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Xeriscape: Efficient Irrigation

Proper Irrigation has perhaps the greatest potential to affect water savings than any other component of a Xeriscape.

Many irrigation options exist including drip lines, soaker hoses, and bubblers etc. Choose types that are most efficient for your plan. Always maintain your system on a regular basis for best performance.

There is a vast range of irrigation equipment available covering every possible need. Whatever choice you make there is one important fundamental: Your system must be operated efficiently. You can ensure this by being aware and exercising the following five points.

  1. Since the xeriscape garden is designed with hydro-zones the system should deliver water at different rates depending on the requirements of each zone. Always water the high use zones separately; if you have an automatic system be sure that the lawn has its own zone otherwise the other plants will be over-watered.
  2. Deep watering develops deep roots. Water less frequently for “harder” plants and allow the roots to follow the moisture down deep into the soil. Timer devices should be adjusted to shut water off once the required amount has been delivered.
  3. The watering needs of your Xeriscape will vary with daily weather conditions and with the season. Watering times and usage should vary through the season. With automatic systems, there should be a simple means of shutting it down during rainy periods. Respond to your plants needs, not your habits. Focus on how much water your lawn and plants really need. When temperatures are hot, plants need more water than when conditions are cool.
  4. Water at night or early morning reducing water lost through evaporation and wind drift.
  5. Run-off water is wasted and should be avoided. Adjust sprinklers to eliminate over-spray on roads, and paving. In planted areas use mulching and amend the topsoil with organic matter to improve water absorption.

On slopes, adjust the irrigation schedule; a series of repeated short irrigation cycles will allow the soil to absorb more water and there will be less chance of run-off waste.


Design and Installation Tips

Again, plants have different water needs. The irrigation system should also be designed to provide different amounts of water to be placed on different landscape areas. This is why it is so vital for the landscape design to include zoned irrigation. Plants that have similar water needs should be placed together. To meet those needs, the automatic sprinkler system or portable sprinkler should only distribute enough water to each area to meet the plants needs.

  1. Select sprinkler types (impulse, closed case rotors, spray heads, and bubblers) according to size and use of area.
  2. Space sprinkler heads for head to head coverage.
  3. Install sprinklers in corners first. Then install them around the perimeter and finally in the center as needed.
  4. Irrigate shrubs, trees and flower beds with drip systems whenever possible.
  5. Select sprinkler heads according to available pressure. If your static water pressure is less than 40 psi, use plastic heads rather than brass.

Proper irrigation is a very important factor in Xeriscape. Over 50% of the water that is used in the High desert area is used to water landscaped areas. By zoning plants with similar needs, designing a system to meet only the water needs and using simple watering tips, homeowners can often significantly reduce the amount of water they use, lowering their monthly costs.

Proceed to Step 6: Xeriscape Use of Mulches

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