What is Xeriscaping?

A Xeriscape™ is a yard or garden that follows certain principles of being practical and environmentally friendly. The term Xeriscape™ comes from the Greek word ‘xeros’ meaning dry and ‘scape’ as in landscape. In a nutshell, Xeriscape is a method of landscaping that uses drought-tolerant and/or native plants that naturally thrive in dry prairie environments and therefore require less water and maintenance, once established, when compared to traditional lawn.

Xeriscaping is not the same as zero-scaping and does not focus on rocks, stone and gravel but on the following seven principles:

1 ) Planning & Design

  • Sketch your yard, including decks, trees and sheds
  • Zone each area by activity or purpose
  • Colour code areas by amount of sunlight, precipitation and water needs.

2) Improve the Soil

  • Add 2 or more inches of organic matter like compost or aged manure and mix to a 6 inch depth.

3) Create Practical Lawn Areas

  • Limit your lawn area to only what you need and where it will provide a function.
  • Choose grass seed mixes that have low water requirments.
  • Where lawn is hard to grow or maintain, substitute with other ground covers. Consider replacing some of the lawn with areas of drought tolerant groundcovers, perennials or shrubs and include a path, a bench or a sculpture.

4) Water Efficiently

  • Group plants by water needs and zone lawn areas separately as they use the most water. Lawns require 1 inch per week (2.5cm). Use a timer or gauge (a tuna can works well) to make sure you do not overwater.
  • Use irrigation systems that place water directly on ground such as drip systems or soaker hoses.
  • Avoid sprinklers that shoot water high into the air, produce a fine mist or oscillate as these lose a lot to evaporation.
  • Watering in the early morning is best because it is cooler and allows leaves to dry off during the day.
  • Use rainbarrels and water less when it rains.

5) Select Appropriate Plants & Group by Water Needs

  • Choose low water use plants and group them by water needs. If you decide you need high water use plants, place them in low laying areas that will naturally receive drainage and are convenient for irrigation.
  • Because there are a large number of plants that do well in our climate, you can select plants based on structure, colour, texture or fragrance. Plants that are native to the prairies are a great choice because they are accustomed to the dry climate and naturally require less water.

6) Use Mulch to Reduce Evaporation

  • Mulches reduce evaporation, cool the root zone, reduce weed growth, slow erosion and they look great too.
  • Wood chips and shredded bark feed the soil with organic matter.
  • Mulch all parts of the landscape except lawn.

7) Maintain your Xeriscape

  • Prune dead or diseased branches anytime. Most other pruning can be done in winter or early spring.
  • Remove spent flowers throughout the summer before they mature into seed heads.
  • Aerate lawns in spring and mow regularly to height of 3 inches. Grass clippings left on the lawn are a good source of nutrients.
  • Fertilize according to plant needs. More is not better.
  • Control unwanted plants by digging them out or applying herbicides to targeted weeds only when necessary. Do not use products that combine fertilizer and herbicide.

Xeriscape™ is a registered trademark belonging to the National Xeriscape Council, Inc.

Local organizations specializing in Xeriscaping

Kirsten Hironaka
Horticulturalist and Landscape Designer

JoJo Garden Design and Consulting
Joanna Fraser M.Sc., Ph.D.
Planning, Planting and Maintenance,
Soil Assessment, Gardening Workshops

403-320-0357 or jo-jo@telus.net

Prairie Xeriscape Designs
Steve MacRae, M.Sc., P.Ag.
Specializing in Native Drought Tolerant Landscape Designs

City of Lethbridge
Free mulch is available for pick up during the summer months at Peenaquim Park. However, availablity is not guaranteed and varies in shape, size and colour.