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What is xeriscaping and why would you want to do it to your yard?

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What is xeriscaping?

Generally speaking, it means designing a desert-style landscape that uses lots of native plants that do well in the desert and don’t need lots of water, according to the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association.

If you’ve chosen your plants correctly, you can also avoid excessive pruning. Just let those desert plants grow naturally, and it will save you money and back-breaking work.

Here are some more suggestions:

Planting desert plants means avoiding tropical plants

Some plants, like palms, can survive here, but might need heavy irrigation and fertilizing. Whenever you visit a nursery, read the tags carefully to find out the sun and shade requirements for the plants before you buy them. Ask as well about water requirements for your choices. Large trees generally need more water than groundcover-type plantings.

Plant several shade trees in your yard, preferably native species

In tree-shaded areas, the summer daytime air temperature can be up to six degrees cooler than in treeless areas, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Trees can help cool off your home. Many trees that do best in Southern and Central Arizona are our native mesquites and palo verdes that only grow to be about 30 feet tall. But some non-natives like ash, elm, pistache and oak also love the desert.

Do more drip irrigation and less water-sprinkling for the plants in your yard 

The Municipal Water Users Association recommends putting trees, shrubs, groundcovers and turf areas on different valves so you can time the various kinds of irrigation needed differently. Most plants need more water during their first year in the ground. After that, you can cut back on the water. Trees generally benefit from longer and slower irrigation that will give their roots deep watering in the desert.

Put gutters on your house to protect your home’s foundations and help irrigate your yard

Most homes in the desert are built without gutters due to our low rainfall, but having gutters definitely help you make better use of rainfall. When you install those gutters, you can run the water through downspouts toward planting areas that are away from the walls of your home to avoid having puddles of water that can often cause damage to foundations.

There’s an endless list of water-saving plants for you to investigate

• Texas mountain laurel: A colorful shrub that bears clusters of purple flowers and can tolerate temperatures as low as 5 degrees

• Desert willow: A very hardy, bushy-looking, low water-use tree that will bear white, pink or purple flowers

• Baja fairy duster: A hardy shrub that grows to about 5 feet tall; autumn sage, a perennial shrub-like salvia that grows to about 2 feet tall

• Lantana: Popular ground cover that can take some frost damage but usually bounces back

• Penstemon: A hardy perennial that flowers in spring and can take low temperatures and keep bouncing back

• Brittlebush: A low water use shrub that has yellow, daisy-like flowers

Rosie on the House

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