By Marilyn Loser: 2012 February 15
I have a lawn, shade trees, and an inviting garden with gorgeous flowers – AND, I xeriscape! In the last column I outlined the tenets of xeriscaping (water-efficient landscaping). In this column, I will describe how I apply the 7 principles in my own yard. I am stepping out of my usual, trees-only context, and will discuss the entire garden. [To view images of our yard, please visit AlamosaFlowers.net and click on the ‘Our Garden’ tab.]
Our yard is fairly large and originally had a mixture of sand and clay. Over the years we’ve brought in tons of top soil and compost. This may be more than you need! When starting a new flower bed, I suggest amending the top 18 inches of soil. Depending on the state of your earth, mix in top soil, compost, and/or soil enhancers.
We no longer buy soil by the ton. Last year we purchased some bags of top soil and compost from Boy Scout Troop 307. Also, I ‘sort-of’ make my own compost. I pitch vegetable kitchen waste and plant waste in a bin; then, we chip and shred it each year. I’m also a fan of Happy Frog soil conditioner.
I tend to check the soil in my flower beds every year. Most beds have a mixture of perennials, annuals and shrubs. There are a few trees also. Before sowing seeds I dig the soil to loosen it and mix in a combination of ingredients. Some wildflower seed packets say to only scratch the surface of the ground before sowing seeds. Their reasoning is that digging encourages weed seeds to sprout. However, I think seeds in my yard can’t get a good root-hold unless the soil is loose.
When I add a new perennial, I amend the soil around it. When I plant a shrub or tree, I only back fill with the soil I took out. I also top dress with soil conditioner to several feet beyond the shrub or tree hole.
When planting trees, people often make a hose loop around a tree. At first, they install a couple of emitters. As the tree grows, more emitters can be added further away from the trunk and the original holes plugged. Remember, trees need to be watered to the edge of the canopy and beyond.
The next Alamosa Trees/Flowers column will discuss the remaining four xeriscaping principles.
“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” Gandhi