The Greener Gardening Idea: Drip Irrigation or Xeriscaping?
Photo via erix! via Flickr CC
How Much Does It Cost to Switch?
The Cost to Switch to Drip Irrigation
Drip irrigation is really easy to install and far less expensive than a traditional sprinkler system. After spending some time planning your design and how to efficiently lay out your system, all you'll likely need is a pleasant day's worth of easy yard work and your system will be installed. Supplies are pretty basic, including drip line, drip heads, stakes, and a hole puncher (a specialized tool that, I have to say, I recommend purchasing despite the fact that it's specialized. Makes the job a lot easier). Most of the items come in kits, with extras purchasable separately as needed. Installing a drip system for a small garden can be as cheap as $50, and even large landscapes can be tackled for under $600, if designed effectively. http://www.uri.edu/ce/healthylandscapes/dripirrigation.htm
A great how-to video shows you some basic supplies and installation techniques so you can see how simple installing drip irrigation can be.
The Cost to Switch to a Xeriscape
Xeriscaping, or using drought tolerant plants for your landscaping, is more expensive and labor intensive than installing drip irrigation at the start, but could end up saving you in the long run if you utilize plants that need next to no watering once established. One thing to keep in mind is if you are part of a homeowner's association, you may come up against some resistance in switching over to new landscaping, especially if you're considering ditching the lawn, or even changing what variety of grass you use in your lawn. Some states are moving forward with regulations that take away the power of homeowners associations to say nay to drought tolerant plants, thank goodness.
Again, prices will vary depending on how big your yard is and what plant choices you make, but some estimates put changing out a lawn for drought tolerant plants at about $2 per square foot. A do-it-yourself project could be done in a couple weekends for under $2,000.
The best way to keep the cost down is to look on sites like Craigslist, Freecycle, and local gardening clubs to see if anyone is changing out their landscaping or thinning out their established plants. This is a great way to get your plants, and even mulch or DG, for free, and the installation costing just a bit of sweat and elbow grease.
Which is The Greener Solution for You?It's All In Your Yard In the case of drip irrigation versus xeriscaping, deciding which is greener comes down to some very personalized factors. The size of your yard, the amount of rainfall you get in your area, your current methods of saving water, and many more factors go into deciding what is the best method for you. If you already have a well-established yard that you love, drip is likely the way to go. If you're thinking about relandscaping anyway, then xeriscaping will be an ideal solution.
The Greenest Yard is A Combination of Drip Irrigation and Xeriscaping
You'll have to take into account the specifics of your yard when deciding which is the best water-saving landscaping method for you - drip or drought-tolerant. But The greenest will be a combination of the two. If you decide to change out your landscaping, the plants will need regular water for the first year, and then likely a couple times a year after they're established. The most effective way to get them that water is to install a drip system and follow water-savvy gardening techniques. No matter what, the cost of changing your landscaping will be quickly recovered by how much you save on water over the long run.
More on Saving Water in the Garden
9 Ways to Save Water in the Garden
Succulent Landscaping Plants Gain Popularity For Drought Tolerance and Fire Resistance
Xeriscape, the Art of Water Conserving Landscaping
Save Water With Drip Irrigation