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by Matthew Richardson
(Jacksonville, FL, US)

What are some of the materials, supplies, watering systems, well, any information you could supply to a college student who has the chance to start a xeric garden at University of North Florida would be appreciated.

Drought Smart Plants reply:

Matthew – what a great idea to start a xeric garden in your university – this will expose many young people to the idea, and hopefully give them the inspiration to spread the word.

First of all, some type of plan is essential. Will this be a demonstration garden, to display some of the best types of plants for your particular area?

If so, then you need to start with some idea of a size, and if you’ll get funding or help (volunteers, maybe) to build the hardscaping (patios, paving, retaining walls, seating, lighting etc.)

If you will need more funds, try and get local gardening clubs involved, and landscapers too. They’ll help with whatever you need if you can outline where you need assistance. There is also the possibility of grant money for things like this: sometimes universities have an endowment fund to help pay for this type of project.

For materials, many xeric gardens use a fair bit of hardscaping – paving blocks, bricks or other materials for wheelchair accessible pavements and walkways should be designed using widths to accommodate this.

Retaining walls can be built using some of the many concrete block products. Avoid using anything that will need constant upkeep, such as lumber. For a public area, avoid treated lumber due to the chemicals that will leach from it and possibly damage the plants.

If you know almost nothing about setting something like this up, your best option would be to combine forces with a landscaper who has knowledge in the area who might be willing to work for a cheaper rate and be a sponsor, getting some free advertising in the bargain.

For some ideas to get you started, look at the UnH2O Garden, a similar project in Kelowna.

Good luck with your project,