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When I first created my A-Z Challenge word list for this year, I was at a loss for an “x” word, so I plugged “examine” into the list, in hopes of discovering a better one later. And a couple of days ago, in the midst of the many water war conversations on talk radio, “xeriscaping” jumped out at me. According to Wikipedia, “xeriscaping” is “landscaping or gardening that reduces or eliminates the use of supplemental irrigation”.

And even though one of our most popular talk radio hosts insists on calling it “zeroscaping”, “xeriscaping” is the correct word. The concept is simple (from the Greek) “xeri” is “dry”, and “scaping” basically means “planting”. And in the midst of our ongoing drought conditions, xeriscaping seems to me to be the environmentally and morally appropriate way to garden right now. Obviously some common sense is needed here; don’t use cacti and other spiny plants in high traffic or recreational areas; there is no point (pun accidental, I promise) in putting young children in harm’s way.

Don’t get me wrong — I love lush green grass — but acres and acres of green swale are not only unfashionable, but are a slap in the face to the ordinary, water-conserving citizen gardener. We can still have grass, just in smaller quantities as an accent or an activity space, not stretching green as far as the eye can see. Herb gardens are a wonderful alternative, and once established, will thrive on very little water. The Mediterranean herbs — rosemary, lavendar, thyme, sage, etc. — do well with dry conditions, and they fill the air with wonderful fragrances if you “pet” them as you walk by the garden. My backyard planter now holds zucchini, yellow squash, thyme, rosemary, mint and so on…right next to two types of heirloom tomatoes and a bell pepper. And while I will have to water them briefly every few days, the resulting fresh veggies will be wonderful, and worth the trade-off.

How are you helping to conserve water this summer? Let me know in the comments.

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