Sustainability Series

Written by Cafe Campesino on Jun 1, 2010 in NEWSLETTER, Sustainability |
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SUSTAINABILITY SERIES – XERISCAPE

It is estimated that for most of North America, over 50% of residential water used is applied to landscape and lawns. How many of us have seen the sprinkler system at the bank watering on a rainy day? Or witnessed a similar system that waters the street as much as the lawn?

Because water is now considered to be an increasingly expensive and limited resource, it is important to look closely at our needs for water and possibly reevaluate some of our uses. ‘Xeriscape’ design refers to landscaping with techniques that will reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental irrigation. While originally developed for drought afflicted areas, the principles of xeriscape landscaping can be applied in any geographic region of North America – to any space (commercial or residential), to any size (large or small) and the benefits abound!  Xeriscape saves water; actually reducing water use on a landscape by as much as 50-75%.

Because water requirements are low, correlating maintenance is minimal.
The use of native plants eliminates, in large part, the need for chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Healthy organic soil should provide ample nutrients for plants living in their natural climate zone.  Additionally, these plants will provide a natural habitat for native wildlife and beneficial insects.
While a landscaped yard can improve property values, xeriscape offers investment protection with drought proofing and low maintenance.
By reducing the size of turf areas, xeriscape design decreases fossil fuel emissions from gas mowers and other equipment.

Implementation requires you keep in mind the fundamental purpose of water conservation. Then:
1) Plan: analyze the property, looking for ways to maximize the use of any natural precipitation and incorporate drought resistant plant varieties. Consider: cardinal direction, large trees, fences, walkways, structures, areas of sun and shade, any natural contours, drainage and runoff.
2) Work on building healthy soil capable of draining quickly and storing water. Compost is critical in a water conserving landscape for these properties. Exceptions to this are cacti and succulent groupings that prefer sandy soils with fewer nutrients.
3) Reduce the size of turf areas as much as possible and consider native grass varieties. Curved swaths will maximize the efficiency of conventional sprinklers.
4) Use appropriate plantings in appropriate areas. By grouping together plants with similar watering needs, you can establish zones of differing water amounts and capitalize on efficient water use.
5) Mulching your plants (several inches) is a vital follow-up for moisture retention, temperature control, preventing erosion and blocking out weeds.
6) Irrigating with soaker hoses and drip-systems helps deliver water directly to the base of the plant, encouraging root absorption and reducing evaporation.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of xeriscape is that by practicing these principals, you will establish a beautiful landscape you can feel confident in leaving while on vacation, even in the heat of summer!

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