Before beginning your low-water use garden, take the following seven steps:

• Planning and Design

Planning and design require the skilled coordination of all seven Xeriscape principles. Organizing a garden for aesthetics, practicality and most of all, water efficiency, can be complicated and is easier with the assistance of a professional. Work with your landscape architect or designer to create a tropical, cottage, Mediterranean, or any style Xeriscape garden you desire.

• Practical Turf

Turf is the most water thirsty landscape component. Design lawn areas for practical purposes; play, maintenance access and light traffic. For some howeowners a front lawn is unnecessary and can be replaced with trees, shrubs, boulders and pathways or mulched areas.

• Efficient Irrigation

Many recent innovations in irrigation technology enable slow, steady and specific water application. Look for words such as “low gallonage” or “low application rate.” Consider drip systems for shrubs and trees and always locate turf on a separate valve.

• Soil Analysis

The addition of organic matter to the soil increases water retention and penetration. Get to know your soil and amend it prior to planting.

• Mulching

Two to three inches of mulch will keep soil cool, reduce evapotranspiration and weed growth. Mulch can be rocks, wood chips, bark, or shredded wood.

• Appropriate Plants

There is a place for every plant in a Xeriscape garden — when located correctly. Group plants according to their water and sun needs. This is called hydrozoning. There are many interesting and colorful low water use plants now available. Take advantage of these whenever possible!

• Ongoing Maintenance

Seasonal irrigation adjustments and efficiency checks are maintenance practices that save water. Organic fertilizers and composting will improve soil texture and maintain vigorous plant growth.

For more information or speakers on Xeriscaping, please call the San Diego County Xeriscape Council, Inc., at (619) 283-6000.

For Xeriscape literature, please call the Authority and (619) 682-4157.