With increasingly hot weather becoming a staple of Pacific Northwest Summers, there’s never been a better time to explore landscaping styles, like Xeriscaping, that require less water!
Xeriscaping is a landscaping method designed for water conservation in hot, sunny areas. “Xeros” is Greek for “dry” meaning xeriscape literally translates to “dry landscape”. By decreasing the amount of lawn, using plants that require less water, and mulching beds, you can be an active participant in water-wise gardening. Save water, save money, and still have a beautiful yard!
Tips for Designing a Xeriscape Garden
- Create a layered garden with trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses, and groundcovers. A xeriscaped yard can still have dynamic layers—each layer helps protect the other and reduces water loss.
- Increase the density of planting to establish a “living mulch” effect, reducing overall water evaporation as well as weed growth. Be sure to consider spacing when plants are mature and avoid crowding.
- Keep it minimal by repeating patterns, textures, and plants. Whether you use an organized layout or a more organic style, using similar looking plants with similar needs will keep the planting cohesive and classy.
- Consider decreasing or even eliminating your lawn. In any landscape, lawns require more irrigation than planting beds. Lawns can easily be replaced by drought-tolerant plants, paths, seating areas, or mulch.
- Be mindful of materials. Metal edging and gravel will give your xeriscape a structured, modern look, while wood chips and softer groundcovers will take the aesthetic in a more bohemian and natural direction.
How to Choose the Right Plants for Xeriscaping
Gardening in arid conditions is most successful when the correct plant choices are used alongside water-wise cultural practices.
- Use drought-tolerant plants! Select plants that have adapted to low-water environments to set your xeriscape up for success from the start.
- Plant native. Plants that are indigenous to an area are already acclimated to local weather extremes, making native plants a smart gardening choice for xeriscaping. Be sure to select native plants that grow in full-sun environments and not forested conditions.
Amend Your Soil & Apply Mulch to Reduce Water Loss
Pacific Northwest gardeners are often faced with heavy clay soil that holds water in the wet season, but repels water in the hot, dry summer. Adding organic matter when planting improves the texture, microbial life, aeration, water-holding capacity, and drainage of your soil.
Amend your soil with homemade compost or G&B Soil Building Conditioner. Add compost when planting, or even before planting up an area. Use about one third compost to two thirds native soil for best results, and save some compost to use as mulch after planting!
Mulch your garden beds every year to further reduce water loss. Use natural materials like bark chips, hazelnut shells, compost, or G&B Soil Building Conditioner to prevent the soil from drying out too quickly and to promote a healthy soil environment. Use pea gravel, quarter-minus gravel, or decomposed granite for mulching in higher-traffic areas. Remember to keep mulch about 4 inches away from the trunk or base of plants for ideal plant health.
How to Water Your Low-Water Xeriscape
Xeriscaping is not a water-free landscape… it’s a low-water landscape!
Though they may be tough and tolerant of hot, dry, sunny environments, drought-tolerant plants still need water—they just use less water and are more efficient with it. Many drought-tolerant plants have adapted to dry conditions by growing extensive root systems that seek out water deep below the soil’s surface.
- Provide deep watering until roots are established to set them up for long-term success.
- Avoid frequent, shallow watering as this can cause root rot if the soil does not dry between waterings. Many drought-tolerant plants are sensitive to soggy or constantly wet soil conditions, especially in heat.
Have more questions about xeriscaping or gardening in general? Come visit us at one of our friendly Garden Centers in Oregon or SW Washington for tips, tricks, and answers.