Lawn Care Woes: Time to X-scape

Xeriscape Garden Party 2022 (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

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Tim Van Schmidt | New SCENE


I have been pretty dutiful about mowing my lawn. If you look at yard work as exercise, then I have gotten a lot of exercise over the years.

But in the back of my mind, I have always wondered about the sanity of raising a lawn full of grass. You water it, mow it; water it, mow it. The key here is that you water it and mow it a lot.

Recent trends toward a lot hotter summer days make questioning my lawn choice even more poignant.

Curly Leaf Sea Kale (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

So, I think I’m ready to embark on a personal journey into the world of xeriscaping — the art of choosing plants, yard designs and strategies that thrive in rather than just endure the natural environment. With a lot less water.

There didn’t seem to be any better place to start than the recent Xeriscape Garden Party at the Fort Collins Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, located at 300 Laporte Avenue.

I was, quite honestly, a little overwhelmed by just how developed the xeriscaping movement is. There are City of Fort Collins programs, non-profit organizations and other groups eager to share. It’s a lot about native plants, “cross-pollinators”, innovative design work, and conservation — and it was all there at the Garden Party.

Fort Collins Xeriscape Demonstration Garden 2022 (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Perhaps the most informative piece of literature I picked up was a pamphlet titled “Low-Water Native Plants for Colorado Gardens: Front Range & Foothills”. It’s a joint publication by the Colorado Native Plant Society, CSU Extension Native Plant Master Program, and others and it’s jammed with introductory articles, a plant chart, and examples of actual designs, all area-specific. 

For a novice like me, however, the most concise breakdown of how to go xeriscape was the Demonstration Garden itself. A series of easy-to-read placards outline “The Seven Principles of Xeriscape” with real plant choices growing right before your eyes.

In a nutshell, here are the seven principles: plan and design; improve the soil; create practical turf areas; water efficiently; select appropriate plants; mulch plants; perform maintenance.

Sounds like a tall order but from what I saw at the Demonstration Garden — and in the attractive yards of neighbors who have already gone to xeriscaping — it’s doable and makes sense too. The Demonstration Garden lets you see the principles in action.

The best thing I got at the Xeriscape Garden Party, besides just a ton of information and resources, was a pair of work gloves.

That’s perhaps the real point of it all — it’s time to get to work on making a more sustainable yard.

For info about the City of Fort Collins Xeriscape Incentive Program, go to Upcoming: A free Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event at the City of Fort Collins Streets Facility on September 10. Info: