The Environmental Resource Review - Creating the Prairie Xeriscape

The Environmental Resource
Reviewed by: Ewen Coxworth

Climate change may be modifying the way we garden on the prairies. The prairies have always had seasons of drought and other forms of extreme weather. Climate change may be requiring us to take more seriously the need to, first, conserve water by mulching and other water-conserving practices and secondly, chose plants which are more adapted to extremes of weather, including more frequent and more serious droughts. The good news is that there are ways to do this which also have a number of other (and enjoyable) benefits, as Sara Williams describes in the new edition of this important gardening book. Here is how she introduces the concept of xeriscaping a garden: Xeriscaping is an environmentally friendly approach to your yard and garden that leaves your piece of the world in as good or better shape than when you assumed stewardship. As well, a xeriscape yard frees you from much of the repetitive maintenance we have come to accept as normal in conventional landscaping. Instead of weeding, watering and mowing, you'll be able to spend quality time in your garden, doing whatever gives you pleasure: designing, planting or just enjoying your surroundings. The first section of the book describes in detail the various aspects of xeriscaping including designing for water conservation, improving soils, reducing lawn areas, employing efficient irrigation, mulching with various organic materials such as grass clippings and post peelings, and choosing appropriate plants which have drought resistance. Some of the benefits of xeriscaping are described as well. These include less watering, less weeding, less fertilizing, less pruning, less mowing, and fewer pesticides. The second section of the book describes the many species and varieties of trees, perennials, annuals, vines and bulbs with various degrees of drought resistance suitable for use in prairie gardens. The number of choices has increased greatly since the first edition was published, the new edition describes 397 species of plants, the older first edition listed only 200. Scattered throughout the book are all sorts of humorous asides and comments, which make the book fun to read. This updated addition of this classic book on xeriscaping for the prairies is a most valuable guide to gardening in our challenging climate. Read, enjoy, and apply its principles. I've started making some changes in our own yard since reading it.

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