If your yard is like most, trying to keep it green means you're using up a lot of water. Large lawns and traditional landscapes require regular plenty of irrigation and quite a bit of maintenance. Whether you're living in a water-restricted area or just want to help the planet, creating a drought-tolerant landscape can be an excellent idea.

Xeriscaping is a landscaping style that minimizes water use and maintenance. You do this by using plants well-adapted to the natural growing conditions in your area. Contrary to popular belief, xeriscaping doesn't mean getting rid of all your lawn grass or making your yard look like a dessert (though it can if you want to). In fact, you can use xeriscape techniques to create a lush, thriving, low-maintenance landscape. Here's how to get started.

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Make A Plan

Start out by taking a look at what you have to work with. Make a sketch of your yard with the locations of permanent structures, existing landscape beds, lawn areas, trees, and shrubs. Make note of how much water different parts of the yard use. If your lawn is the biggest water-user, consider cutting down on the size of the lawn and/or planting a more drought-tolerant grass species. Or if you're constantly watering exotic garden plants, maybe it's time to replace them with a species that doesn't need as much water.

Re-doing an entire yard and replacing all the plants is a costly and time-consuming endeavor. You might want to xeriscape the yard in stages over several years, focusing on one area at a time. If you have questions about how to go about planning a xeriscape, local landscape architects, designers, nurserymen, and county Extension agents are an excellent resource.

Choose Plants

Which plants you put in your landscape will make a huge difference in how much water you use. For lawns, Bermuda grass, buffalo grass, and zoysia have the best drought tolerance of the grasses commonly grown in Texas. Buffalograss is the most drought tolerant, but it also produces a thin turf and has low shade tolerance. Bermudagrass is thick-growing, but doesn't do well in shade. Zoysia grows slowly, but has good drought and shade tolerance.

Focus on filling the landscape beds with native plants. They're naturally adapted to your area and most have lower water demands, fewer pest problems, and need less fertilizer than most non-natives. Texas is blessed with such an abundance of beautiful plants well-adapted to the area that we can't cover them all in this article. Check out the links below for more info:

Smart Maintenance

Before you start planting in landscape beds, spread 4 to 6 inches of organic material such as shredded pine bark, peat, composted manure, and/or rice hulls over the landscape beds and then work it into the soil. This will help the soil retain water. After planting, use mulch on all the landscape beds and around trees and shrubs in the yard. Mulch reduces weed growth, slows water evaporation from the soil, and helps keep plant roots cool. If you use organic mulches like compost or wood chips, you'll also be improving the soil as the much decomposes.

Xeriscapes cut back on the need for water, but the plants do still need moisture to live. You'll want to have an efficient watering system in place for times when there's no rain and the lawn or landscape starts to wilt. The key is to water deeply and infrequently, making sure the water soaks into the soil. Be sure to mow the lawn grass high and fertilizer only twice a year to cut back on the grass' water needs.

Richardson Saw carries all the tools you'll need to xeriscape. We've got edgers and trimmers to define your landscape beds, maneuverable lawnmowers that work well for smaller lawns, hedge trimmers to keep native shrubs from taking over the rest of the landscape, and much more. Just stop by to see our selection and talk with one of our equipment experts. We'll be happy to help you find exactly what you need.