If You Want to Xeriscape Your Yard, You Should Keep This In Mind
Last year, we leaned pretty heavily on suggesting xeriscaping as a method of saving water and that’s still a good idea. The droughts aren’t going anywhere and that water is needed for a lot of things. It would be a smart idea to cut down on water usage where we can. Xeriscaping is a great way to do that. Before you set up a xeriscaped yard, however, there are a few things you should probably consider first.
1. Soil Needs
If you’re doing strict xeriscaping, you probably won’t need to worry too much about soil, because the plants you’ll be using are native to the soil of Cache Valley. They’ll be used to the basic soil system we have. However, strict xeriscaping isn’t always the way people want to go. Perhaps you want a small crop garden for beans, tomatoes, or other vegetables. Maybe you want to plant a couple of fruit trees. While this isn’t going to break your water saving plan, crop plants and fruit trees do require more nutrients than native plants. If this is your intent, you’re going to want to work some compost into the soil first.
2. Smart Irrigation
Smart Irrigation Month isn’t until July, but it’s good to plan ahead. You don’t want to wait until you need something to install it. A xeriscaped yard won’t require too much water, but sometimes during the later summer months, we can get extreme dry and hot spells. A little water can be a good pick me up if you don’t go overboard.
The trick is smart irrigation practices. Water only at the right time (when it’s cool, so the water won’t evaporate before getting into the soil. Group plants with similar water needs close together so you only have to water select portions of your yard (those fruit trees and gardens, for example, should be close together). Use moisture sensors and other systems to keep from watering when there’s no need. It’s no good having a low-water yard if you then proceed to water it like it’s still a big patch of green grass.
3. Low Maintenance is Not No Maintenance
Xeriscaping is a very low-maintenance plan in addition to low-water usage. There isn’t a whole lot of work that needs to be done to keep it in good condition. Just remember: low maintenance does not mean no maintenance. There is still some work you’ll have to do to keep looking great. You still need to pull weeds, as they will compete with your wanted plants for the little water that goes around. You’ll still need to prune trees and shrubs. In the fall, you must remove fallen leaves to prevent all the usual problems of mold and pests. You still need to watch the insect activity and take action when invasive pests try to make a home in your yard. If you decide to have a small garden, you will still need to add mulch and fertilizer to that area to keep it going.
That said, a properly xeriscaped yard will take care of itself in a lot of ways. You won’t have to worry about mowing the grass (because you won’t have any), and most of the plants will thrive on their own because they’re native to this environment. Just don’t neglect it.
4. Grass Is Water Wasteful
The biggest use of water is the grass. In dry places, watering grass can account for as much as 60% of our water use. The idea of xeriscaping is to use plants that are native and thrive in the local environment. Grass, for the most part, does not make the cut. Certain ornamental grasses are native to Utah and can be used to punctuate spots of your yard, but for the most part, you’ll be doing without. You want to replace grass with gravel and bark, or other alternatives. There are advantages and disadvantages to each kind of substitution, but the main advantage for all of them is they don’t need water. You can mix and match the alternatives to make some great looking yards!
5. Rainwater Harvesting Is Regulated In Utah
Rainwater harvesting can be a good way to save further on your watering bill. When it rains, a lot of it goes to waste. It lands on your roof, flows into the drainpipe and pools in one area. Most of it will evaporate before it sinks into the soil, or end up in the gutters and sewers. Harvesting rainwater lets you make better use of it. However, rainwater harvesting is regulated in Utah.
To harvest and store rainwater, you must first register with the Utah Division of Water Rights if you wish to store up to 2500 gallons. Single homes are unlikely to gather that much, but keep it in mind, depending on how serious you are. If you don’t want to register, you can only keep two covered storage containers of collected rainwater. Each container must be no more than 100 gallons of water. In both cases, this rainwater collection is limited to use only on the parcel of land you own.
Xeriscaping Is A Great Water-Saver
It can take some time, planning, and money to convert an existing yard to a xeriscaped one. It’s easier if you’re building a home that doesn’t already have a yard, though planning is always necessary. You need to know what plants to go for and plan a layout that makes best use of them. That said, a good xeriscaped yard is a huge save on maintenance and watering costs. It’s a tremendous advantage in dry places like Cache Valley.
The thing that puts people off xeriscaping in general is the cost of converting an existing yard. Redoing your entire yard does get a bit expensive. That said, there’s no reason you have to do it all at once. You can start by converting parts of your yard first. Add some low-water features, like a rock-garden, or expanding your patio. A few low-water features will help you lower your watering costs, giving you a bit of savings that you can use to pay for more later. Doing it all at once makes for better long-term savings, but every little bit helps.
We’re just about to hit spring weather. That means now is the perfect time to plan out your landscaping projects. Planning now lets you get started faster and speeds up the process. Get an early start and you can have your projects done and be enjoying them before the summer hits.
If this sounds like a good idea, don’t hesitate to contact us and see how we can help!