How Does the Garden Grow?

Eco-friendly, hopefully—but only if you take care to conserve water, use native plants and keep it organic

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David Winger

Xeriscaping, a term that means "dry landscaping".

Gardens may be green—but they're not always eco-friendly. American lawns and gardens drink up H2O at alarming rates, especially in the dry West, where more than 50% of residential water is used for landscaping. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides can damage the land as well. But xeriscaping (pronounced zeer-i-skay-ping), a term that means "dry landscaping," is becoming increasingly popular. "We're getting the message that homeowners aren't interested in environmentally irresponsible things," says Joel Lerner, founder of Maryland-based landscaping firm Environmental Design. Here's how you can have a garden that's green—in both senses of the word.

HOW TO GREEN YOUR GARDEN

Xeriscaping done right is sustainable and attractive, but accomplishing it requires a few additional steps

1. Ration your turf

Grass takes water, so think about limiting your lawn to areas that really need it and covering heavily trafficked spots with decks or walkways. Pick a water-efficient grass too

2. Mulch away

Mulching—spreading material like wood chips or stone around plants—helps reduce evaporation, essential in xeriscaping

3. Count your drips

Even xeriscaped gardens need irrigation, especially in their early stages, but rarely as much as you think. Use a drip emitter, which supplies moisture more efficiently

4. Anoint your soil

Try adding 3 in. to 5 in. (8 cm to 13 cm) of organic material—like compost—to the top of your soil, then till it as deeply as possible to support growth