Drought tolerant landscaping ideas for a low water level yard

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The typical American household can use 40 to 60 gallons per day on average just for watering lawns and gardens. About half of that is wasted through evaporation, wind, poorly designed sprinkler systems, or overwatering.

A water-friendly landscape offers several advantages. In addition to conserving a valuable resource, it lowers the cost of that water both to the individual and to the wider community infrastructure, helps eliminate pollution from runoff and erosion, and reduces maintenance of water. the courtyard.

Several concepts can be used as guidelines when working with your regional challenges, site topography, scope and budget.


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Xeriscaping (pronounced “zeer-i-skey-ping”) combines the Greek word for dry (“xeros”) with the word “landscaping”. The Denver Water Department invented the “xeriscape” as a way to market landscaping that conserves water. Its approach focuses on seven areas: planning and design, soil analysis and improvement, selection of suitable plants, creation of practical turf areas, efficient irrigation, use of mulch and l administration of appropriate maintenance.

Xeriscape landscapes typically include:

  • plants with low water requirements
  • natural landscaping using native plants
  • rainwater harvesting
  • rain gardens

While many may associate xero-landscape with stark visions of cacti, succulents, and rocks, in reality xero-landscape can mean stunning colors and textures from vines, ground covers, grasses. , drought tolerant perennials and shrubs. Imagine prostrate rosemary, yarrow, perennial verbena and sedum.

Vegetation is not limited to native species, but can include exotic species capable of handling soil types, temperatures, light, and precipitation. Xeriscaping emphasizes the right groupings of plants with similar water requirements. A landscape can mix larger groups of plants that survive the local conditions or only need extra watering occasionally with smaller areas that need more care.

Contact local nurseries or extension services for the best suggestions.

Indigenous landscaping

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Indigenous landscaping

Another route to a water-friendly landscape is through native plants, those that have evolved in an area over thousands of years, adapting to conditions.

Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscapes is a non-profit organization that promotes the benefits of native plants. Started in 1977 in Wisconsin, the group now has chapters in 12 states. Executive Director Donna VanBuecken said the group has seen continued membership gains. “With global warming and climate change, people have come to realize that they have a responsibility towards the environment,” she says. “One thing they can easily be responsible for is the environment around their home.”

Successful natural landscaping, however, isn’t as simple as throwing seeds on the ground, she says. The site must be prepared and all non-native species removed. The first three years consist of pulling, plowing and smothering non-natives, weeds and sod.

Once established, however, native plants provide many benefits. Native plants, according to the group, do not require fertilizer, use fewer pesticides, require less water than lawns, do not need to be mowed, provide shelter and food for wildlife, and promote biodiversity and the management of our natural heritage.

rainwater harvesting

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Rainwater harvesting

An old idea is gaining popularity in water-friendly landscapes. Harvesting the rain is a concept that dates back to ancient times. Today, its benefits have sparked the interest of countries, regions, states, and even custom home builders.

Stanton Homes in the Raleigh, NC area now offers rainwater harvesting systems as standard in some new homes and as an option in all new homes. CEO Stan Williams said, “With the current drought conditions in the Raleigh area, we want to offer solutions to homeowners interested in ways to keep gardens and lawns green. These systems are easy to use and it is amazing how much they can extend water usage for outdoor landscaping.

To make this free on-site supply an efficient way to meet the needs of the landscape, homeowners need to forecast the amount of water available. The theory is that about six tenths of a gallon will be collected per square foot of collecting area per inch of rain, so a 500 square foot section of roof directed towards a downspout could collect about 300 gallons from one inch. rain. However, water is usually lost when the rain splashes and the first collection of assorted debris is washed away.

Calculate the square footage of the roof draining to the downspout you plan to tap. Find your average precipitation amounts. Size your rain barrel accordingly or plan so that overflow can be diverted from your building foundation. Rainwater harvesting companies offer options ranging from simple rain barrel kits to complete underground systems with pumps and irrigation lines.

Rain gardens

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Rain gardens

Some parts of the country experience a holiday or famine with rainfall. Rain gardens, another option for a water-friendly garden, are meant for festive days.

Specifically planned at low points in the courtyard, rain gardens naturally treat rainwater or surface water which is directed there or rushes there naturally. The garden allows water to be absorbed by flowering plants and grasses planted there as well as to soak into the soil. Properly designed, the garden does not hold water long enough for it to become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Without a rain garden, that same water would flow away, causing erosion and carrying the pollutants it picks up along the way into public stormwater systems or rivers and streams.

Due to their importance in controlling runoff, rain gardens have become a unifying project for several community groups. One of those groups, 10,000 Rain Gardens, is an initiative from Kansas City, MO, which combines the efforts of citizens, businesses, educators, nonprofits, and government. Project leader Lynn Hinkle said that “the initiative has raised awareness of how each of us can improve the quality of water in our community while improving the land value of our homes. Rain gardens are a great way to make our city greener, cleaner and more livable. Hinkle says hundreds of rain gardens have been built since the start of the 10,000 rain gardens initiative.

“Kansas City, Missouri aims to be recognized as one of the EPA’s Greenest Cities through our efforts to capture more raindrops where they fall,” Hinkle says. She says more and more businesses are considering rain gardens and green roofs to help capture rainwater. Schools were the most active participants, and churches offered to organize training sessions on rain gardens to encourage stewardship of the land. Municipal government projects have started adopting green solutions and will measure the impact of rain gardens and organic drains in reducing the amount of stormwater runoff that contributes to flooding and pollution.

With such beautiful, practical, and economical options available, it’s easy to make your landscape and your larger community truly green.

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