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Xeriscape Your Drought-prone Yard

The weather seems to be getting more extreme causing many parts of the world to experience record heat and drought. According to NYTimes.com, much of the American West, Pacific Northwest, Intermountain West, Southwest, and Northern Plains is experiencing record drought. Drought begins with below-normal precipitation, which, in turn, can cause water shortages, pollution in rivers and streams, crop failures, insect and wildlife disease, wildfire and more, finds the CDC.gov. Higher energy costs, blackouts, and water restrictions soon follow.

How do your community leaders know when to impose water restrictions? They pay attention to The United States Drought Monitor and how the organization ranks drought, precipitation, soil moisture, stream flows and other information in your area. They also consult utility companies, satellite images, and weather prediction centers.   

You may feel you can’t do much about the weather, but as a homeowner, you can do more than you think. Are you watering a lawn and being told you can only do so once a week due to water shortages? Do you find that your water pressure drops or disappears during peak periods? It may be time to do something a little more environmentally friendly.

Lawns of grass that have to be watered aren’t as desirable as they were a half-century ago - especially those grasses, flowers, trees, and other flora that aren’t indigenous to the region. Non-native landscaping contributes heavily to water shortages in many areas, so what can homeowners do to help? They can adopt a concept called Xeriscaping.

Xeriscaping is simply creating a landscape that features native plants that don’t require extra water and are capable of withstanding native drought conditions.

While the look of a xeriscaped garden or yard of cacti and hardy shrubs is very different from the lush carpet of St. Augustine or Bermuda grass, you can easily create attractive landscaping that demands less water.

Simply pay attention to your yard’s shape, size, slope, sun, and shade. Choose grasses, plants, and flowers that are “native” to your area and can grow on the typical regional annual rainfall without additional watering needed. Group plants and flowers with similar watering requirements in zones, so that any extra watering is more efficient. To find native plants in your area, contact NWF.org and visit nurseries that specialize in xeriscaping. 

Zoned areas may be broken up by walkways, berms (mounds), bits of turf, glass, walls, large boulders, river rocks, and other stones. Add mulch to accent the plants and flowers, as well as to provide a healthy root environment, which also reduces the need for extra watering. In some cases, artificial turf may be an option where it can be effectively used in small areas to accent flowers and plants. 

The total effect can be quite beautiful.  You’ll use less water, lower your costs and maintenance, and your yard will attract fewer pests.