Xeriscaping is an excellent alternative to a traditional lawn and garden, especially in water-scarce Austin. This landscaping method uses drought-tolerant native and adaptive plants, which conserve water and reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides. While a xeriscape garden takes more planning and effort in the beginning, it requires less maintenance once it gets established.
Make sure that the site you choose for xeriscaping is free of obstructions, such as trees with wide root systems and building foundations.
Preparing the ground
Till the soil to a depth of 6 inches, then spread a two-inch layer of organic matter such as shredded pine bark, rice hulls, compost or manure on the turned surface. Re-till the soil and mixture then rake the area to a smooth bed.
Use vegetation that’s native or adapted to Texas. For example, if you decide on a lawn, use Buffalo and St. Augustine grasses. Also be sure to plant your garden according to plant spacing requirements. For example, autumn sage (a native Texas shrub) needs three to six feet of space.
Xeriscape plants require deep infrequent irrigation. Wait until the soil surface dries and the plants begin to wilt to hydrate them during the garden’s first season. During the fall and winter, water once a month, but only if those months are dry. In the second season, water only in case of a drought: established native plants thrive on normal rainfall alone. Use soaker hoses: these operate best two inches from the base of your plants. If you’ve planted grass, use a sprinkler instead.
Apply a three-inch layer of mulch to the uncultivated areas of your xeriscape garden. Use pine bark, wood chips or compost to reduce water evaporation and suppress weeds. Cover the soaker hose with the mulch material and replenish the layer as organic matter decomposes.