Over the years, the water consumption all over the world has dramatically increased, the residential water usage in particular, and Houston is not an exemption. Being the most populous city in the state of Texas and the fourth in the entire United States, certainly, there’s no wonder why the demand for water is sky high. On the other hand, the biggest portion of the water supply doesn’t go to households, though – almost sixty percent of the state’s water reserve goes to agriculture. Although the demand for water soars, the supply for water is limited specifically in this city. In fact, there are water restrictions in order to avoid water shortages.
Furthermore, with Houston’s continued population growth, it’s paramount to ensure that water is enough not only for residential users but also for commercial, industrial and agricultural purposes. As a concerned citizen, you too can do your part in helping to conserve water especially if you’re planning to start a landscaping project.
Outdoor water usage establishes a huge portion of your residential consumption, hence, it’s only right to build a water-wise landscape. Incorporating good watering habits with efficient gardening techniques can certainly promote a healthy garden while supporting water conservation. Now, one of the most effective water-wise landscaping technique is Xeriscape, which is perfect for arid areas such as Houston.
Xeriscaping refers to the conservation of water through innovative landscaping. The term was invented in the 1970s in Denver Colorado, and this practice is also called water-wise or water-smart landscaping. This technique was originally developed for drought-afflicted areas. It’s all about planning and maintaining your landscape, watering efficiently and at the same time, protects the environment.
What Are The Benefits Of Xeriscape?
• Water Conservation – with a water-efficient landscaping technique, you will not only reduce the water bill but you’ll also feel good that you are conserving this costly and valuable resource.
• Reduced Maintenance – Your landscaping will require less maintenance and will need fewer chemicals, composting applications, and weed controls.
• Functionality – Xeriscaping highly supports functionality while providing tremendous color, variety, and beauty, even in winter.
• Increases Property Value – It is a value-added improvement that helps to maintain your property’s plantings and in turn adds to its curb appeal.
• Offers Welcoming Natural Habitat – Native plants used for xeriscaping creates a naturally inviting habitat for birds, butterflies, and other indigenous animals which are beneficial for your garden.
Having said these benefits, Xeriscaping is indeed one of the best ways to solve water supply concerns in Houston. Since water for gardening has already become a luxury, all the more reason it is to resolve in this water-wise landscaping technique. In as much as traditional methods such as putting out rain buckets work in aiding water supply, xeriscaping is another effective and efficient alternative as a solution. To ensure that this will be successful, it’s highly important that you observe its seven principles.
Principles Of Water-wise Landscape
1. Appropriate Plant Selection – choose plants that not only thrive in Houston soil but also drought-tolerant such as natives. Consider the plant’s mature size, color, texture and its main function in the design.
2. Planning And Design – This task involves identifying your property needs, budget, maintenance, and water demand. Divide the area to reflect site locations where plants are grouped, where you have areas of sun and shade, and drainage systems.
3. Soil Preparation – In Houston, it’s important to analyze your soil first in order to evaluate soil and determine amendments to improve for water holding capability and plant growth.
4. Efficient Irrigation – In your design, you should include your plant’s grouping according to their watering needs and design an efficient irrigation system to match the plants. It may vary depending on size, area, and type of plants.
5. Practical Turf Areas – Grass requires more watering than any other plants, hence, it’s important that you reduce your lawn area and where it should be placed to match your irrigation system.
6. Use Of Mulches – Spreading of mulch in your landscape could help reduce evaporation, weed growth and regulates the soil temperature in your garden. For Houston soil, application of at least four inches mulch is advised.
7. Maintenance – Xeriscaping significantly lowers maintenance to half. Water less frequently by mowing the lawn to the proper height and fertilizing at an ideal time.
Now that we’ve covered the seven principles of xeriscaping, the success of its development now rests in your hands. Your water-wise landscaping in Houston, Texas should only not observe the principles but also incorporate all of them to guarantee best results. It’s not enough to only apply one principle, but all of them in one project. By doing so, you’re one step closer to achieving your desired landscaping project without compromising aesthetics as well as functionality.
