Xeriscape landscaping uses the fundamentals of water wise gardening, good soil preparation and use of native plants. Landscape for drought conditions was developed by the State of Colorado after a severe drought in 1977. It discovered that 50 percent of an average person's home water use went to lawn care and landscape planting. Efforts to reduce the overuse of water resulted in the practices of xeriscape landscaping. There are several ways you can incorporate the fundamentals of xeriscaping into your landscape.
Reduce Turf Areas
Reduce turf areas to those used for special needs such as play areas, sitting areas and space between planting beds. The University of Delaware's Extension Service estimates that the United States has more than 62,500 square miles of lawn. "Most lawns are simply too big to be useful, with high maintenance costs, minimal wildlife value, low aesthetic interest, and negative environmental impact." Some grass, such as hard fescue and Chewings fescue, are drought tolerant and need little water once they are established. Turf areas can be planned as a path that leads you through your landscape.
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of the University of Texas at Austin maintains a searchable database of the native wildflowers for all areas of the United States. Native plants are important in xeriscaping because "They help conserve water, reduce mowing costs, provide habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife, protect the soil and save money on fertilizer and pesticide." Using native plants in your landscape reduces water needs. Native plants are also more disease resistant and they naturalize easily.
Hydrozoning is the grouping together of different kinds of plants by their water needs, according to the Smartgardening Program of Los Angeles County (see Resources). Hydrozones have their own irrigation systems designed for their particular needs so that water is not wasted. Installing drip emitters, bubble sprinklers and timers ensures that plants receive only the water they need. Placing a water feature such as a fountain or pool in a hydrozone with little water creates a moist environment for ferns and tropical plants.
Consider the Slopes
Sloping areas are a natural run off for water and can be used as a hyrdrozone. Plant a drought-resistant ground cover on the slope to reduce water loss. Terrace the slopes so water has a chance to seep into the ground slowly. Planting trees strategically can shade the area so there is less water evaporation.