The word Xeriscape was coined by the Denver water company to describe creative landscaping practices that minimize the use of water. The term comes from the Greek word xeros, which means dry. Xeriscape emphasizes the use of drought-tolerant plants and special gardening techniques.
Xeriscape practices are good for you, the consumer, and your water utility. For you, Xeriscaping can save time, money and water -- without sacrificing the beauty of your yard. For your water utility, Xeriscape can mean enhancing the ability to meet peak summer demands and even extending supplies.
Effective Xeriscaping requires good planning. Important items to consider when choosing the "right" drought tolerant plants are: exposure to sun and wind; proximity to buildings and other plants and trees; and slope and grade changes. Knowing typical sun and wind conditions in your yard will help you put the "right" plant in the "right" location--a key to Xeriscaping. If necessary, consult your local garden center for assistance. A natural, informal design makes maintenance easy; it also makes a statement about your concern for our natural resources.
Conserving is always the right thing to do!
Though Connecticut is in a water "rich" part of the country, rain and snow don't always come when needed most. so it's always timely to conserve -- particularly during the growing season when nearly 50% of our water use is for irrigation. Xeriscape is a creative, fun way to conserve. And it works.
The following are some of the plants that do well in Connecticut during the dry, summer months without getting very thirsty.
Blue Oat Grass
Black Fountain Grass
Herbs and Flowers
Check with your local nursery about these and other plants that can tolerate dry spells.
Proper soil preparation--prior to planting--is essential to a Xeriscape garden. Adding 1"-3" of organic matter (compost, peat or aged manure) to sandy soil will enrich the soil and help absorb and retain moisture. In clay, it will help aerate the root zone of the soil. If you're not sure if your soil is sandy or clay-like, bring some to your garden center; and be sure to mention that you're Xeriscaping. Remember: good soil is always porous, well aerated and rich in oxygen.
Drip or trickle irrigation is highly effective for many plants that thrive in Connecticut. Consult your garden center about water saving drip/trickle systems on the market. A sprinkler is fine for the grass but not for other plantings. Grouping plants according to their need for water is an important principle of Xeriscaping. Irrigate before the sun comes up whenever possible. Whatever irrigation system you use, check it regularly.
If your Xeriscape project includes the use of turf (grass), use varieties that need less water and feeding--like fescues and ryes. They look nice and help slow run-off from nearby landscaped areas. Grass is the largest consumer of water in a landscape. Where you don't need it, don't plant it. Consider turf alternatives like ground cover, mulches and less thirsty types of shrubs.
If you choose the right plants, you'll need a lot less help from Mother Nature--even during dry spells. Look at the list of recommended drought tolerant plants, to the right on this page, and consult your garden center about other varieties that do well in Connecticut. Except in extremely dry periods, most of these plants only need significant watering when first established and during active growth periods.
Mulches are an essential component of Xeriscaping because they retain moisture in the soil, inhibit weed growth and minimize erosion. They also add interesting textures to your garden. 2"-3" of mulch in a weed-free bed is usually about right. Effective organic mulches come in many varieties--from grass clippings and wood chips to the more aesthetically pleasing and costly types, such as bark chips and cocoa shells.
Xeriscape gardens are easy to maintain if designed according to the basics discussed here. They save you time--and water. Xeriscape maintenance depends on the efficient use of water. That means using the right amount of fertilizer at the right intervals, effective pest control, proper pruning and weeding and, of course, conservation-minded irrigation techniques. The free flowing design of Xeriscaping makes maintenance simple--as long as you don't let your garden go.