The cooler fall weather is an excellent time to plant trees and shrubs. Maintaining an eco-friendly yard by xeriscaping — landscaping in ways that don’t require supplemental irrigation — with native trees and shrubs is time- and cost-effective. This drought-tolerant landscape uses less water because two-thirds of the yard is trees and shrubs, which call for seasonal maintenance, while one-third is turf, which needs weekly to biweekly maintenance.
A xeriscape layout is divided into three zones. High water use is 10% of the landscape and closest to the home, moderate water use is 30%, and low water use is 60% and the farthest from the house. The layout also depicts microclimates that have different light intensities, sun exposure, wind conditions, drainage patterns and average temperatures. One area of your yard, such as a grass lawn receiving afternoon sun, can have a completely different microclimate than another area, such as the shrubbery next to your house that gets humidity and morning sunlight.
Overall, the main goal of creating a xeriscape layout is to see which water-usage zones and microclimate areas are best for your native plants. Replicating the plants’ natural habitat ensures little intervention besides the first few weeks of establishment, creates a safe haven for pollinators and wildlife, and makes it unnecessary to adjust the landscape as your plant grows.
Before adding plants, get a soil test done because one secret to having a healthy plant is having healthy soil. Testing can be done through your county extension office and should include tests for pH, primary nutrients and secondary nutrients. Once your soil has been amended, install and mulch your plants, then add irrigation.
There are two types of irrigation frequencies. Frequent, short irrigation for newly planted yards keeps the top 1-3 inches of soil moist, while deep, infrequent irrigation penetrates 10 inches or more and is better for established yards.
Pruning is essential for maintaining your landscape, and there are two kinds: thinning and shearing. Thinning follows the apical bud and cuts off the lateral branches. This technique ensures auxin — a hormone secreted from the apical bud — continues to stop lateral branches from growing, which prevents diseases by opening airways in the plant. Shearing cuts off the top of the plant and gets rid of the apical buds. This increases the probability of the plant contracting a disease by creating undergrowth in the plant.
Knowing when to prune your plants helps them create more blooms. A plant that blooms before May should be pruned after it flowers; if it blooms after May, prune it in late winter or early spring, before it flowers.
Xeriscaping with native trees and shrubs creates a beautiful, low-maintenance yard that saves time and money while also effortlessly supporting and attracting wildlife. Native plants, such as American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) and water oak (Quercus nigra), support a variety of wildlife.
Whether you achieve your xeriscape by planting a new shrub each year or everything at once, it can become your beautiful reality.
The Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County supports the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service and strives to improve the quality of life in our community by delivering research-based horticultural information, educational programs and projects.
– Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County is a part of the University of Georgia Extension.