Xeriscaping is a landscaping approach that focuses on water conservation by using alternative landscaping features such as rocks, gravel, perennials, and cacti to decorate lawns in areas where water scarcity is a problem. Additionally, xeriscaping can save water by creating more efficient water delivery pathways.
This article discusses the pros and cons of both xeriscaping and traditional lawns. For many areas, such as the Colorado landscape environment, traditional lawns aren’t an option.
Additionally, as the problem of water conservation continues to grow, xeriscaping and its effects are becoming more and more relevant for people everywhere, even areas seemingly unaffected by water scarcity.
What Is Xeriscaping?
Xeriscaping started in the 1970s. Landscape architects began to notice the glaring need in the west for alternative landscaping methods for areas without readily accessible water sources.
These landscape elements require little to no additional water for irrigation, creating an easily maintainable landscape capable of withstanding harsher weather conditions such as drought. The xeriscaping approach to landscaping uses perennial flowers, cacti, and stone features to accomplish its intended purpose.
How Does Xeriscaping Work?
Xeriscaping is different from traditional landscaping. Since lush plants and vibrant flowers require substantial amounts of water, xeriscaping seeks to avoid water use by incorporating elements that can survive without water, such as drought-resistant perennials or cacti.
In addition to plants, the overall landscape structure defines xeriscaping. The soil serves as a guide, determining whether the plants can retain and efficiently distribute water. Different materials and other design elements determine whether soils suit xeriscaping methods.
What Are the Advantages of Xeriscaping?
Using less water means you can’t grow as many plants, equating to less maintenance. In addition, you won’t have to trim, cultivate, or rotate landscape design elements as frequently as you would with a landscape that uses more water. Over time, this landscaping method also costs less money because your environment won’t require expensive fertilizers, and the elements used in xeriscaping are typically bug and disease-resistant.
Xeriscaping can also be more visually striking than traditional landscaping design. Because it incorporates different rock features, you can achieve more three-dimensional features. If you have a space that benefits from multi-leveled design elements, this can be very visually appealing.
What Are the Disadvantages of Xeriscaping?
Unfortunately, most of the design elements used in xeriscaping are rough, which can give your lawn a rugged look. In addition, many of the plants used may have sharp thorns and edges, making them difficult to handle. The ground itself is another potential drawback. Since it doesn’t get much rain, you need to substitute it with materials such as gravel, wood chips, and other chunky, harder materials. These materials ensure an efficient water flow, but they cost a little more upfront and can be a pain to transport and install.
Traditional Lawn Advantages and Disadvantages
We all recognize traditional lawns. They’re grassy, classic, and definitively American. But, while the lawn has a history that dates back to the time of the Greeks and Romans, the American lawn started in the 50s, and it has woven its influences throughout popular culture.
Most Americans dream of having a white picket fence and mowing their lawns once they hit 40. But, unfortunately, out west, that’s not practical or sustainable, and the more people who move out west, the less sustainable it becomes.
Regardless, traditional lawns have their perks and drawbacks.
Traditional Lawns Advantages
One of the most obvious advantages of traditional lawns is their full-functionality. It’s difficult for people to relax on a bed of rocks. With lawns, you can get a few camping chairs, stir up some lemonade, and have a pleasant gathering. If you want to play games, it’s perfectly feasible. Break out the corn hole and toss some bags.
Can you imagine trying to play badminton on a xeriscaping lawn? Someone is bound to take a trip to the emergency room. At the very least, someone will skin their knee. It’s possible someone breaks an ankle.
Because lawns are softer, they’re also more child-friendly, so if you want your Billy or Jane to enjoy the all-American childhood you always dreamed of for your kids, traditional lawns are the way to go.
For those who prefer vibrancy and that recognizable green we associate with lawns, there’s no substitute for the traditional lawn. Traditional lawns are also much cheaper to install. They require little planning, minimal labor, and low material costs. However, their maintenance costs are higher than xeriscaping.
Traditional Lawn Disadvantages
As previously mentioned, traditional lawns require more maintenance costs, with fertilizer driving that expense. They are cheaper to install, but from spring to fall, you need to focus on their health, or else they can become an eyesore. Aerating, fertilizing, and mowing is just the tip of the iceberg for lawn maintenance.
Traditional lawns also use more water than xeriscaping. For water-restricted areas, they may be prohibited. If you live in a dry climate, maintaining a traditional lawn might prove near impossible even if there aren’t restrictions. If you want a conventional lawn, you might have to sacrifice grass during seasonal transitions.
Conclusion- The Pros and Cons of Xeriscaping
Choosing whether xeriscaping fits your situation depends on where you live and what you prefer. For example, if you’ve always dreamed of having a traditional lawn, you might want to go out of your way with maintenance and water usage. However, if you live in an area where water is sparse, you should probably consider putting your desires aside for the greater good.
Both xeriscaping and traditional lawns have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s your decision whether one or the other fits better. But remember, your decision has an impact on your environment.