Exploring the gospel principles of earth stewardship

Give Xeriscaping a Chance

Does being environmentally friendly mean that you have to have an ugly lawn? Most people think so, but this is not necessarily so.

Xeriscaping (prounounced like “zero-scaping”) is a grass-roots movement (pun intended) to landscape your home with plants that don’t require much additional water beyond the natural climate the house is in. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Wikipedia gives a little more in-depth information:

Xeriscaping and xerogardening refers to landscaping and gardening in ways that reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental water from irrigation. It is promoted in regions that do not have easily accessible, plentiful, or reliable supplies of fresh water, and is gaining acceptance in other areas as climate patterns shift. The word xeriscaping is a portmanteau of xeros (Greek for “dry”) and landscaping, and xeriscape is used for this style of garden. Xeriscaping refers to a method of landscape design that minimizes water use. … Plants whose natural requirements are appropriate to the local climate are emphasized, and care is taken to avoid losing water to evaporation and run-off. The specific plants used in xeriscaping depend upon the climate.

Unfortunately, when most people think about xeriscaping, they picture a yard with no grass, lot of rocks, and cactus plants. In other words: yuck.

An ugly yard can be emotionally draining because it makes you feel embarrassed imagining how your neighbors must hate your lawn. Even worse: it could bring down the resale value of your home.

But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. Xeriscaped lawns can actually be very beautiful–perhaps even more beautiful as a traditional lawn. And as proof, I’d like to offer these pictures of my neighbor’s xeriscaped lawn when I lived in Northern California. Her son who was a student of landscape design at UC Berkley designed her yard:

And these pictures don’t even do it any justice at all. Here’s a few close-ups of some of the individual plants in her yard:

Not only is xeriscaping beautiful, but it will save you money. Our neighbor told us that it costs her $3 a month to water her yard. (And this is with Bay Area prices!) In California there are also tax breaks for xeriscaped lawns.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get even better: xeriscaping will save you time. My neighbor told us that she spends 15 minutes a week to keep her yard looking nice like this. That’s not to bad considering the hour or so it takes to mow your lawn—not to mention how sweaty you get so that you have to shower after you’re done.

That’s the thing about environmentally-friendly practices like this. It’s not just about helping the earth. 9 times out of 10, you help yourself in the process.

  • Steve Brogan

    It is interesting to see how popular this technique is in Scotland.  Although it isn’t really done properly here – mostly paving stones and coloured gravel.  I think the key to proper execution is as quoted:

    “Plants whose natural requirements are appropriate to the local climate
    are emphasised, and care is taken to avoid losing water to evaporation
    and run-off.”

    In temperate/coastal climates, run-off can extraordinarily damaging as asphalted surfaces, roofs, etc… don’t allow infiltration.  Excess water ends up carrying away topsoil and nutrients which are then damaging to marine life.