How to have a pretty yard without breaking your back

Those wanting a groomed yard with less maintenance at a lower cost now have a solution.

The Colorado State University Extension Office is offering class-es on xeriscaping, a type of landscaping that requires less water and upkeep. Bill Ekstr-om, an extension agent in Rio Blanco County, is teaching the classes.

"We used to spend more time in our yards than we do today. Now, we entertain in them," he said. "People want pretty yards that take up less time."

The first class was Tues-day eve-ning, and Ekstrom covered the basics of xeriscaping. Two more classes will be on the next consecutive Tuesdays at the extension office, during which Ekstrom will go into more detail about the technique.

He aims to make the class personalized for the participants by helping them plan their yards and answering their questions.

In later meetings, he will show videos of homes with this style of landscaping in their yards.

Ekstrom said the easiest way to spot a home with a xeriscape yard is to look for one with more shrubs and rocks and less grass.

A traditional landscape, on the other hand, typically incorporates no rock, few trees and a lot of lawn.

Bill Green, who is taking the course, is excited about the meetings so he can get a clearer idea of how to finish off his property.

"I'm not seeing the big picture yet," he said.

"You can get some information and it all fits together a little better."

He's done some work on his home, but he realized Tuesday that he had made some mistakes.

"I guess you kind of live and learn on that stuff," Green said.

He's looking to save money on water and get a yard that he's proud of without too much work.

Beth DuBois is taking the classes to learn what plants will do well in Craig's environment and climate.

When she bought her first house here, the landscaping was done.

Now she's building a new house and wants to start from scratch.

Ekstrom intends to help her plan how to do that.

He has been involved in teaching master-gardener classes and during the past year has been the "horticulture by phone" ex-pert for Moffat County. He's been teaching xeriscaping techniques for 15 years.

He said the style of landscaping started big in Arizona and California, where only limited water supplies are available. Ekstrom sees xeriscaping taking off here as well.

"After five years of drought, it's becoming much more popular," he said.

He said landscaping was im--portant because it is what people see first when driving by or to a home.

"That's one of the quickest ways to add value to a home," he added.

Stair-step techniques and curved flower beds are two of the approaches that Ekstrom pushes the most. He urges homeowners to keep their yards in an informal style.

On Tuesday, Ekstrom will teach participants how to install sprinkler systems and which trees and plants are best for quick, sustained growth.

The cost of the xeriscaping course is $20 a household per class.

Call the extension office to register or for more information at 824-9180.

"If you missed the first class, don't feel left out," Ekstrom said.

"Come to the next meeting, and we'll catch you up."

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