Consider Water Wise Landscaping when planning and installing your Prescott AZ area gardens and landscapes. Water is a limiting factor here as our water comes from underground aquifers fed by rainwater. We have been in a cycle of drought for over 20 years and recharge of our groundwater is lagging behind water use.
Typically 70% of homeowner’s water use is for landscape needs, so smart use of water can make a real difference.
What techniques can you use to use water wisely?
- Select native plants well adapted to xeric (very dry) conditions. Most natives are drought tolerant and adapted to our climate and rainfall patterns. However, you need to provide supplemental watering during our dry spring and fall, at least during the first year of planting.
- Use a well planned drip irrigation system which groups plants by water need on separate valves. Our soil accepts water very slowly, so drip irrigation is more effective than overhead watering. Also, water is very heavy, over 8 pounds per gallon! Filling basins with gallons of water compacts the soil, minimizing air pockets important for biological processes.
- Utilize a moisture meter to determine and schedule frequency of watering.
- Measure your rainfall and the water content of snows. If more than .25″ of moisture falls, that is considered a watering cycle. A rule of thumb is that 12″ of snow is equivalent to around 1″ of moisture. Turn off or adjust your irrigation timer accordingly. Check out Rainlog.org for a rain gauge and monitoring statistics for Arizona.
- Water deeply and less frequently to encourages roots to grow deeper into the soil, and thereby create better drought tolerance. Frequent watering of short duration causes roots to remain near the surface, creating a thirstier plant.
- Harvest rainwater for landscape use. It is estimated that only 2% of the water that falls ever makes it back to our aquifer. The remainder of the moisture is lost to evaporation and plant transpiration. You can check out our post on rainwater harvesting for more information.
Be proactive and consider water wise landscaping.
Prescott AZ area gardening challenges are many when creating landscapes and gardens. However, once main challenging factors are understood, it is not difficult to address them.
In this post I will discuss the greatest limiting factor and give you some solutions to minimize it in your garden: alkalinity.
Our soil and ground water is alkaline in nature with pH well above neutral. pH is a scientific measurement based on neutral being 7.0. Numbers above are alkaline and numbers below are acidic. As the chemical makeup of our soil and water moves away from neutral, soil organisms and plants are less able to utilize necessary elements within the soil. This is true whether there naturally or introduced as fertilizers and amendments.
Prescott AZ area gardener’s solutions to soil and water alkalinity:
Select native plants tolerant of and well-adapted to alkaline soils. Simply accept that many annuals and perennials will not thrive in alkaline soils. This is especially true for fruit trees, vegetables, annual flowers and container plants.
Collect rainwater for irrigation of plants which are less adapted to alkalinity. Rainwater is neutral in pH and in some areas slightly acidic due to air pollution. Rainwater helps to leach out some of the salts which hinder soil organisms and a plant’s use of elements in the soil, moving the soil pH ever so slightly toward neutral. I am sure you have all noticed how landscape plants perk up after a rain! This is why!
Acidify the soil and water by the introduction of organic matter and other acidic amendments. These move the pH toward neutral. Loosen your soil to encourage good drainage and then you can regularly add:
- Compost and small amounts of manures
- Soil sulfur: caution, there will be a slight rotten egg aroma!
- Liquid acidifiers: caution not to burn roots with too high a concentration!
- Acidic fertilizers and amendments such as cotton seed meal and ammonia-based fertilizers
- Mulch with pine needles, pine bark, and composted oak leaves
Contact us to learn more about alkalinity and other Prescott AZ Area gardening challenges.
Attracting Garden Pollinators is vital for both native plants and vegetable plots to increase flowering and fruiting. Pollinators visit the plants in your landscape, sharing pollen from plant to plant and aiding in the reproductive cycle.
In this post about attracting pollinators to your garden I will summarize information from pollinator.org and my own knowledge about the best way to attract pollinators to your garden, be they bees, butterflies, birds, flies, or moths. Future posts will suggest specific plants to attract your pollinators of choice here in the greater Prescott area.
