Xeriscape is defined as "creative landscaping for water and energy efficiency".  In urban areas of Texas, yard maintenance accounts for 40 to 60 percent of the water used annually.  Xeriscapes can be maintained with 25 to 40 percent less water - totalling up to an average savings of 26,000 gallons of water per home.

Xeriscape landscapes are not "Zero-scapes" or landscapes which are cactus and rock gardens.  They can be cool, green landscapes full of beautiful plants which are maintained with water-efficient practices.  Xeriscaping also reduces the need for fertilizers and pest control chemicals which can harm water quality.

There are seven basic principles to Xeriscape landscapes.  Developing a landscape plan is the first and most important step.  Sketch your yard showing the location of existing structures, trees, shrubs and grass areas.  Then consider your landscape budget, appearance, intended uses, maintenance and water requirements.  Implementing your plan can be done gradually over several years.

Because soils vary from site to site, test your soil before beginning or improving the landscape.  Contact the County Extension Service Office for more information on soil testing.

Select trees, shrubs and ground covers based on their adaptability to your soil and the region's climate.  Texas is blessed with a variety of beautiful native plants which are adapted to the area.  Most have lower water demands, fewer pest problems and lower fertilizer needs than exotic plants from other areas.

Practical turf areas can reduce maintenance and water use.  Select grasses according to the intended use of an area, planting location and maintenance requirements.

Much of the water applied to lawns and gardens is never absorbed by the plants.  Most lawns receive twice as much water as they need for a healthy appearance.  The key to watering lawns is to apply the water infrequently, yet thoroughly.  This creates a deep, well-rooted lawn that uses the water stored in the soil efficiently.

Use mulches wherever possible.  Mulches encourage water retention, reduce weed growth and prevent erosion.  Mulches can be organic materials such as pine bark, compost, woodchips and even lawn clippings.

Finally, water and fertilize plants only as needed.  Cutting grass only when it reaches two to three inches promotes the development of a deeper, more water efficient root system.  As a general rule, do not remove more than one-third of the leaf surface when mowing to reduce stress.  Mow St. Augustinegrass at 3 inches and Bermudagrass at 2 inches.

Xeriscape landscaping is one way you can make your yard more "Bay Friendly".  Even the Texas Legislature has recognized the benefits of and need for Xeriscape and passed a law requiring Xeriscape landscaping for all State buildings and road side parks.

This web site is maintained by Master Gardener Laura Bellmore, under the direction of William M. Johnson, Ph.D., County Extension Agent-Horticulture & Master Gardener Program Coordinator.

All digital photographs are the property of  the Galveston County Master Gardener Association, Inc. (GCMGA) 2002-2006 GCMGA - All Rights Reserved.