Water-Efficient Landscaping: 5 Small Changes for Big SavingsIn general, landscaping is mostly for aesthetic purposes. Plant some flowers here. Put in a brick patio there. Build a 10-foot by 10-foot deck off the house. Grow all the things!

The problem is our glorious backyard paradises use a ton of water. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average lawn in the U.S. uses nearly 10,000 gallons of water or more each year.

Water-efficient landscaping, or xeriscaping, if you’re feeling fancy, carefully plans out where plants, decks and patios are placed to maximize natural resources and native plants. It can also help lower your water bill.

There are a ton of easy things you can do to turn your yard into a water-efficient oasis. Plus, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Here are a few simple things to get you started.

Plan Appropriately

Just like traditional landscaping, you need to plan out what goes where. However, when you do so, you’ll also want to take a few more items into consideration:

  • Regional climate
  • Existing plants and grasses
  • Topography of your yard
  • Sun and shade spots
  • Soil condition
  • Water needs of the plants you plan to add

Take Care of Your Soil

Indeed, soil gets worn out. If your soil looks kind of gray and sandy, it’s time to hit the local greenhouse or your compost bin and replace it. A soil test, which you can pick up at your local garden center, can determine the quality of soil you have at home.

Rich, dark black soil is full of organic materials and contains tons of nutrients that help retain more moisture ­–­ meaning you’ll use less water.

Pick Native Plants

A core concept of xeriscaping is picking out native plants to enhance your garden. Jay Biernat, landscape architect with the Greening of Detroit, says, “Native plants can tend to be more water efficient because they are more used to the local hydro logic cycle.” In other words, having a large, grassy lawn in a desert-like area where grass is not native might not be the best choice.”

Bierat adds, “Natives are more beneficial and less invasive to the landscape than exotics and are more energy efficient when it comes to transport.”

Use Plenty of Mulch

Mulch serves a few different purposes in water-efficient landscaping plans. You can use it to create long winding paths or mulch beds that reduce the amount of grass in your yard. Covering garden beds with mulch also helps reduce evaporation – retaining more water for your thirsty plants. It also helps keep weeds at bay in garden beds.

Get Rid of Weeds

Weeds aren’t only unsightly, but they also hinder the plants you want to grow. Biernat notes, “Weeds drink much of the needed water in a garden and create competition.” Aside from mulch mentioned, landscaping fabric or recycled newspaper can keep weeds away.

Imagine how much money you could save by reducing the amount of water you use to keep your lawn lush and green. A little bit here and there not only helps the environment; it also helps you.

Need a little more incentive? Okay, fair enough. How about getting some cash back from your local government for making your landscaping water-efficient? Cities like Las Vegas offer a rebate of up to $1.50 per square foot of grass converted to xeriscape. Check with your city or county office to find out if your area offers rebates.

Landscaping is a great way to liven up the outdoor spaces around your home. Instead of just planting things all over the place, make sustainable choices and plan  a water-efficient landscape.

Do you have any experience with water-efficient landscaping? Share your experiences with other Zing readers in the comments section!

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