Does a new Xeriscape need a Irrigation System?

dianscotJune 13, 2007

Hi, we are planning our 1/3 acre landscaping (90x150' lot, including house), and wish for it to be xeriscaped and mostly native plants. At least 85% of the plants we have chosen fall into the xeriscape category, the only exception is a couple patches of lawn for contrast. We have rainbarrels for catching roof run-off, and will hook up soaker hoses to these to water with.

Our landscape architect is NOT familiar with xeriscaping or native planting (but there were no professional alternatives in the city I live in- it is not very 'progressive'). I had to do most of the research for the landscape plans. My concern is that he has tried to convince my husband that we need to spend many MANY $1000's to install an irrigation system so that the plants can get established in the first few years. He has told us that it would take 'all day, every day or 2' to water these plants, for the first few years. Even after that, it will be 'often' that they need watering.

I think this is wasteful, both resource and money-wise. Our summer season is only 3-4 months maximum (our winters get to -30degrees!), and these are mostly evergreens that grow wild all around our province (state). The whole reason for xeriscaping is to reduce water use and save time as a bonus.

Can someone please comment?


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The best solution would be to use sub-surface ceramic pots. I am now coming up to my 8th year of using these pots, buried at the roots of the plant, and when carrying out periodical tests, I find them in perfect condition (I have noted a "nest" of roots attached to their surrounding surface).

Since the sub-surface pots are gravity feed, there is no need for regulators etc... and they are simple to install. I personally use a 30 gal. trash can (carefully hidden from view) that becomes the reservoir and periodically fill it by the old method - hose!

I make these pots in batch mode using a simple slip cast method. Partially glazed, fired and finally adding a rubber cork with a sealing compound then fitted with regular 1/4" tube fittings - should you want details please contact me.

I wish you you all the best in your new garden adventure.

Regards - Shaz

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 7:39PM
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Wow - just noticed this question is extremely old.

No, you do not need an expensive irrigation system for xeriscaping. It's only the first year you'll have to help get plants established, and what you'll do is water them more heavily for a few weeks, and then back off and water as needed, depending on how much rain you get. If there are trees, you could use those hollow tree rings you fill with water, or gallon jugs with a few holes punched in, or soaker hoses, or whatever temporary solution you want to use to slowly deliver water from your rain barrels or regular hoses.

Hope you won this battle, I mean, disagreement. :o>

    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 1:09AM
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Old question or not, laurabs, it's certainly germaine these days in our area! Your suggestions are great and I'll back 'em up.

My backyard was professionally landscaped in spring of '03, the front was done that fall - on the heels of the drought year of '02. I call it xerioscaped, but that term has broad meaning. There is no grass, just mostly native plants w/mulch and topographical sculpting; hardscaping, rain barrels and planned use of natural light/shade with attention to growth/sun angle changes w/the seasons. As luck would have it (and I won on this one!) the next few summers were normal rainfall and my watering was minimal.

After the fact, I did ask my 'garden elves' landscapers about underground irrigation - how much? Couldn't have afforded it, but was curious. Their reply was that while they would have installed it (and made $$$) had I insisted, they discouraged doing so. Reason: regular deep watering w/attention to need encourages much deeper rooting than the automatic 'teaser' sprinkling.

Now finishing up its 5th full year of growth, in an even more severe drought, it is evident how establishing plants from the start is the key. I do have some 'needy' plantings, but they are few and far between.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2007 at 3:44PM
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