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Green acres: The art of xeriscaping

Xeriscaped gardens require considerably less water to flourish and they often have little to no need for fertilizers, pesticides, and mowing. This is a CAP cross-post.

The gardens that line your neighborhood street may be beautiful but chances are they have an ugly side that most people don’t see.

Most yards in suburban America have vast expanses of lawn decorated with plants and flowers from all over the world. This sort of landscaping looks pretty but requires considerable amounts of water to maintain. According to NASA, watering our lawns alone can take up to 238 gallons per person, per day. As the United States approaches the limits of its available freshwater supply, these thirsty gardens will become increasingly taxing on the environment and increasingly expensive for homeowners.

One solution to help address our water waste is “xeriscaping,” a landscaping philosophy focused on minimal resource usage. The term “xeriscaping” is a portmanteau of “xeros,” the Greek word for “dry,” and “landscaping.” Xeriscaped gardens require considerably less water to flourish and they often have little to no need for fertilizers, pesticides, and mowing.

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How do xeriscaped gardens achieve such levels of sustainability? At the most basic level, those practicing xeriscaping look to use only regionally appropriate plants””plants that are already well equipped to deal with the weather, precipitation, and pests common in the area in which they’re planted. These plants require much less care and resources from homeowners.

Plant choice is an important part of the equation but xeriscaping takes a very comprehensive approach towards creating sustainable gardens. If you’re interested in xeriscaping, here are a few steps you can take:

Use the right type of grass for your lawn. By identifying and planting grasses that are native to your region and properly acclimatized, you can significantly reduce the amount of water needed for your lawn.

Use native plants and flowers. As with native grasses, flowers native to your region will be much more adept at growing without lots of gardener intervention.

Create rock gardens. Incorporating rocks into your xeriscaping plan can not only reduce the amount of time, money, and natural resources needed to maintain your garden, but can also add interesting variety to your garden’s layout.

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Install drip irrigation. Depending on how much rainfall your home receives each year, you might have to water your plants. Choosing the right type of irrigation is an important way to cut down on water usage. Typical sprinklers are inefficient, as water can often evaporate before being absorbed into the soil. Instead, use drip irrigation, a system in which water is dispersed directly into the ground, decreasing waste and evaporation.

Spread mulch. Spreading a layer of mulch over your flowerbed is another great way to prevent excess water evaporation from your soil. Mulch serves as an organic layer that maintains soil aeration while keeping moisture in the ground, further reducing the amount of water needed to maintain your garden.

Keep in mind””xeriscaping doesn’t necessarily have a “look.” Rather, it is a landscaping perspective that can be used regardless of where you live. There may even be professional xeriscapers in your area who can provide guidance, supplies, and labor. However you choose to go about it, xeriscaping is a great way to not only reduce water waste but also have a great-looking garden in the process.

This is a Center for American Progress cross-post.