Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Fifth Principle Of Xeriscape - Plant Selection

Drought Tolerant Ornamental Grasses - Salt Lake City

 Xeriscape doesn't mean you need to remove your landscape and replace it with rocks and cactus.  Fortunately, there are hundreds of plants that can be used in a waterwise design.  Here are some things to consider when choosing plants for your Xeriscape:

 - Determine which plants need to stay and which plants need to go.  You might be surprised to find that many perennials and shrubs are drought tolerant and you can keep them.  For example, lilacs, roses and iris don't need much water.

 - Group plants with similar water needs together so that you can water efficiently.

 - Plant drought tolerant plants in hot, sunny areas and places that are sloped to the south and west.  

 - A good way to choose plants is to look at other Xeriscape landscapes in your neighborhood.  Talk to friends and neighbors and independent nursery professionals about plants that do well in your climate.

 - Another good way to choose plants is to visit local public gardens, especially if they are demonstrating low-water plants.  Red Butte Garden and  Conservation Garden Park are great places to start.

 - Your local city, county and state governments and water districts will have information about drought-tolerant landscaping in your area.  In Utah, we are fortunate to have many resources to help us choose plants that are drought tolerant.  Waterwise plant lists - This is a great list of resources for selecting drought tolerant plants from Utah State University.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Twelve Drought-Tolerant Plants For Pollinators In Utah

 It's a wonderful thing to provide food for pollinators and conserve water at the same time.  Utah gardeners  are enthusiastic about supporting our insect friends.  Here is a list of perennials that are low to moderate in their water needs and provide nectar for bees and butterflies.  

catmint nepeta




bachelor buttons

butterfly bush


jupiter's beard



russian sage


Butterfly visiting a Penstemon cyananthus (Wasatch Penstemon) in Utah, Big Cottonwood Canyon

Sunday, March 27, 2022

The Fourth Principle Of Xeriscape - Efficient Irrigation

 This means watering in ways that are not wasteful.  We are experiencing drought conditions in Utah in 2022.  There will likely be restrictions in landscape water use.  It is more important than ever to be efficient.  We need to get away from the one-size-fits-all, fix-it-and-forget-it landscape watering systems and move towards a more conscious, thoughtful and deliberate approach.  We need to be engaged with the watering of the landscape.  Here are some ideas about watering efficiently:

 - Zones - Group plants with similar needs together and water accordingly.  For example, the turf grass lawn needs water once or twice a week.  The Utah desert native plants need water once every three or four weeks and only during July and August (and some of them need no watering other than what falls out of the sky).  No spring or fall water.  So the turf grass and native plants should not be watered on the same zone.  

 - Seasons - Cut back on spring and fall watering.  Waterwise plants don't need water until sometime in late May or  June.  If there are spring and fall rain cycles, you don't need to be watering during those times.  If your system is automatic, turn it off.  You can run it manually during spring and fall.

- In general, water less often for longer duration.  Deeper watering will create deeper root systems.  This results in plants that can better withstand heat and drought.

- Automatic Sprinkler Systems - Move away from "fix-it-and-forget-it" and adjust the timer for the seasons.  Remember, you should turn it off temporarily if you get a big rain. 

- Measuring Rain - Get a rain gauge and turn off the automatic water for a few days if you get more than a third or a half an inch.  

- Maintenance - Check your irrigation system for blockages, leaks, breaks, fountains and geysers.  Inspect the system closely while it is running every several weeks to catch problems.

- If you are not sure about soil moisture below the surface, dig some holes and have a look.  Watering less often for longer durations will help the roots grow deep, making the plants more water wise.

- Appropriate Watering Methods - Consider other ways of watering instead of in-ground irrigation with a timer.  There is nothing wrong with attaching a sprinkler onto the end of a hose.  You can also attach a soaker hose onto a garden hose and move the soaker around the yard.  You can avoid watering weeds and causing erosion this way.  

Karl Foerster Grass is drought tolerant, perennial and beautiful!

