Students learn xeriscaping on-line

Helena Rodriguez

People who want to learn to xeriscape their lawns for themselves may want to head to the electronics store instead of the garden store.
An on-line class at Eastern New Mexico University this fall will permit participants to learn to xeriscape by simply going to Netscape or other Internet programs. Students can earn two credits in agriculture for the class.
This is the first time ENMU has offered a xeriscaping class on-line, said Dann Brown, as associate professor of agriculture at the university, who will teach the class.
“Xeriscaping 101: An Introduction to Water-Wise Landscaping for New Mexico” will provide an in-depth introduction to the history, principles, applications and benefits of xeriscaping. Each week, Brown will post instructional information, including a lot of photographs, along with homework assignments, on a Web site. Students will retrieve the information, then e-mail their homework to Brown.
“Xeriscaping means ‘dry landscaping,’” said Brown. “When people hear ‘xeriscaping,’ a lot of them feel it is not going to be nice looking, that it will be plain or ugly. I’m going to introduce it so people realize how beautiful it can be.”
Xeriscaping is a landscaping style that is specifically designed with the idea of minimal water use and low maintenance. In addition to the use of rocks, mulch and desert plants, xeriscaping makes use of flowers that will blossom in the hot and dry periods, unlike turf landscaping, which is dependent on lower temperatures and more humidity in a climate.
Brown said he can handle up to 50 students in the class. The class’ first session will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Technology Building, Room 104, at ENMU, but those interested have until Friday to register and need only have a computer or access to a computer with Internet and e-mail capabilities. All other class sessions will be held on the Internet, except for the last session, which also will be held in Room 104, on Dec. 4.
Brown said the class is not the result of recent discussions about area water shortages. However, xeriscaping is a technique that will certainly help people deal with the current water shortages and any future ones, he said.
Horticulturist David Salman states on the High Country Gardens Web site that it would be too chancy for people with traditional grass yards that are drought-stricken to try and replace everything. He suggests using small areas of xeriscaping plants. This is just one example of the many xeriscaping options Brown will introduce to the class.
Among the topics to be discussed in the class are xeriscape planning and design, effective irrigation strategies, conserving moisture at the soil surface, selection of water-wise plant materials and maintenance strategies.
“If you do xeriscaping right, it will reduce the amount of maintenance you have to do,” Brown said.
In addition to saving on water, xeriscaping usually requires less use of pesticides and fertilizer than conventional landscapes, he said.
Brown said he hopes participants will apply what they learn in class to their own landscaping and that they will use plants they didn’t consider using in the past.