Water wise gardening: Growing more with less

Xeriscaping

Have you ever seen a plant out in nature and thought to yourself, “Wow, I wish I could have that in my yard!”

Mountain mahogany in the wild, Great Basin National Park, Nevada 8May2017

Mountain mahogany in the wild

Mountain mahogany in landscape 13June2017

Gray rabbitbrush (transplant) and mountain mahogany in landscape

Well sometimes you can and if you include certain types of plants, you’ll benefit in several ways including:

  • Saving $$$ on your water bill.
  • Ensuring that your garden plantings survive and thrive.
  • Attracting wildlife.
  • Spending less time on maintenance.
California Quail near prickly poppy and green rabbitbrush 25may2017

California Quail near prickly poppy and green rabbitbrush

Water wise gardening, otherwise known as xeriscaping, incorporates plants that require less water. The plants can be native to the area or from other areas with similar environments. There are hundreds of these types of plants that can be incorporated into your garden.

Deciding what to plant 

You need to consider the environment where you live. I live at an elevation of 3,400 feet in an area that gets about 10 inches of precipitation per year. Water is a precious resource here.

Desert primrose in the wild, Fort Rock, Oregon 9June2017

Desert primrose in the wild

Desert primrose in landscape 29May2017

Desert primrose in landscape

When deciding what to plant, you can start by going to a local plant nursery.  You could also check out information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension System. Click here to find resources in your state. Local sources can tell you more about water requirements for different plants and what grows there, soil types and amendments, how to water efficiently, what mulches to use, and how to maintain your landscape.

Purple sage in the wild, Gray Butte, Oregon 15May2016

Purple sage in the wild

Purple sage in landscape 14June2017

Purple sage in landscape

Plan and design your landscape before you start purchasing plants. Consider establishing “zones” where plants have the same soil, light, and water requirements. Figure out what type of watering system you want to have. We use a drip irrigation system to target the plants with limited amounts of water. If you choose plants that grow well in your environment, they may require very little water once they are established.

Finding water wise plants

Find a source for getting plants that grow best in your area. I am very lucky to live near Wintercreek Restoration and Nursery, a nursery that specializes in native plants. I have also successfully transplanted drought tolerant native plants from other parts of my property. Some plants, like buckwheat, are more successful if raised from seed. Native plants may not need additional soil amendments when you plant them. Be sure to mulch around plants after planting them and do maintenance as needed.

Oregon sunshine "volunteers" in landscape 12June2017

Oregon sunshine “volunteers” in landscape

Oregon sunshine in landscape 12June2017

Oregon sunshine transplant in landscape

It can be a daunting task to get started with a water wise landscape design. You can hire a landscape designer or do it yourself. We have done it ourselves using local resources. I often buy plants that are small because they cost less. Last year my garden looked kind of pitiful. It takes time for the landscape to mature so I have to remind myself to be patient. This year, even after a heavy snowfall winter, the plants are much bigger so I am beginning to see their potential. Yay!

Beavertail cactus propagated from one leaf next to fringed sage 12June2017

Beavertail cactus propagated from one leaf next to fringed sage

5 thoughts on “Water wise gardening: Growing more with less

  1. It makes a lot of sense to use native plants 🙂 We’re also learning here in the Cape (South Africa) just how precious water is and in a drought stricken area and the effects of climate change the reality is very sobering. I enjoyed reading your post and hope your plants thrive against all odds.

    • Yes, it is good to use native plants if you can. We water our front yard plants every three days but hope to water them even less. I went to a wild flower show this weekend and bought a few more. ☺️

      Water is a precious resource here, where you live, and in many other parts of the world. I hope more people realize that and take action.

      • Lovely to read you’re investing in more wild flowers. I shall watch out to see if you post down the line as your garden establishes.
        Yep, our habits are going to have to change in learning how to conserve water.

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