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WHAT’S BLOOMIN’

Gardening column: A Xeriscape garden thrives in drought

Friday, July 27, 2012 - 12:01 am

It's raining as I write this, and, between raindrops, I took a stroll around the garden and yard to enjoy how green and happy everything is becoming.

The question is, will this rain continue? Or will we go back to hot and dry?

It might be a good idea to think about turning some of those regular flowerbeds into Xeriscape gardens (this is the ultimate in sustainable gardening).

You don't have to live in the desert to enjoy gardening this way — in fact, they are a very attractive and thrifty way to garden anywhere and in any climate.

I made a small Xeriscape garden, bordering the area with concrete edging stones. I chose hens 'n' chicks and low-growing sedum with fragrant asylum (white and purple) and used as mulch small river rock (pebbles). It always looks nice and the mulch keeps the soil underneath moist and cool. Occasionally, a weed has to be pulled. The only other thing I've had to do was add more rocks from time to time.

During our drought, that small garden has taken the least amount of water to maintain.

Below I've restated some benefits and added a few how-to tips:

•Xeriscape gardens use 50 percent less water than other types of planting beds.

•You can eliminate most of your grass by installing a rock garden or Japanese-type garden design.

•Choose a site in full sun, one that drains well and is a bit on the dry side.

•You can make cactus soil mixture by combining coarse sand (builders) and sphagnum peat moss in compost (about 1/3 of each). It is suggested that you add bone meal to the mix, but if you have a dog, the dog will dig in it. To avoid the problem, mix slow-release fertilizer through the soil when prepping the bed.

•Succulents of all types tend to be perfect for this type of garden as they hold moisture in their fleshy leaves and stems, and most have shallow roots.

•Here are plants that are hardy in our zone 5-6 gardens: A variety of prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp), fern-leaf peonies, sedum (Autumn Joy will give your beds a southwestern look), hens 'n' chicks, wild ginger (this is a great plant but prefers some shade) and certain ornamental grasses.

Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to jaf701@frontier.com. You also can read her What’s Bloomin’ blog at news-sentinel.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.