Xeriscape is lush and colorful, it can include
rock and cactus, but in a climate like San Antonio we have a
large pallette of plants from which to choose. Xeriscape requires
less maintenance than a traditional landscape and, of course,
less water, at least 50% and usually 75% less. You will have
more time to enjoy your landscape and spend less money on water.
Even if you do not convert your whole yard to xeriscape immediately,
you can save water and have a better yard if you adopt the xeriscape
principles include good planning, incorporating organic material
into the soil, reducing turf area, watering efficiently, and
a xeriscape involves figuring out what your family wants from
the yard. Is it a playground for the children? Is it a place
to relax and enjoy the area birds? Is it the place that you
get exercise and spend considerable time gardening? One of the
best ways to plan a xeriscape is to obtain the Xeriscape Conversion
Guide from your favorite nursery or by mail from the Bexar County
Master Gardeners. Send a check for $7.40 (includes postage)
to Xeriscape Conversion Guide, 3355 Cherry Ridge Dr., Suite
208, San Antonio, TX 78230. The guide will walk you through
the planning process step by step plus has a great plant list.
are lots of native and other well-adapted plants that will perform
acceptably in your xeriscape with only the native soil, but
all plants benefit with organic material, and lawns should not
even be planted unless there is six inches of soil including
two inches of compost.
material (compost) incorporated into a planting area will make
the plant stronger and make more water available to the root
is fine as long as it is needed, but if you are going to try
and keep it green in the summertime it requires lots of water.
Most people also like their grass to have a manicured look.
That is where the huge amount of labor required for a lawn-dominated
landscape comes in. Mowing the lawn is an every-week thing.
If you replace lawn with groundcovers (dwarf Ruellia, Asiatic
jasmine, English ivy, monkey grass, Texas Gold columbine, etc.)
or pervious hardscape, less water and less labor is required.
selecting grasses choose from zoysia, Bermuda or buffalo when
you can. All three grasses can go dormant when there is a shortage
of water. When the rains return, the grass greens up just like
there never was a drought. St. Augustine does not have the same
capability. It will fight the good fight, but when it browns
in the summer it is dying. If St. Augustine is your favorite
grass and you insist on using it, seek out Floratam; the variety
seems to have the most drought tolerance.
you have a huge lawn now and want to reduce its size, use products
like Round-up® or Finale® to kill the grass. Plant groundcovers
or blooming perennials (iris, daylilies, allium, salvia, lantana,
Turks cap, shrimp plant and others) right into the killed
sod. The sod acts as a mulch.
is an insulating layer of material, usually organic, that reduces
evaporation from the soil, reduces weeds, and keeps the soil
cool. Plants grow better and use less water with mulch. A four-inch
layer of shredded brush applied over the roots of a newly planted
tree will increase the growth rate greatly. Even leaves make
good mulch. Instead of bagging your live oak leaves, place them
as mulch around your shrubs, flowers and vegetables. Shredded
brush mulch is available free of charge to San Antonio residents
at the City of San Antonio Brush Management Site located at
1800 Bitters Road. You have to load it yourself but the material
is excellent. For more information call the City Solid Waste
Department at 522-8831
is a huge list of excellent xeriscape plants including those
I have listed so far in this article. Also consider old-fashioned
roses, Texas mountain laurel, hollies, nandina, Texas red oak,
cedar elm, desert willow, live oak, lantana, redbud, Monterrey
oak, Mexican plum, firebush, esperanza, and poinciana.
easiest way to save water is to water effectively. Follow the
ET recommendation for lawns. Call the ET hotline at 281-1478
for watering recommendations based on your grass type. ET recommendations
are based on the water that grass actually uses in relation
to weather. The rates were determined experimentally and tested
right here in San Antonio. Use drip irrigation for vegetable
gardens and flowerbeds. Drip systems are easy to construct and
put the water right on the root system. Your favorite nursery
or mulch supplier has drip irrigation kits.
trees and shrubs do not need supplemental watering except in
the driest months when one deep watering per month will be plenty.
more information on xeriscape and other water conservation ideas
contact SAWS at 704-7527 or the Bexar County Master Gardeners
at 467-6575. SAWS has a Watersaver Landscape Rebate Program
available to customers who convert their traditional landscape
to xeriscape or who select a xeriscape for their new home.
Customers can receive up to a $500 rebate towards their
water bill ($.10 per sq. ft. if less than 50% turf, $.05 per
sq. ft. if over 50% turf).