Replace Grass with Rocks
In the Lancaster desert we can design your yard with a desert landscape theme or xeriscape. (often incorrectly spelled zero-scaping or xeroscaping) is AV landscaping and gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water from irrigation. We pick plants that are adapted to our climate and can thrive with little to no water and low maintenance. You can choose from cacti and succulents, along with some bushes for color, include earth tone rock, add mounding for depth, maybe granite rocks for greenery and you can have a beautiful yard that fits in nicely with our climate that will attract hummingbirds, quail, and other wildlife. At the same time you will be using very little of our precious water.
Originally conceived by Denver Water, the seven design principles of xeriscaping have since expanded into simple and applicable concepts to creating landscapes that use less water. The principles are appropriate for multiple regions and can serve as a guide to creating a water conserving landscape that is regionally appropriate and since they were conceived for homeowners they are easy to implement.
1. Plan and design: Create a diagram, drawn to scale, that shows the major elements of the landscape, including house, driveway, sidewalk, deck or patio, existing trees and other elements.
Once a base plan of an existing site has been determined, the creation of a conceptual plan (bubble diagram) that shows the areas for turf, perennial beds, views, screens, slopes, etc. is undertaken. Once finished, the development of a planting plan that reinforces the areas in the appropriate scale is done.
2. Soil amendment – Most plants will benefit from the use of compost, which will help the soil retain water. Some desert plants prefer gravel soils instead of well-amended soils. Plants should either fit the soil or soil should be amended to fit the plants.
3. Efficient irrigation: Xeriscape can be irrigated efficiently by hand or with an automatic sprinkler system. Zone turf areas separately from other plants and use the irrigation method that waters the plants in each area most efficiently. For grass, use gear-driven rotors or rotary spray nozzles that have larger droplets and low angles to avoid wind drift. Spray, drip line or bubbler emitters are most efficient for watering trees, shrubs, flowers and groundcovers.
If watering by hand, avoid oscillating sprinklers and other sprinklers that throw water high in the air or release a fine mist. The most efficient sprinklers release big drops close to the ground.
Water deeply and infrequently to develop deep roots. Never water during the day to reduce water lost to evaporation. With the use of automatic sprinkling systems, adjust the controller monthly to accommodate weather conditions. Also, install a rain sensor to shut off the device when it rains.
4. Appropriate plant and zone selection: Different areas in a yard receive different amounts of light, wind and moisture. To minimize water waste, group together plants with similar light and water requirements, and place them in an area that matches these requirements. Put moderate-water-use plants in low-lying drainage areas, near downspouts, or in the shade of other plants. Turf typically requires the most water and shrub/perennial beds will require approximately half the amount of water. Dry, sunny areas support low-water-use plants that grow well in our climate. Planting a variety of plants with different heights, color and textures creates interest and beauty.
5. Mulch: Mulch keeps plant roots cool, prevents soil from crusting, minimizes evaporation and reduces weed growth. Organic mulches, such as bark chips, pole peelings or wood grindings, should be applied 2 to 4 inches deep. Fiber mulches create a web that is more resistant to wind and rain washout. Inorganic mulches, such as rocks and gravel, should be applied 2 to 3 inches deep. Surrounding plants with rock makes the area hotter; limit this practice.
6. Limited turf areas: Native grasses (warm-season) that have been cultivated for turf lawns, such as buffalo grass and blue grama, can survive with a quarter of the water that bluegrass varieties need. Warm-season grasses are greenest in June through September and straw brown the rest of the year.
Native grasses (cool season) such as bluegrass and tall fescue, are greenest in the spring and fall and go dormant in the high heat of the summer. New cultivars of bluegrass, such as Reveille, and tall fescue, can reduce typical bluegrass water requirements by at least 30 percent. Fine fescues can provide substantial water savings and is best used in areas that receive low traffic or are in shady locations.
Use the appropriate grass and limit the amount of grass to reduce the watering and maintenance requirements.
7. Maintenance: All landscapes require some degree of care during the year. Turf requires spring and fall aeration along with regular fertilization every 6 to 8 weeks. Keep the grass height at 3 inches and allow the clippings to fall. Trees, shrubs and perennials will need occasional pruning to remove dead stems, promote blooming or control height and spread. Much of the removed plant material can be shredded and used in composting piles.
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