In a 2003 survey of Colorado (Front Range) residents by the Green Industries of Colorado, 51 percent of those surveyed believed that water supply and drought is the most important issue facing Colorado. We don’t have the statistics, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this topic was of even greater concern on our side of the state.
Gardening is the second most popular activity in the United States, and it has been gaining in popularity over the past years. That’s “all good” as long as we learn to garden sustainably, especially when it comes to water use. I will call this water-wise or water-smart gardening.
Even though landscapes, lawns in particular, are liable for 27.5 percent to 70 percent of Colorado water used, landscapes are nonetheless tremendously valuable environmentally. I’m not a big fan of lawns – too boring for me – but research has shown that they are not as bad as we think. Dense plantings, especially lawns, can cool the air as much as 12° Celsius. They can purify groundwater and reduce dust and CO2 in the atmosphere. Lawns, shrubs and trees, properly placed, reduce home energy use. They also reduce erosion. Landscaping can also increase the value of one’s property up to 30 percent.
So, with this in mind, I would like to begin to develop the principle of water conservation in the garden. Let’s start with “xeriscaping” and it’s basic principles.
Xeriscape™ (pronounced “zeri-scape” not “zero-scape”) is a trademarked term and is a synthesis of the words xeric (Greek for “dry”) and landscaping. Xeriscaping is a method of gardening that touts “water conservation through creative landscaping” and began as a cooperative effort between Denver Water and Colorado Green industry professionals. The first of two original goals was to craft a display garden that would illustrate the beauty that can be had with proper selection and use of plants that require minimal water. (The first of these gardens is located at Denver Water.) The second goal was to disseminate this knowledge to a wider audience. Even though the idea of gardening with minimal water did not originate with this group in Denver, they gave it a name and an authority. After its inception in 1981, Xeriscape™ gardening quickly became a national model. Most states and even other countries have Xeriscape™ Programs. The Seven Principles of Xeriscaping are:
1. Plan ahead/design.
2. Include practical, but limit unnecessary, turf areas.
3. Select compatible plants.
4. Understand and improve the soil.
5. Apply appropriate mulch.
6. Irrigate efficiently.
7. Care for the garden.
I will continue this subject of the principles of water-wise gardening next week.