As with all living organisms, pollinators need food sources, shelter, and water to survive in any habitat. Your garden habitat will be most attractive to pollinators if you consider:
- Food Sources should include nectar, pollen and host plants upon which larvae feed. Incorporating a wide variety of plants with differing bloom seasons, sizes, shapes, flower colors and flower structures helps to:
- Ensure food sources from early spring to late fall
- Attract and support the greatest variety of pollinators
- Ensure pollination efficiency
- Shelter should be available which provides protection from predators and the elements, and which offers nesting sites and materials.
- A natural canopy of trees, taller shrubs and perennials provide protection
- Dead snags and plants as well as leaf litter provide homes for many insects
- Bee boxes attract solitary bees
- Water should be available at different heights throughout the garden.
- Supply clean water at reliable intervals so pollinators develop the habit of returning to your garden habitat
- Provide shallow water containers with sloping sides or with pebbles or marbles which provide perching surfaces for pollinators preventing the drowning typical in deeper bird baths
- Provide shallow mud puddles or “muddles” for butterflies to safely land upon to extract moisture from the mud
For greatest positive impact on the pollinators you attract, eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides in your garden.
It’s easy and fun to enjoy Attracting Garden Pollinators!
Prepare now for new planting in your annual and perennial gardens in the greater Prescott area. Whether creating a new garden plot or preparing current spaces for future planting, you can get to work!
- If your garden soil is too hard or too wet to work, you can simply mulch areas with organic mulch. This will help by maintaining soil moisture and feeding soil organisms to assist in enriching the soil. Remember to use “green” mulches higher in nitrogen content such as compost, manure, and freshly cut green foliage for annual plantings. Use “brown” mulches high in carbon such as bark, wood chippings, and brown dry leaves for perennial plantings.
- If you will be growing plant starts from seeds, make sure to purchase your seeds now. Also, clean your seed starting supplies well to reduce the possibility of spreading disease. And, purchase seed starting medium or make your own. Start your annual plants 6-8 weeks prior to planting and place under grow lights or in a sunny south facing window.
- Repair any obvious above ground damage to your irrigation system. You should not turn on the system unless you are prepared to drain the lines afterward to prevent frost damage. And, you should already have removed irrigation timers attached to hose bibs and spigots. Leaving them attached prevents the water from draining out, leaving the hose bib and piping subject to freeze damage. Drain the timer, remove batteries and store in an above freezing environment. If your hose bib does not have anti-siphon capacity, insulate it with store bought or homemade insulation.
- Have insulating materials at the ready to extend your growing season. Row covers, walls-of-water, cold frames, cloches, greenhouses all serve to protect newly planted from frost damage.
Follow the AZ Garden Gals’ advice to prepare now for new planting!
Habitat gardens attract and sustain wildlife, insects, pollinators, birds, butterflies, and reptiles. Intentional use of native and well-adapted plants provide food, shelter, nest building materials and structures. And, the addition of water at different elevations within your garden is critical to attract and support a diversity of critters.
The concept of habit gardening also encourages sustainable practices which conserve water, improve the soil, control non-native or invasive species, and utilize organic methods.
Why plant for habitat creation? Here’s just a few reasons:
- For pure enjoyment of bounteous life in your garden!
- Reduced maintenance and expense associated with native plants.
- Flowering plants attract pollinators to help in pollinating your vegetables for increased yields.
- Plant foliage and flowers provides food sources for insects whose populations are dwindling, such as monarch butterflies, as open space which supports wild flowers is rapidly diminishing.
- Rebuild your soil for healthier plants.
- Reset your intention to live and garden in a sustainable fashion.
The National Wildlife Federation explains: “You can invite wildlife back to your own yard and neighborhood by planting a simple garden that provides habitat. Imagine your garden teeming with singing songbirds, colorful butterflies, flitting hummingbirds, and other small wildlife.” The NWF will certify your garden as a habitat garden if it meets minimum standards. A checklist for certification of your garden as a Habitat Garden can be found here.
While much of my property is undisturbed native vegetation, I created a fenced habitat garden where I also grow vegetables. I have plants which attract birds, bees, moths, and hummingbirds, song birds, jays, an occasional quail family, and lizards and the occasional snake. Rainwater collection provides water for non-native, thirstier plants. I use compost and drip irrigation and mulch to build the soil and conserve water. There are several bird baths and basins of water on the ground and on columns for drinking and bathing. A habitat garden brings life into your garden for everyone’s benefit.
Contact us to learn more about how habitat gardens attract and sustain wildlife.