Living in the south comes with a climate that can be overwhelmingly hot and humid for long periods of time. During the summers particularly, the weather can go through many different stages, varying from torrential daily rain showers to weeks of not a single drop. Homeowners can find themselves in a flurry trying to find a beautiful yet easily manageable yard that can thrive within the extremes of those environmental shifts. With a little planning and research, you can find the perfect combination of plants that can meet the needs of even the craziest environment and while looking great at the same time.
Xeriscaping is a term that is popular in the western regions of the United State but is much less familiar to those in the south. The concept was coined by the city of Denver’s water department and means dry landscaping. The goal of xeriscaping is to use as many native plants as possible in your landscaping and arrange them in efficient, water-saving ways. Most native plants to the west are drought resistant but if you carry over that concept to your particular environment, you may need plants to meet different environmental factors. The overall goal is to limit the amount of additional watering needed to your lawn.
The philosophy of xeriscaping is often confused with zero-scaping which means using no water. Others have a negative perception of the concept and associate it with a rocky landscape and dry grasses or cacti being predominately used. The concept is to use what naturally thrives in your particular environment. If you have a shady lawn, use plants that need little direct sunlight and low water. If you have excess direct sun in your lawn, try more robust plants that can stand the direct sunlight with minimal watering efforts. As the population in Georgia continues to grow, it is important to preserve the green spaces available while also conserving water. To take on the process of a water-smart landscape yourself, there is a basic outline to follow to help you get started:
For a xeriscape to be as efficient as possible, you want to group your plants into zones during the design process. About 60% of the yard should be devoted to the low-water use zone where plants only require watering when first planted. The next 30% can be the medium-water zone for plants that require watering only when they show signs of stress, leaving 10% of space for the high-water zone. This area can be for plants that need higher levels of watering and human intervention in order to survive.
Topography and Soil
When designing your yard, consider the type of soil you have. Georgia is known for red clay so try picking plants that thrive in clay like aster, black-eyed Susans, daylilies, yarrow, fountaingrass, or hosta. While looking at the grade of your yard, keep plants that like the water on the lower levels while drought resistant plants should be planted on higher levels. Work with the topography rather than trying to change what is already there.
Finding the right grass can be tricky, especially if your yard has more than one environment. But if you have an overly sunny space, go for something robust like Bermudagrass. It can withstand traffic, drought and cold weather. But if you have a shaded space, steer clear of Bermuda and go with something like Centipedegrass for the darker spots.
Once your new landscape is installed, a thorough watering should be done to saturate the new xeriscape but consider adding an irrigation system for ongoing maintenance. A drip water irrigation set up is a great way to conserve water and keep your lawn looking great year round.
One of the best parts about having a xeriscape is the limited maintenance that it requires. If done right, you can explore options like grasscycling to act as organic compost for your lawn. Xeriscapes do not require extensive watering, take very little fertilizing, and minimal pruning. Best of all, it’s great for the environment. If done properly, you can reduce your outdoor water consumption by over half while also create a unique space that will last for decades.