The question here is, HOW? The steps you have to take in order to achieve your desired results may not be simple, but it’s going to be quite challenging considering various factors such as the climate, soil type, wind direction, etc. However, you can take one step at a time and divide your project into phases so that it’ll not be difficult for you to track your progress. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is your landscaping project. You’ll need a lot of patience, and these handful tips and tricks.
Xeriscaping Guide: Tips and Tricks For Water-wise Landscaping
• Plan It Out – Thoroughly!
Planning and design play a very crucial role in constructing a water-wise landscaping. Along with planning comes the design which includes the setting of the entire area, the irrigation system, the plant groupings, the trees, features you want to add, and everything else. You have to start with a plan and the rest will follow which is why you have to do it thoroughly and wisely.
You have to determine the following:
1. Choose plants that will thrive in these locations – trees, shrubs, perennials.
2. Sunny or shady areas.
3. Consider the natural attributes (or problem areas) of your property.
4. Group plants according to their watering needs and decide on the best irrigation system.
5. Map your lawn area and decide how much space you need.
6. Include the paths and patios you desire.
7. Sketch features you envision to achieve.
Your plan and design will have to undergo checking by the local planning and development division to ensure that it follows landscape regulations implemented by the municipal code.
• Choosing Native Plants
Once you’ve finalized your design, the next step you have to ponder on is choosing the right plants for your landscape. Yes, you want to add pops of color and texture to your landscape and certainly, you don’t want to constantly pluck them out when they’re dead or water them continuously to avoid withering – that’s terrible and not to mention, costs a lot of money.
Drought is one of the most common problems faced by every gardener or landscaper in Houston, hence, it’s critical to choose drought-tolerant plants that thrive in this city’s soil. The best choice would be natives since they’re adapted to the climate and can handle extremes in weather patterns. Plus, it only requires minimal water usage.
In choosing natives you can consider these:
Wildlife Magnet – Eastern Purple Coneflower, Autumn Sage, Texas Lantana
Water-wise and Fire-wise – Black-eyed Susan
Bold Foliage – Texas Olive Blossoms, Indian Blanket (Firewheel)
Bright Berries – Pride of Houston Yaupon, Southern Wax Myrtle, Beautyberry
Shape and Texture – Cat Tail Liatris
• Watering Must-Dos
Alright, since we’re dealing with water-wise landscaping here, it’s paramount and highly crucial to determine what irrigation works, how often the watering should be done, strategies to avoid evaporation or runoff, and how to efficiently conserve water along the process. Before deciding on what irrigation system use, though, you have to consider your plants. Be mindful that most drought-resistant plants have deeper roots which allow them to withstand extreme weather patterns, therefore, your goal should be to apply enough water to wet the entire root zone and to encourage deep rooting.
Also, you must avoid overwatering because it penetrates deeper than roots actually grow, and that would mean water is wasted. Allowing water to go to waste just beats the purpose of your entire landscaping plan. So here’s a checklist for you.
– The right plant should go in the right place, meaning, you should organize your landscape. Group plants according to their water, soil, and exposure needs. By doing this, you can water your plants efficiently and distribute more water to thirsty plants and less to plants who need it not as much. As much as possible, dedicate most of your landscape space to low-water consuming plants.
– Your watering schedule should be adjusted to the weather and seasons. For example, if it’s cool weather, water less and if the weather is hot, water more frequently. Also, it’s important that you examine your soil in order to ensure that it is not too wet or too dry between the watering schedules and water deeply.
– If you apply water than faster than the soil can absorb, then you’re allowing runoff to occur and that’s a terrible way to waste water. As much as possible, direct water to plant roots by building basins or furrows of soil around plants.
Drip Irrigation Vs. Sprinkler System
– Before choosing which irrigation system to use, you have to consider the area you want to cover in terms of watering and your plants as well. Both drip irrigation and sprinkler system are efficient, however, you only have to choose one.
Sprinklers use high water pressure and volume to dispense water over a large area while drip irrigation delivers water at low pressure and volume (in gallons per hour) to specific areas, often just to individual plants. Therefore, drip is a better choice for focused, localized irrigation.
