‘Zero-Scaping’ isn’t a Good Plan for Oklahoma Homes, Here’s Why
The summer of 2022 was the year that "new" feeling wore off as a homeowner. For years I dedicated so much of my time to maintaining a perfect and lush lawn, but as the brutally intense heat set in with the drought, I was looking for an alternative.
While I've always enjoyed having a nice lawn, I've never been the type to water it. I really don't mind the muted green color as long as I don't have to mow when it's 110°+ outside, but last year that dormancy turned into dead grass.
Seeing an opportunity for a fresh start, I thought zeroscaping/xeriscaping might be a solution, but it doesn't appear to be a smart move for Oklahoma. Here's why.
There's a large chance it'll run your electric bill up.
Like a majority of people, we're all looking for a one-and-done solution to most things in life. Landscaping is no different.
Kill the grass, lay down a barrier, top with rock, mix in a few drought-loving plants, and you're done. Odds are it'll look great for years to come, but there are consequences to every action.
As much as I hate mowing grass, properly watered lawns typically cool the air around a structure. As they release moisture, it has an evaporative/swamp-cooler kind of influence. If you surround your house with rock, it'll absorb all of that heat during the day and slowly release it overnight like a thermal battery.
The internet is full of horrible tales and experiences people had trying to xeriscape their homes. Water bills generally go down but electric bills tend to go up. With all the additional heat, your air conditioner has to run longer. While a rock landscape seems easy enough to do, it turns out there's a right and wrong way to do it.
Xeriscape doesn't equal zeroscape.
The more you look into xeriscaping, the more you'll see it's a mixture of landscaping elements. There's likely some rock and gravel, big and small pavers, and drought-hearty plants... but there are also trees, bushes, and ample amounts of mulch in most professionally designed plans.
I initially thought about pushing my flower beds an additional ten feet out into my lawn, but quickly ditched that line of thought because it's something that has to be redone every so often as it breaks down... that whole one-and-done mentality.
As it turns out, putting mulch around the house is a way better solution to attaining less lawn care. You'll still have to work in the yard a little bit to keep it looking nice and such, but it'll keep that moisture around your house. It'll also keep bugs around your house if you're not vigilant with the insecticide.
I'll spray the house but usually leave this task to the friendly and beneficial spiders and snakes that usually make their home around mine.
You'll need foliage too.
Trees are great for life and they're pretty great for reducing heat around your home too. Whether it's the evaporative effect or shading that radiant heat, they work.
Plants are a necessity too. They can totally be drought-hearty plants--bushes and grasses-- but a little green goes a long way. Most people envision cacti and yuccas, but there are so many other plants out there better suited for Oklahoma.
Can I still use rock?
Sure... but every expert would advise against using it close to the home or in big areas that receive a ton of sunlight. Also, toss in some plants that will offer ample amounts of shade to keep your rock from becoming practical magma.
I even looked into decomposed granite like they have all over the refuge... I couldn't find a definitive answer on it in my searches, but since my yard is on a slope anyway, it'd likely flow away and clog up the storm drain on my street anyway.
Like most things in life, moderation is the key to this too.