Xeriscape Ideas

Don’t Kill that Tree!


    Star-Tip 1073

Gardening Tips for successful and beautiful Landscapes and Gardens



The term Xeriscape (zer-á-scape) is relatively new and derived from the Greek meaning dry, but the concept has actually been around a long time. When properly planned, Xeriscape is a cost-effective method of landscaping to conserve water. The SNWA offers rebates for converting from turf, and you may be thinking about a conversion. Let’s do a little planning.

Removing grass from your landscape doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice the entire lawn and give up its cooling effects. Target the non-functional or hard to maintain areas. Eliminate sections of turf that are without a purpose, or difficult to maintain. Converting even part of your lawn area can result in nice savings. With some planning, your yard can be even more attractive, and your trees can stay healthy.


Quite often too little thought is given to the future. Trees currently watered with the lawn will be deprived of this water. Though the watering provided for a lawn is shallow and not good for trees, it is a constant source of water. So, if there is an established tree in the lawn that will be converted to xeriscape it is going to experience trauma.


Also overlooked when doing a xeriscape, is the desire and ability to add plants later. At first you may only want a few plants. After a year or so, you might like to add a couple plants. Without planning ahead, there may be no easy access to irrigate new plants.


As with most projects; Good planning, brings good results.

Ask yourself a few questions.  § What do you want from your landscape?  § What limitations and what potential does it have?  § Are there vital roots to trees or shrubs to be preserved and irrigated?  § What will you need to hide or want to highlight?  §  Do you have children or pets that need turf areas to play on? §  Where are the sunny and shady spots?



Removing the old turf:

Once a tree is established in a lawn, removing turf can result in problems. Make sure your trees are healthy before you start! Trees become reliant on frequent turf watering. When grass is removed, the tree can become stressed, and vulnerable to insects and disease. Too often, much of the tree’s root system is torn out during the lawn removal process. Sod cutters do substantial damage to tree root systems and should be avoided in the root area.


If the turf is a cool season grass like fescue, the elimination process is simple. Apply a non-selective herbicide like Round Up® to the foliage. This will effectively kill the turf. The grass to be removed can be scalped away with a mower set to soil level.


Proper Irrigation Design

Having a dead tree removed from your property is very costly. So, how can we make sure that the established tree will be able to survive and thrive in the years ahead? 



A 2-gph drip will generally radiate water 2.5 feet in typical clay-sand soil if run for an hour. Each would cover about 20 sq. ft. A tree with a 20 ft. canopy could require as many as 16 drips. Soil type is critical towards an accurate determination of drip count required, but in no case will 2 drips, placed near the trunk be sufficient to keep the tree healthy. If you add plants around your newly exposed tree’s root system, and provide enough watering time, the drips that water these, will also water your tree.




If you decide on drip, you’ll need to determine how many emitters and where to place them. Another option for trees in Xeriscape is Netafim®, a soaker type tubing system, could be placed under the rock. Proper watering will develop deep roots and makes the plants drought tolerant. The feeder roots of a plant are typically within the top 10“ of the soil, and extend to the "dripline"; An area directly below the reach of its branches.



Now look to the future. Sketch your yard with existing structures, trees, shrubs and remaining grass areas. If you were to add some plants later, where might they be? You can easily run irrigation tubing to these areas now, and simply stub them off. This simple, easy and inexpensive step can save you so much work later. Running new irrigation under existing rock is not my idea of fun!


Plant selection and layout is next. Walk the Nursery and see which drought tolerant plants appeal to you. Make a list. Bring your list and your questions into Star Nursery and let our Certified Advisors help you build your dream. Then with a sketch of the plant lay out, our irrigation specialists can help you with the water system design.


A well designed Xeriscape is a beautiful and practical addition to your home. It will provide many years of low maintenance landscaping for you, and add high appeal to your neighborhood!












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