The Q&A Archives: Xeriscaping

Question: We want to xeriscape our front yard since the grass (lawn) is mostly dead anyway. We'd like suggestions on soils, plants, techniques (rock gardens, etc.) for our climate in western Nebraska which has extreme weather and temperature changes, but is generally very dry.

Answer: There's a great reference book called "Xeriscape Gardening: Water Conservation for the American Landscape" by Connie Ellefson, Tom Stephens, and Doug Welsh (Macmillan Publishing, New York, 1992). I highly recommend this as a valuable resourcefor all sorts of information, from soil preparation to choosing plants for your region, to maintaining the plantings.<br><br>For your region, some of the recommended plants are: Daylilies, Rudbeckia, Shasta daisies, Russian sage, Maximilian's sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani), Rosa 'Vonica', and yarrow. The book lists lots of others. <br><br>Two keys to maintaining a xeriscape planting are soil preparation and mulching. Incorporate as much organic matter as you can into your beds--compost, leaves, grass clippings, well-rotted manure, etc. Organic matter provides nutrients for plants and helps the soil retain moisture. An organic mulch like wood chips also helps conserve water.<br><br>Good luck! I think you'll enjoy your new "attitude"--planting more drought-tolerant plants rather than trying to maintain a green lawn. Some of the photos in this book are beautiful!<br><br>

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