Xeriscaping – Alternative Landscaping For Northern Nevada

Low-maintenance, water-wise Northern Nevada landscape can be both attractive and attainable.

Submitted by Marvel Clyde, Owner, Colorscapes Greenhouse and Nursery
Illustrations by Local Artist, Kathryn Grider

Watering, by hand, by sprinkler system, or by drip system, is meant to ensure that your plants have an ample reserve of water to draw upon when they need it. Since the soil acts as the water reservoir, you need to first consider the type of soil you have. 60%+ clay soil has the ability to hold water, but is inefficient at releasing it. Clay also dramatically inhibits root growth. Better water absorption/release, along with enhanced root development, can be achieved by incorporating organic matter. Refilling the soil’s water reservoir with two applications at least one hour apart rather than one continuous application also improves irrigation efficiency. 

In 1926 a group proposed using xeric/zir-ik (from xeros, the Greek word for dry) as a generalized term for plants and animals. In 1986 the Denver Water Department introduced the term xeriscape/zir-i-scape with seven steps to help homeowners implement the program into their landscapes; principles that are used today as homeowners strive to create water-wise landscapes that require less maintenance and make better use of this valuable resource.

Xeriscaping - planning your landscape1. Planning and Design; Whether you are renovating an existing landscape or installing a new one, planning is a must. Many people create their own designs with excellent results. Shopping with a list of appropriate plants based on your design goals and website research will make the planting go more smoothly. Keep in mind that you can install your xeriscape in phases to minimize initial expense, trial plants and ideas, and make needed adjustments as you go along.

2. Soil Improvement; Incorporating organic matter like mulch and compost allows for better absorption of water and improves water-holding capacity of the soil. Soils that have organic matter also release beneficial nutrients to plants. It’s easier to improve soils prior to the installation of the irrigation system and plants. 

3. Limit Turf Areas; Locate turf only where it can provide a functional benefit; for cooling near home, deck, and patio and as play areas for children. Keep turf watering zones separate from other landscape plantings that not only require less water, but that will do poorly with too much water. Turf can often be replaced with less water demanding plants like groundcovers or mulch.

4. Use Efficient Irrigation; Well-planned sprinkler systems can save water. Group landscape plantings according to similar water needs. Turf areas are best watered with sprinklers while trees, shrubs, and gardens can be watered with low-volume drip, spray, or bubbler systems. Maintenance and regular, seasonal adjustments need to be made to your sprinkler system. Programmable timers can be used at the faucet with hand-set sprinklers. Either way, make sure you apply only as much water as the soil can absorb to avoid wasteful runoff.

5. Use Mulches; Mulched gardens with trees, shrubs, and perennials are an ideal alternative to turf areas. Mulches cover and cool the soil, minimize evaporation, reduce weed growth, and slow erosion. Mulches are also aesthetically appealing. Organic mulches have the added benefit of feeding organisms that live in the soil to benefit plant growth.

6. Use Lower Water Demand Plants; Grouping xeric plants together has the added benefit of creating a landscape with plants that thrive and require less maintenance. Attractive native and adapted plants are genetically designed to do well despite hot, dry summers and prevailing winds. Trees require about 10 gallons of water per caliper/trunk diameter inch, twice a week, through summer. Gardens that include trees can be easily watered with soaker hoses.  

7. Appropriate Maintenance; Gardening preserves the intended beauty of your landscape and saves water. Proper pruning, fertilization, pest control, irrigation system adjustments, and continued mulch applications all combine to provide the beauty of nature and the healthy activities that make us, and our plants, happy. 

Landscape designs are incorporating native and xeric plants that are both, environmentally sustainable and aesthetically pleasing.

Get inspired at: www.colorscapesgreenhouse.com