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Xeriscape: More Than Just Water Conservation

By Eileen Price, Colorado Master GardenerSM, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County

During the heat and drought of summer, a lot of gardeners feel motivated to change their landscape to a water-saving xeriscape.

Though the motivation may not be so great now, this is the time to plan for that change.

Saving water, however, isn't the only reason to renovate the landscape. Other reasons include reducing storm-water run off, preventing erosion and decreasing the effects of soil expansion, one of which is cracked pavements.

Urban storm-water run off

Note the location and extent of slope on your property. Even a moderate slope invites run off, especially if soil is not held in place with appropriate plantings.

Mulches and plants, including those that require little water, allow moisture time to percolate into the soil, thus reducing run off.

Mulches also suppress the growth of weeds, which reduces the use of herbicides. Additionally, mulches protect shallow-rooted plants from frost heaving and winter injury.

Soil swelling

Soil-caused cracking of foundations and pavement in expansive bentonite soils often can be prevented through xeriscaping. Because a xeriscape requires little irrigation water, there's less chance of soil swelling and contracting.

Ground-water pollution

Ground-water pollution occurs when chemicals move from surface water to lower depths. The potential for chemical pollution of groundwater can be reduced by amending and cultivating the soil, thus increasing its water-holding capacity. Cultivation also prevents soil crusting and enhances the potential for root development and plant growth.

Protecting urban environments requires simple and cost- effective measures to combat and in some cases reverse the impacts of urban pollution. Xeriscape is the urban equivalent of the soil conservation programs farmers have been urged to use for decades.

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010