Remember, it’s important to maintain your irrigation system to ensure that it operates efficiently and don’t forget to run to check for signs of leaks, malfunctions, or poor performance.
• Excellent Mulch
Mulch is one of the most important factors required by a water-wise landscaping to succeed. It greatly helps maintain soil moisture, reduce weed growth, and aids in water conservation. It also protects soil from erosion while allowing air and water through. There are two types of mulches: organic and inorganic.
Organic mulches are derived from plant materials such as aged manure, shredded bark, raked leaves, pine needles, and thin layers of lawn clippings as long as its pesticide or chemical-free. Inorganic mulches examples are s gravel, granite, or stone. For a better soil composition, the former is highly preferable.
When To Apply Mulch
– Mulch should be applied at least once a year, it can be done or in early spring before weeds sprout or you can also add a second layer as a top dressing in late fall before the dormant season.
• It’s A Green, Green Grass
One of the principles of a xeriscaping is the practical turf areas. Now, in as much as you plan on how much area to cover, it’s equally important as well to pick the most appropriate turf for your landscape. There are warm season grass types and the cool season grass types. Since the climate in Houston is arid and there are high chances of drought, your grass choice is a crucial decision to make.
Pick The Most Appropriate Turf
In picking the most appropriate turf for your landscape, you have to consider its drought tolerance and ability to survive with little or no water for extended periods. Here are some of the grasses you can consider:
– Zoysia Grass
– Bermuda grass
– St. Augustine grass
– Buffalo grass
– Bahia grass
• Permeable Surfaces
For water-conserving landscapes, paths and patios are an excellent addition. It may be paved with gravel, decomposed granite, spaced flagstones, or porous concrete – nevertheless, these permeable surfaces add beauty and structure to the garden. Most especially, it requires no irrigation themselves.
Furthermore, paths and patios allow rainwater and irrigation to pass through them and into the soil. This results in runoff prevention and avoids storm drains to clog which can cause pollution to nearby lakes, or streams.
Despite the gravel or stone, you can still green up surfaces covered with stone or cobbles by planting mat-¬forming groundcovers between the pavers. You can browse catalogs, online sites and ask local suppliers for the different types of materials to use as well as the best design to go along with your water-wise concept.
Paths And Patios Ideas
1. Pocket Patio
A 7-foot circle of bricks set into a base of compacted sand is easy to move and adapt for different purposes.
2. Woodsy Path
Spaced concrete “stones” curve through a garden in Gig.
Where To Get Help
To make sure that everything will be possible, never hesitate to ask assistance from local experts who can share the experience with you. They can share insights, ideas and of course, professional advice with high regards to your xeriscaping or water-wise landscaping.
• Local Water District
– Recommended plant lists, watering guidelines, and water¬ saving tips are the information they can provide you. It’ll certainly help you a lot if you have this relevant information at hand.
• Landscape Contractors and Architects
– These highly-trained and skilled individuals are trained licensed in designing outdoor environments, from plantings to the overall structure of the landscape. Aside from that, they are trained in methods of earth moving, construction, irrigation, and planting which could help you build and finish your landscape project.
• Irrigation Consultants
– Irrigation consultants can help design and install efficient irrigation systems for your project. They are licensed contractors who are associated with irrigation supply stores which can provide you relevant information regarding water systems.
• Local Suppliers
– Local suppliers of gravel, local nurseries, and any other landscaping materials can offer useful information choosing plants and irrigation equipment, stones or gravel that work best for your landscape type, and low-cost materials with high quality.
Achieving a landscape that’s both water conserving and beautiful is now possible with the right techniques and strategies. Water is a precious resource and it’s important that we all could do our part in taking its conservation seriously. Water-¬wise gardens take a bit more planning than ordinary landscapes, however, in the long run, you will see significant savings in labor costs, water bills, maintenance, and of course, water usage. There might be no shortcuts, but you’ll accomplish it with guaranteed results in the end as long as you stay on the right track. Just have a lot of patience – you’ll need it, lots of it and don’t forget to give your landscape a bit of tender, loving, care.