Friday, February 11, 2022

The Third Principle Of Xeriscape - Practical Turf Grass Lawn Areas

 This doesn't mean you need to remove ALL of your turf grass lawn.  Although, you certainly can.  Turf has it's place.  Take some time to look around your yard and decide where the lawn is useful and where it is not.  Maybe break it down like this:

Good places to have turf:

- play areas for kids and dogs

- areas for entertaining;  people can sit on lawn or play games like croquet, volleyball and badminton

- areas where it will get some shade in the afternoon or evening

- high foot traffic areas like side yard paths, the place the mail carrier walks or along the sides of the driveway; turf grass can tolerate foot traffic

Bad places to have turf:

 - the parking strip;  that area between the front sidewalk and the curb-and-gutter on the street.  You don't need grass here.  But you will need places for people to step when getting out of a car, like pavers or flat stepping stones.

 - outer edges of the property where nobody goes.  You can rein in the lawn and plant patches of water wise shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennials -   Less inputs, less water, less maintenance

- hot areas that get full sun all day, southwest facing slopes, places next to hardscape that gets afternoon sun blast.  Opt for heat tolerant shrubs, perennials, ornamental grasses or ground covers here. . .

we can enjoy turf grass in practical and appropriate places within xeriscape

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

The Second Principle Of Xeriscaping - Improve Your Soil

 Sometimes the best thing for soil is just to leave it alone.  If you are installing a xeriscape,  you might not need much in the way of soil amendments.  Waterwise Mediterranean plants and a lot of Utah Native Plants don't thrive in rich soils and prefer the sandy or clay soils that already exist in our area.  On the other hand, if you are building a vegetable garden or other beds with plants that are "heavy feeders" then you will need amendments to enrich the soil.  

One thing that is highly recommended is to get a soil test from Utah State University.  This is a great way to get some information on what exactly you have in your soil.  

Another thing that is recommended is to research the plants you have chosen for your xeriscape.  Find out what type of soil they require and group plants with similar needs together.  Then you can adjust your soil accordingly for that zone.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Common Misconceptions About Xeriscape

 There are some ideas floating around out there about Xeriscaping that are not true.  Here is a list of some common misconceptions:

- FALSE:  Zeroscape.  Zero water, zero plants, zero lawn, etc.  

                       - true:  There is no such thing as "Zeroscape".  The correct term is "Xeriscape".  It means  we can have the landscape elements we desire as long as we are irrigating efficiently and reducing the size of elements that need a lot of water (like the lawn).  

- FALSE: Rocks and gravel are required for xeriscape.

                      - true:  Xeriscape can include various types of mulch, including wood chips, gravel, rocks, soil, pine needles, compost or leaves.  You can also grow ground cover plants to cover and protect the soil.   Whatever is appropriate for the situation.

 - FALSE:  Xeriscape involves very few plants;  cactus and yucca.

                     - true:  There are literally hundreds of plants you can incorporate into a xeriscape design.  Varieties of waterwise and drought-tolerant plants can be grouped together to create green, lush and flowery xeriscape gardens.  

-FALSE:  Zeroscape means zero maintenance.

                    -true:  Again, it's not zeroscape.  It's xeriscape.  When it comes to gardening and landscaping, there is always maintenance.  The maintenance of a xeriscape is different than a traditional, turf-dominant yard.

- FALSE:  A Xeriscape needs no water.  

                    -  true:  You can create xeriscapes that require no water, but you can also create a xeriscape landscape that has efficient watering zones with varying amounts of water being used.  It's all about being deliberate and efficient in your watering practices. 

Karl Foerster Grass and Pannicum virgatum  - Ornamental Grasses - Xeriscape

Sunday, January 16, 2022

The First Principle of Xeriscape is Design

 There are seven principles of Xeriscape.  They were created by the Denver Water Department in the early 1980's.  The first principle is Design.  Some thoughtful planning should go into the design of a water-wise landscape. You may want to consider these things:

 - Efficient water use and method of irrigation:  How will you water?  And how can you water efficiently?

 - Use of landscape:  Do you need some turf grass areas for kids and pets and entertaining?  Can you eliminate turf grass in areas where it is not used, like the parking strip?  Do you need hardscape like patios and sidewalks?

 - Aesthetics:  Are there places where the lawn browns out every summer and could be replaced with something more heat and drought tolerant?  Are there places where you enjoy flowers and greenery? Do you need some space for a vegetable garden and fruit trees?

 - Budget:  Prepare for the expense involved in transitioning your yard into a Xeriscape.  You may want to  estimate the costs of things like irrigation materials, mulch, plants, excavation, hardscape, etc.  

                                roses and catmint - waterwise flowering perennials