Lawn and order

Save work and water with xeriscaping

Agave is an example of what may be grown using the principles of xersicape.

Agave is an example of what may be grown using the principles of xersicape.

Nevada doesn’t have a whole lot of water.

But Nevada has a whole lot of lawns that need a whole lot of water. That’s where xeriscaping comes in. Simply put, xeriscaping (pronounced zeer-a-scape-ing) is replacing grass and other water-loving plants with landscaping that requires less water to maintain.

Tim Scott, installation service manager for Reno Lawn and Landscape and for Signature Landscapes, explains that much water is lost in evaporation from overhead sprinklers. Drip sprinklers, which are used for shrubs and other vegetation besides grass, are more efficient because the water goes directly to the plant.

Xeriscaping can reduce water usage by 90 percent, Scott says.

But is that a good enough reason to replace a beautiful lawn with a bunch of rocks?

No, probably not.

Scott says the idea is to have “a happy mixture where you can reduce your lawn down but have some lawn. You can do a majority of it with xeriscape.”

There are benefits to having grass in your yard, Scott says. For one, grass produces oxygen. Oxygen is good. And grass absorbs heat, whereas rocks reflect it.

Nonetheless, there are regulatory and economic reasons to do at least some xeriscaping in your yard.

The Truckee Meadows Water Authority limits many residential areas to watering only twice a week—that is, if you are using an overhead sprinkler. If you plant trees, rose gardens, bushes, or some other kind of plant other than grass, you can use a drip system. Not only do drip systems work more efficiently, they also can be on seven days a week—and still use less water.

Unfortunately, drip systems don’t work on grass.

Xeriscaped yards require less maintenance than do traditional lawns, Scott says, making them great for elderly households and for those who just don’t have time to maintain their yards.

You may not want to go overboard with xeriscaping, though.

“Some people want to completely remove their lawn,” Scott says. “Plain rock and fabric is very ‘blah’… we try to intermix it with some plant material.”

This is where a bit of creativity comes in handy. Sure, a full lawn of grass looks better than a pile of rocks. But a bit of rock around the edges of your yard, a couple nice trees and rose bushes, then a small patch of grass might be more interesting than just a blur of green.

“A lot of people think xeriscape, they think desert-scape, and that it can’t be beautiful,” Scott says. “But it can be. There are hundreds of different varieties of rock.”

If you’re considering redoing your yard, xeriscaping comes with an added benefit. Scott says that after installation, customers can expect to spend $4-5 per square foot for grass. Overhead sprinklers require trenches to be dug, which is timely and expensive. A xeriscaped yard with vegetation and a drip sprinkler system, which lays on top of the ground, costs $2-3 per square foot.