Xeriscaped yards use less water.

Xeriscaped yards use less water.

Xeriscape – not zero scape

Yards can be designed to reduce the amount of water – and time – needed for maintenance

Yards can be designed to reduce the amount of water – and time – needed for maintenance.

Xeriscape, a word derived from the Greek word “xeros” for dry, is gardening in a way that reduces the need for more water than what nature provides.  In the Okanagan, 24 per cent of all our water is used on residential lawns and gardens – this is the second highest use after agriculture.  By changing the way we design our yards and adopting xeriscape principles, we can significantly reduce the amount of water we use.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association (OXA) is a great local resource for xeriscape information. Among the many reasons to xeriscape, OXA suggests it can

• enhance the value of your home;

• save time with less watering, trimming, weeding and mowing;

• save money with less water, chemicals and fertilizer; and

• eliminate pesticide and herbicide use.

You can create an amazing flower garden, choosing from 100s of plant species that thrive in the Okanagan.  Find a fantastic database on the OXA site at http://okanaganxeriscape.org.

There are seven principles to xeriscape. They are:

1. Planning and design: Know which conditions will influence water use (sun and wind exposure, slopes) and plan to group together plants with similar water needs.

2. Soil improvements: Use compost, peat moss, manure and other amendments to improve heavy clay or sandy soils that will better retain moisture and nutrients.

3. Plant selection: All plants need water while they are being established, but choose low water-variety items that can withstand dryness and high temperatures.

4. Practical turf: Reduce turf as much as possible, while retaining some for functionality.  Consider over-seeding remaining lawn with drought-tolerant turf which requires less water, and less mowing since it grows slower.

5. Efficient irrigation: Water deeply and less frequently. Hand-water, or use soaker hoses and drip-irrigation that deliver water directly to the base of your plants.  A healthy, mulched garden or lawn should only require one inch of water per week.

6. Mulches: Apply compost, well-rotted manure or wood chips to soil surface to reduce evaporation and moderate soil temperature. This can also help control weeds and erosion.  Be aware that rock mulch can intensify heat on your plants, making it less suitable.

7. Appropriate maintenance:  Sit back and relax. You’ll still have to mow, water, mulch and weed, but not nearly as often.

Learn more at www.makewaterwork.ca, then “Take the Pledge” and enter to win $5000 in WaterWise yard upgrades thanks to KelownaGardens.com. Make Water Work is an initiative of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and its Okanagan WaterWise program.