at any garden center or plant nursery. This booklet contains photos and a wealth of information about plants from Trees to Turf that are recommended for our area in order to have “water wise” landscaping.
As global warming appears to be the future trend and vital water supplies become threatened, we as gardeners can help tremendously by going xeriphytic.