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Cost-Effective, Low-Maintenance Landscaping

Updated On: April 27, 2013

Determine the budget-the maintenance standards and costs-acceptable to the family's needs. A low-maintenance plan, which is the goal of most homeowners, may be achieved to a large extent in the planning stage by careful attention to the layout of the site and the selection of plant species. A low-maintenance, cost-effective landscape may be achieved by adopting one or more of the following design elements.

  • Use turf effectively for function rather than appearance only. Turf is also known as Artificial or Synthetic Grass. Consider substituting ground covers or natural mulches.
  • Use pacing in heavily traveled areas to facilitate circulation.
  • Use brick, concrete, or redwood mow strips for flower beds and shrub borders.
  • Use fences or walls instead of clipped formal hedges for screening.
  • Design raised flower and vegetable beds for easy access and weed control.
  • Install a permanent, automated irrigation system in areas of low rainfall.
  • Limit the area of annual flower beds, which require recurring expense and work because of their growth habit. Use containerized plants and flowering trees and shrubs for color accents.
  • Be selective when choosing plant materials. Choose plants that require less work and are resistant to pests and diseases. Among the desired plants, some will require much less pruning, spraying, and watering than others but will be equally effective in providing color, shade, texture, privacy, or in meeting other design objectives.
  • Keep the design simple, unified in them, and functional.

What is Xeriscape?

Updated On: December 18, 2010

A registered trademark of the National Xeriscape Council, the term xeriscape may be defined as horticulture that emphasizes water conservation. Derived from the Greek word xeros, which means dry, xeriscape uses specific landscape design elements and management practices to achieve the goal of water conservation. Xeriscape may also encompass other goals, such as creating habitat, using native plants, responding to the local environment and using inspiration and materials from the regional landscape. Xeriscape does not preclude using high-water-use plant materials as design elements, but it limits their use in concert with the water conservation objective and stresses their relationship to the overall design.

Xeriscape makes good economic and ecological sense, considering California's limited water supply. About 25 to 30 percent of the water consumed in urban areas of the state is used for landscape irrigation. A property designed and installed xeriscape can reduce net energy consumption by providing shade in summer and allowing the sun to warm dwellings in winter. If properly executed, xeriscapes can be less costly but just as beautiful as traditional landscapes. Xeriscapes follow ten common principles:

  • Group plants according to their requirements for sun and water, for example, ferns with baby's tears and rockrose with rosemary.
  • Zone irrigation systems to match plant requirements. for example, shrubs may need water only once per week. Flowers may require water once per day. Separate irrigation lines can be programmed to meet differences in frequency and duration.
  • Adjust irrigation frequency and/or duration at least four times a year. Water-use rates in the landscape vary greatly from season to season. During winter months, no irrigation may be needed. many landscape areas are over irrigated, which encourages weed and disease problems, in addition to wasting water.
  • Design irrigation systems to emphasize uniformity, especially on turf areas. The delivery system is appropriate for the type of plant material being irrigated, with drip irrigation a practical alternative in many situations.
  • Use turf for function more than appearance. Other plant materials can substitute for turf where frequent foot traffic or play does not occur. If properly selected and managed, turf can be a water-thrifty plant material. Warm-season grasses are preferred in warmer areas of the state because they offer as much as 50 percent water savings during the growing season over cool-season grasses. However, many home owners in Southern California still choose cool-season grasses because they remain green year-round.
  • Use island of intensely managed and irrigated plantings for accent. A tasteful grouping of plants can make a strong statement with much less water than rambling shrubs or turf.
  • Use plants in climatic conditions to which they are well adapted. Mediterranean climate plants are suited to much of California. California natives may be used, but not all of them are drought tolerant. Xeriscape is not limited to natives, and plants requiring high moisture or humidity can be used in suitable micro-environments.
  • Include hardscape, design, elements, such as patios and decks, in the landscape design. They enhance the outdoor environment, require no water, and can provide additional color through the use of container plants
  • A good xeriscape is economical. Monthly water bills reflect the water savings that can result when water use is reduced. Appropriate xeriscape materials are available in the trade at no greater cost than plants that demand more water. Fewer pest problems may occur when plants adapted to the site are grown. Precise application of water limits weed growth and plant diseases. A good xeriscape combines function and beauty. Crushed gravel from the street to the front door is not California xeriscape. Variations in plant and landscape color, texture, and form are part of a professional xeriscape design.

The Main Factors that Influence your Landscaping Project

Updated On: June 1, 2010

Each landscaping job should be extremely efficient. Having said that, here are some things that you should take into account:

  • Materials - Available materials, methods of fabrication, and individual preferences.
  • Climate - The overall climate as well as microclimates on the site, and how they influence the choices of suitable planting materials, the design of the irrigation system, and hardscape features.
  • Family needs - The cultural needs, allergies to plants, individual desires, and expectation from outdoor living space if the people who will use the landscape.
  • Site Analysis - The nature of the site, its immediate surroundings, topographic and ecological conditions, and all natural and human-made objects now existing on the site or planned for the future.
  • Budget - Available resources of money and time.

The designer should ask the family that will use the landscape what they want and what they plan to do outdoors. The designer should understand the client's desires and needs, and determine what space, climate, materials, method of fabrication, and budget are available to accommodate these well-defined goals. A questionnaire is helpful. Analyze family activities and routines, and consider outdoor living, relaxing, entertaining, playing, gardening, and household servicing. Small children need open lawn for playing; gardeners need space for growing vegetables and flowers. Make allowances for future changes in the landscape. The original plan for a young family could include open areas in which children and pets can play. As the family reaches its middle years, more extensive and expensive plantings could be put in, and the children's play area could be converted into a lily pond or swimming pool.  Site analysis, climate, and budgetary constraints are such critical factors in landscape design. Be sure to refer to explanations above.