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A front yard xeriscape garden by Meadow Pro.

Inspiring Waterwise Yard Photos Debunk Myth That Xeriscaping Is “Zeroscaping”

Experts offer advice on getting started this spring. 

CLINTON (UT) April 16, 2024 -- High Country Gardens, pioneers in sustainable gardening and longtime advocates of water-wise plant solutions, have published a photo library of recent xeriscaped yard transformations. Xeriscaping, is a style of landscaping that reduces the need for irrigation. The collection of images provides evidence that xeriscaping is far from ‘zeroscaping’. Industry experts share solutions to top concerns when considering a water-saving, turf-reduction project.   

Top 5 Concerns About Turf Removal 

  1. Zero Landscaping: “Zeroscape implies that there are no plants and nothing but rock” shares Shaun Moser, Conservation Garden Park Manager and Localscapes Instructor. Alternatively, Ross Shrigley, Executive Director of Plant Select explains “xeriscaping results in fully planted landscapes, where all the plants touch. The plants are not supposed to be far apart, with lots of gravel in between”. Cynthia Bee, Sustainable Landscapes Expert at Utah Water Ways adds “one of the biggest challenges is ‘all or nothing’ thinking. It’s either the [traditional] landscape homeowners already have and know—or it’s nothing but rocks. The truth is, it’s replacing one landscaping style with another, more regionally appropriate yet still lush and inviting, landscaping style”. 
  2. Form and Functionality: “Concerns about the aesthetic appeal of turf replacement are common, but there are numerous beautiful features perfect for water-wise landscaping, such as pathways, patios, [and] natural play areas for kids” explains says Paige Payne, Founder of Online Landscape Design.  
  3. Upkeep and Effort: “Some homeowners worry that a water-wise garden will require a lot of maintenance, but with a well-thought-out plan and reasonable steps, it can actually be lower maintenance than a traditional grass lawn” says Payne.  
  4. The “right way” to remove turf: Shrigley notes that homeowners are uncertain about the pros and cons of “removing turf versus killing it and planting directly into dead turf”.  “Options including solarization, cardboard mulching, manual removal, or chemical treatments” says Ryan Harter, a Denver homeowner who recently converted his traditional lawn to a xersicaped yard.    
  5. Urban Heat Islands: Bee cites “pushback and concern about creating the ‘Urban Heat Island effect’” but reassures homeowners that “it’s plants that reduce the impact [of heat], not lawn which is just a specific plant”.  

Expert Advice For A Xeriscaped Yard

Ready to try a DIY turf removal project? The experts agree – start small. Starting with a manageable project is the key to your successful sustainable yard transformation. Bee recommends "pick a small space, like a park strip or side yard, and use that as a learning environment. Once you've got the hang of it, you'll be ready to convert a larger space." 

Payne agrees “beginning with a small corner of your yard can make the process feel more manageable. If it proves successful, you can gradually convert more sections of your yard in the following years... there's no rush; just keep moving forward. Any effort to reduce water usage is a step in the right direction”. 

Shrigley offers another perspective on starting small “plant perennials in the smallest sizes you can find available for the greatest success! It's easier, cheaper, and more fun to watch grow." 

Why Make the Switch? 

"Transforming your landscape by removing turf and embracing sustainable alternatives invites life into your home space, enhancing your experience and providing a sense of sanctuary" shares Curtis Manning, of Meadow Pro.   

Additionally, recent data from the National Integrated Drought Information System reveals that over 21 million people across the nation were impacted by drought as of the end of March 2024. A xersicaped approach to residential landscaping is a beautiful solution and cricital in times of water restrictions.  

As the signs of spring continue to emerge, Lauren Carvalho, High Country Gardens Horticulturalist, reminds us “there have never been so many lawn replacement options.  For those that wish to maintain a more traditional low growing look, check out water savvy grass alternatives, mixed micro clover, or durable flowering thyme. Remember, you don’t have to give up your entire lawn, reducing even a tiny portion can add big benefits.”   

To learn more, visit High Country Garden’s Waterwise Plants Learning Center