With much of the western US dealing with harsh drought conditions, more and more people are starting to take a step back and analyze their water usage habits and what they can do to cut back. With approximately 22% of commercial water usage going towards landscaping – and an estimated 50% of that being lost due to wind, evaporation, and inefficient irrigation methods – the practice of xeriscaping has become increasingly popular in recent years.
What is Xeriscaping?
In simple terms, xeriscaping is a concept of landscaping that reduces the need for irrigation – and in some cases can eliminate it altogether. For areas such as the Front Range (and much of the western US) xeriscaping is becoming a popular alternative to traditional landscaping for a few key reasons:
- Xeriscaping can greatly reduce water consumption (estimates state up to 60% less) and, consequently, cuts water usage bills
- Xeriscaping promotes biodiversity and helps local wildlife by incorporating native plants into landscape design
- Xeriscaping generally requires less maintenance, fertilization, and pest control than normal landscaping
But how do you xeriscape your landscape? There are seven design principles that go into creating landscapes that use less water.
The Seven Principles of Xeriscaping
Plan and Design
Effective planning is the best way to ensure that your landscape is saving as much water as possible. Creating a design diagram will allow you to see the “big picture” of your property and come up with a plan that maximizes conservation, aesthetics, and utility. Things to include in the design diagram include:
- sidewalks, fences, walls, and other structures
- trees, shrubs, and other large plants
- existing landscaping (lawns, flower beds, water features, etc.)
- slopes (helpful for planning runoff and drainage improvements)
- outdoor fixtures such as external electrical outlets, spigots, and downspouts
This design diagram will allow you to create an overarching design for the property and determine what plants to use and where to arrange them.
Some plants prefer different types of soil to thrive. Non-native plants (especially here in the Front Range) generally need soil amendments so that the soil retains water and nutrients. Adding compost or manure is the most common type of soil amendment. Utilizing native plants, on the other hand, typically negates the need for soil improvements. Colorado is home to a vast array of beautiful native plants that need little to no soil conditioning.
A great quote to remember this principle is: “Plants can either fit the soil, or the soil should be amended to fit the plants.”
Using efficient irrigation is arguably the most important aspect of xeriscaping. Smart zone planning and choosing the best irrigation method for each zone will both help maximize your water conservation. Turf areas, for example, should be zoned separate from other plant areas and are best watered with low pressure, low angle sprinklers. Flowers, shrubs, and even trees are best watered by drip, spray, or bubble emitters.
Watering at the proper times (before 10am and after 6pm) will help reduce water lost to evaporation. Smart sprinkler systems can help immensely and can be fine-tuned for xeriscaping to further maximize water conservation.
Appropriate Plant and Zone Selection
Your landscape will undoubtedly have areas that receive different amounts of light, wind, and moisture. The slope of your landscape is also a factor, as low-lying areas will generally receive the most moisture as runoff from other areas. Recognizing these areas, and grouping your plants in the areas that best suit them, is incredibly important for xeriscaping. Good examples of this include:
- Dry, sunny areas work great for many low-water native plants
- Plants that require more moisture can do well in low-lying areas
- Taller plants or trees can be provide shade for other plants
Mulch is incredibly beneficial for landscaping. Most commonly utilized to prevent weeds from growing, mulch also helps soil retain moisture, regulate temperatures (keeps plant roots cooler in summer and helps retain heat in winter) and can prevent soil erosion. Organic mulch is preferable to using things such as rock or gravel, which can make areas hotter as they absorb sunlight throughout the day. If you wish to use rock or gravel, make sure to plan accordingly.
Limit Turf Areas
Turf areas use the most water out of any landscaping areas, so it is important to use them wisely and sparingly. Different types of grass also have their own watering needs. Certain warm season grasses can survive with substantially less water than some cool season grasses. Buffalo grass, blue grama, and certain fescues can provide considerable water savings.
With proper planning, many xeriscapes require little maintenance, although it’s still important to give your property some TLC. Seasonal/yearly maintenance like aerating, dethatching, fertilizing, and mulching should still be performed to keep lawns and flowerbeds healthy. The same goes for weeding, pruning, and removing dead plants – although you may need to perform this less often.
Thinking About Xeriscaping Your Denver Commercial Property?
Our team of pros at GroundMasters Landscape Services has the expertise needed to transform your property into the beautiful low-water, low-maintenance landscape of your dreams. For over 25 years, we have been providing year-round seasonal landscape services to Denver-area businesses and commercial properties. In addition to landscape design & enhancements, our services include lawn care & maintenance, sprinkler installation & maintenance, and tree & shrub care – along with storm cleanup and snow removal for when the weather takes a turn for the worst. To see what GroundMasters can do for your commercial property, give us a call today at (303) 750-8867 or get in touch with us online today to get started.