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Xeriscaping: A New Approach to Landscaping

There is a hot new trend in landscaping that will save you water, reduce the amount of time you spend maintaining your lawn, and make a strong statement about your commitment to the environment. Xeriscaping is a smart and practical way of landscaping and gardening, which will also add color and variety to your landscape. Not all of us have big budgets for landscaping, but if you were to make a change, you might want to give xeriscaping a shot.

In this article we will talk about the benefits of xeriscaping, the cost of xeriscaping, the limitations of xeriscaping and how to get around it, and rebate programs that make implementation of xeriscaping less expensive for you.

Water Conservation:

As you must be aware, water is increasingly becoming a limited resource. Research has shown that more than 50% of household water use goes toward landscaping. Over the year the water usage bill does add up considerably. Xeriscaping can use 70% less water if done correctly as it makes full use of the rainfall. This can be done by:
  1. Using native plants species

  2. Smart grouping of plants: the plants with similar water requirements to be grouped together

  3. Use of some drought-resistant plants

  4. Breaking up the landscape by putting in walkways and patios in the areas which get the heaviest foot traffic so that those areas save water (helpful accessory: rainwater collectors; drought-resistant plants).


Time Savings:

Xeriscaping leads to time savings as you need to spend significantly less amount of time mowing, weeding and fertilizing the lawn.

Increases property value:

For those of you who are looking to sell their property, xeriscaping considerably increases the property value due to its well-maintained look and lushness.

Environmental benefits:

For those of you who are looking to go green, what better way than xeriscaping. You will be doing your part in reducing pollutants in the air by eliminating the use of fertilizers and pesticides. You will also be creating awareness for the native plant species.

Energy Savings:

Studies have shown that xeriscaping cuts cooling cost by 46% due to its trees and shrubs as compared to the 4% of traditional lawns with no vegetation.

Cost and Savings of Xeriscaping

A xeriscaped lawn has an average payback period of 4 to 7 years. This is because of:
  • Elimination of fertilizers

  • Significantly low water usage bills

  • Significantly less maintenance required

The cost can range between $1.50 and $2.50 per square foot. When compared with the costs associated with fertilizing, watering, mowing and maintenance of a traditional lawn, you can expect an annual cost savings of $0.36 per square foot. You can save significantly more in the costs if you provide the labor for xeriscaping instead of getting a professional in for all the work.

Another savings which you should consider while xeriscaping is the volumetric savings in water. A 1,000 square foot lawn requires more than 132,000 liters of water each year. If you use native plants and drought-tolerant plants, you will require only around 55,000 liters of water a year. This is significant savings in your water bill and you still get a lawn that is well-maintained and colorful.One study which had looked into a standard Kentucky Bluegrass lawn with trees and shrubs found that it required 79 liters per square foot and the xeriscaped version of the yard only required 13 liters per square foot! Now that is savings.

Limitations of Xeriscaping and how to get around it

Like all trends, xeriscaping has its limitations:
  • Initially, it is labor intensive as you will have to prepare your lawn for xeriscaping

  • Choice of plants is limited

  • If you are new to the area you may not be familiar with the climate and native plant species

  • The initial cost of planting vegetation can be high

  • Budget constrictions may not allow you to do all that you want in xeriscaping

  • Periodic maintenance is required like pruning, deadheading.

The way to get around it is, do xeriscaping in phases. You could start with say, creating a walkway in high foot traffic areas. Instead of putting in a concrete walkway, you could also use large stepping stones which could be discarded pieces from a stone mason.  Do not buy all the plants at once.

Rebate programs for Xeriscaping

Many local governments provide rebate programs encouraging water-wise landscaping. Some rebates provide $500 for removing 500 square feet of grass. Through the U.S. Green Building Council, you can earn LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) points which may also get you tax credits.

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