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Xeriscaping refers to gardening in such a way that our gardens thrive with little effort on our part, because we have chosen plants appropriate to the area. It does not necessarily mean that you do not need to water as often. By choosing plants with specific needs and grouping them together, different needs can be met.
Identifying a plant’s native home makes it easy to understand the needs of that plant. Many of our perennials are cultivars of plants growing on the prairies – what we call wildflowers. Think of asters, columbine, crocus, flax, golden rod, monarda, shooting star, viola, and yarrow. Shrubs such as potentilla, currant, dogwood, pussy willow and wild roses are well known and hardy here. If they survive the sunny, dry prairies, they will do well in similar growing conditions in your garden. What we see for sale are cultivars, meaning that they are hybridized and have some different attributes but they are still basically the same and will do well in similar growing conditions as they had before. They need little attention. Yes, you can grow plants that need more moisture, but if they are grouped together, it will be easier to satisfy them.
- Make the area where the the plants will be living as healthy and as low maintenance as is possible.
- Soil may need to be modified to hold enough moisture that plants will not suffer from drought, and still be sure that it isn’t so wet that there isn’t enough oxygen in the soil.
- Additives such as compost, either your own or purchased, or a Bone Meal like GroundsKeeper's Pride, will improve the quality of the soil and enable it to hold moisture and nutrients until the plants need it.
- Mulch to reduce weeds and retain water. Sea Soil is a very effective mulch, Beats Peat is also an excellent option, it absorbs and holds more water than peat moss and is produced from coconut husks, which are a much more renewable resource than the harvest of the peat bogs, making it a more environmentally friendly approach.
- Consider the amount of grass you have and whether it is there because you want it there, or simply by default. Perennials or a shrub or two would need much less care than a lawn does.
- Choose from the “native” plants available that are suitable for your planting area.
- Watering deeply and then waiting until the roots actually need water will result in deep roots that absorb water well and are healthier. Lawns and gardens are often watered far too often, encouraging shallow roots that do not do well in hot, dry weather.
This is a very simple overview but it does open the idea of using tough plants to make gardening simpler, so choose them wisely.