Friday, July 27, 2007

Drought Resistant Gardening: Xeriscaping

For those of you who live in Utah, the West/SouthWest of the United States, or have ever been there, you know that we live in a desert. This desert has generally had a lot of snow in the winter within the mountains that allow for irrigation possibilities that have made Utah into a Rural state with farms and ranches all over. But, unfortunately, it also brought with it people that wanted lush, green lawns that were watered every day during the summer. As such, the state has squandered it's water resources, while also providing water to neighboring states (Nevada and California).

As those of you who are familiar with arid regions, it's a cycle that can't continue. To Utah's credit (at least to the Residents), home owners have been conserving much of their water usage both within and outside of the home. Landscaping is becoming increasingly xeriscaped (using native, drought resistant plants), and those that do have lawns have started watering them twice or three times a week instead of every day.

I say Residents, because the business community has been less responsible. Many business campuses have sprinklers that run every day, whether it rains or not. Grass is planted where it shouldn't be growing (at least not Kentucky Bluegrass), and water-hungry trees are grown for the shade. Yes, the business community has a lot to learn regarding water conservation.

Having said that, I have made it a goal to conserve as much water as possible with my yard. Most of my lawn is gone, with an exception of a small section in the front yard. It's still Kentucky Bluegrass, so it's water hungry, but at least it isn't all over. The rest is currently covered with bark and pea gravel to allow the rain water to quickly return to the ground without evaporation or runoff.

I also have a number of herbs that are growing rather well with little watering. Sage, mint, rosemary (planted next to the house to survive the winter), and thyme are all excellent herbs to grow within a drought-tolerant garden. They all grow naturally in low-water conditions through out the world, and therefore provide a great looking and smelling way to convert a water-hungry flower garden into a xeriscaped garden that provides food stuffs.

But that's not all. I also have a wonderful desert plant growing, called Moonlight Broom. I planted it three years ago, and though it's a slow growing plant, the blooms in the Spring look almost like tiny orchids. I also have some lavender planted, and it's growing quite well.

But, as my wife pointed out to me, we can't have kids without a clean place for them to play. This means I need to restore a lot of my lawn. But this time, instead of planting the Kentucky Bluegrass that we have only had access to previously, I found a new strain of grass that is native, and therefore drought resistant. High Country Gardens specialize in xeriscape plants, and have Dwarf Fescue lawn mix. This lawn is native to the Southwest, and therefore needs little water. In fact, it only needs watering once every couple of weeks, if it doesn't rain. Other than that, it doesn't need to be watered. Considering the sprinkler system that was installed in my home 30 years ago has long since died on me, that's a very popular idea for me. ^_^

They also have a number of other grasses that can be planted, based on your area. One is called Buffalo grass, and is planted with plugs. It grows quickly and dense, so chokes out any weeds or broadleaf plants. I was tempted, but as grass seed is less expensive, and I can plant it in the fall (just before the snow), and have it sprout in the spring, I think it's a better choice. That being said, I may plant the front yard with the Buffalo grass, and have it push out the Kentucky Bluegrass. It would make for an interesting contrast, the two different grasses in the front and back.

If you are looking for a gook-looking lawn that doesn't need a lot of water, I would highly recommend checking out the above links. After all, both those grasses only need mowing once a month, or once a season. How could you do better than that? ^_^

2 comments:

fugalh said...

I hail from New Mexico, and I've always found the tendency of Utahns to pretend they live in Seattle a bit ridiculous. Natural landscaping is more frugal with water, every bit as beautiful, and a lot less hassle. However, I want to caution against the pendulum effect here. I've seen it in New Mexico—people get overzealous about conserving water, and lynching anyone with grass, that pretty soon you have nothing green anywhere. This does not help, as green things actually help in the retention and production of water. Pretty soon (i.e. a couple decades) you go from southwest high desert to near-Sahara. Like government spending, to an extent you've got to use it or lose it. Mostly this applies to trees, not grass. You want something to hold the dirt down, absorb the rain/irrigation that does come, and provide shade—all of which helps keep Utah's water in Utah's ecosystem.

As for clean kids—if you think a little grass will keep them from getting dirty... ;-)

Jeremy Robb said...

Good point fugalh! It's a great idea to keep things in moderation. That's why I am going with a drought-resistant lawn, as opposed to wiping the lawn out entirely. Thanks for your comment! ^_^