These principles are not just for xeriscaping, but for any landscape project:
- Planning and design
- Soil preparation
- Use of water-conserving mulch
- Efficient irrigation
- Appropriate turf
- Water-efficient plant materials
- Appropriate maintenance
Pictured: beautiful, blue camas that blooms in the mountains of British Columbia and Alberta to California and Wyoming in early to late spring.
Planning and design:
Xeriscapes can and should be colorful, interesting and varied. Think about how you want to use your site including where and how you recreate and relax. Get the help of local landscapers, or contact your county extension office for more information. Most landscapes evolve over time. Think about slowly switching to a less water-dependent site over the course of several seasons and it won't be as daunting.
If you have never analyzed the soil in your garden, consider doing it this season. You can get great info at your gardening center (they sell simple, cheap kits) or extension office. Your soil type will and should determine plant selection, but don't think amendments shouldn't be part of a sustainable garden.
Mulch will help young plants stay moist while they gain root structure and establish themselves. 4 to 6 inches of recommended mulch is the norm for gardens.
Ideally, once your water-wise landscape is established it will need little to no watering. But as you introduce new plants and shrubs, consider a drip irrigation system. The idea is to water only those areas that need the water, and then keep those areas covered so that water will not easily evaporate.
Researchers know that Americans have a love-affair with their lawns. That's why low water varieties of turf have been developed. You may not be able to get away from watering, but you can keep those water bills low. And if you are in a particularly arid region, consider simply letting your yard dry out this year. It won't be as pretty as your lush lawn of yore, but it will mean money in the bank! Here are some links to help you choose an appropriate grass or grass seed: Little Green Apple, High Country Gardens , WSU Horticulture.
Consider a groundcover instead of grass. There are many beautiful, low-maintenance ground covers that could create a mow-free blanket of beauty. Here are two great sites for the Northwest landscaper: OSU's Extension site, WSU's Horticulture site.
There are great sites for Northwest native plant selection. Here are a few:
WSU's Hardy Plants for Waterwise Landscapes (also above)
Washington Native Plant Society's plant resource page
Whether you want to stick with a plan, or let the dominant plants of your landscape dominate, it's completely up to you! However, consider the fact that you are creating your own ecosystem. Let it evolve without the undue stress of chemicals whenever and wherever possible. Every good gardener knows that not every effort will succeed, and that gardening is a process rather than a destination.
Experiment and have fun with your xeriscape.