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Arid climate garden tips for Australia from New Mexico

Last Updated Feb 21, 2017 · Written by Rob Schneider


New Mexico has a hot, dry arid climate similar to parts of Australia, with local approach to gardening something we can adopt for Australian gardens. Water is scarce in parts of New Mexico and city planners have encouraged homeowners to save water wherever possible. In 1981, an environmental planner coined a word for landscaping in an arid climate. Xeriscaping is derived from the Greek word "xeri," which means "dry."

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(New Mexico landscape)

Xeriscaping has become an artform in New Mexico. While many of the plants used in New Mexico are different, the principles of xeriscaping apply to Australian gardening as well as they do in New Mexico.

Xeriscaping in New Mexico and Australia

Xeriscaping is so important in a dry climate like New Mexico's, the Albuquerque Bernalillo Water Utility Authority published an exhaustive PDF about the principles of xeriscaping. The principles of xeriscaping are simple and can be applied to Australia as well as New Mexico:

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  • Collect rainwater: rainwater tanks of all shapes and sizes are available in Australia
  • Compost helps retain water and helps plants grow
  • Plant small lawns or don't have a lawn. Lawns require a great deal of water.
  • Choose native plants or plants that require little water
  • Water intelligently. Use misting sprinklers or drip irrigation systems to save water
  • Mulch your garden to help retain water

Wherever you live, you can find native plants that thrive in your environment. Many of these plants grow wild without someone to water them. With a little care, they can be a spectacular addition to your garden and require a minimum of water.

A compost heap can be an ideal way to add compost to your garden. You can make compost from vegetable scraps and leaves. Create Your Own Compost will get you started and also read Choosing the Right Compost Bin if you want to make compost in a bin.

Instead of planting a lawn, consider installing pavers to create an area in your garden for relaxing. Native trees can provide shade. Once established, the trees will need little or no water.

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If you want a lawn, consider installing artificial turf. Today's artificial turf looks like real lawn and comes in a variety of colours and heights. Artificial grass requires no watering and little maintenance.

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Using Native Plants and Low Water Plants

Australia has hundreds of species of native plants that require little watering. A landscaper can help you choose plants that thrive in your area and can help you plant them in an area they will thrive. Some like full sun while others like shade or partial shade. Finding the right location is important. If they are in a location they can thrive, they will require little maintenance and infrequent watering.

Your plants don't need to be native to your area. Most succulents thrive in Australian conditions. Succulents are low-maintenance and retain water. They need far less water than most plants and if you choose a variety of leaf shapes and colours, you can create a beautiful succulent garden or mix them with native plants.

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Drip irrigation leaves water where it's meant to be: in the soil. A drip irrigation system can be on top of the soil or even buried. Some systems come with water sensors. When the soil becomes dry, they will automatically turn on. If you don't want your drip irrigation system to be exposed, you can cover it with mulch or pebbles

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New Mexico and parts of Australia have much in common. Use xeriscaping in your garden and have a beautiful garden that requires little maintenance and water.

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