Professionals use 7 simple principles to create and maintain attractive, successful xeric landscapes:
1. Soil Analysis:
Before planting, have the soil in your yard analyzed to determine its pH (acidic/alkaline) factor or level. Albuquerque soil
is alkaline, most typically with readings ranging from pH 7.5 to pH 8.2 although even higher values are not unheard of. Next, determine your yard's soil composition. Soils in the Albuquerque area range from a mix of granite gravelly soil (foothills/NE Heights) to loam to clay soil in the valley, to a predominantly sandy soil on the west mesa. All types could
be present in your yard. Some of these soils will need amendment (improvement by the addition of organic materials
such as compost) to some degree, depending on the plants you choose for your landscape.
2. Planning and Design:
Whether redesigning an existing landscape or planning a new one, start with a plan and design. Create it yourself or have it done professionally. Evaluate the various climactic conditions (light, soil, exposure, temperature) in your yard to determine where different plants will thrive. Your xeric landscape can be installed in phases to save on initial costs.
When planning your landscape, consider keeping native vegetation already growing on your site.
3. Develop an Efficient Irrigation Plan:
Xeric plants, like all other plant material, will require varying water levels. Group plants with similar irrigation needs together. For example, separate more water-thrifty plants from turf grass and other plants that depend on heavy
irrigation. Design your irrigation system appropriately, and use the right irrigation system for the job. For example, as a general rule, sprinkler heads work best for lawns, and drip-tubing and other low-volume irrigation methods work best
for shrub beds and ground covers. In just about all instances, water thoroughly, not frequently. Match your watering to natural rainfall. For example, it is often not necessary to water at all during the monsoon season. Do not over water xeric plants as you will kill them with kindness.
4. Select Proper Plant Materials:
A xeric plant is one, that when placed in your landscape, will thrive without a lot of help. It can be a native plant or a climate adapted plant. Always consider the plant's growth rate; mature size; light, water and temperature needs; and salt tolerance when choosing its location in your landscape.
5. Include Practical Grass Area When Needed:
Grass areas, including high water use grasses, have a role in a xeric landscape and should be used where practical, such as play areas for children or pets, or in a swale to control erosion. Alternatives to high-water use grasses elsewhere in the xeric landscape are mulches, ground covers, beds of drought-tolerant plants, or any combination of these alternatives.
Mulch holds moisture in soil, reduces weed growth, slows erosion, protects against winter damage to plant crowns and roots, and beautifies. Mulch materials include, but are not limited to, shredded barks, pine needles, gravels and stones. Mulch should be several inches deep around shrubs, trees and in flower beds. Depending on the irrigation system in use, it may be necessary to remove the mulch from an area around a plant during heavy irrigation months in order for the water to reach plant roots most effectively. Many communities offer free mulch and compost through county or local waste management programs.
7. Proper Maintenance:
Xeriscapes are low maintenance but they are not maintenance free. Weed, prune, compost, mow, and irrigate as needed. Most xeric plants (particularly natives) demonstrate good pest resistance, but when necessary, pest controls can be used. When used, match the pest control to the problem, and always follow direction for your safety and the safety of others.
Adapted from guidelines provided by the City of Albuquerque.