Monarch Butterfly Attracting Plants

Monarch Butterfly Attracting Plants include varieties which feed the adults and the caterpillars, the larval form of butterflies.  For any adult butterflies to be attracted to your garden, there must be food sources, water and shelter from wind and predators.  Masses or drifts of brightly colored flowering plants with large flower surfaces will encourage the greatest number of butterfly visitors to linger in your gardens.

Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on species of Asclepias, cocaterpillar on milkweedmmonly known as milkweed.  The adults feed on the nectar of the plants and also lay their eggs on the stems.  The eggs hatch into caterpillars and the eating begins!  Milkweeds are vigorous growers once established, so the foliage will regrow after the caterpillars are done munching.

There are many varieties of perennial milkweed.  Below are four that are hardy in our  Prescott area:

Horsetail milkweedAsclepias subverticillata, Horsetail Milkweed

Asclepias speciosa, Showy milkweedShowy milkweed for monarch caterpillars

 

 

 

antelope horn milkweedAsclepias asperula, Antelope Horn Milkweed

Asclepias tuberosa, Butterfly Weed

Monarch butterfly attracting plants

 

 

 

 

While many brightly colored flowering plants will attract mature butterflies, a few species are especially favored.

Ericameria nauseosus, commonly known as Rubber Rabbit Brush, is the preferred nectar plant for mature Monarchs according to Cathy and Bob Gessner, representatives of SW Monarch Watch in the Prescott AZ area.

Rabbit brush for mature monarch butterflies

This plant is a drought tolerant, sun-loving evergreen shrub in the sunflower family.  It has silvery-green foliage and prolific yellow blooms in late summer and fall.  Native to the western US, it is slowly becoming known for its low maintenance and long blooming habit.

Buddleia davidii, appropriately known as Butterfly bush, is another butterfly magnet more commonly found in area gardens.  These are large dense, drought tolerant, long blooming shrubs covered with large flower spikes throughout the summer.  Different cultivars, or varieties, offer purple, red, pink, and yellow blossoms, all attractive to mature butterflies as a source of nectar.

Butterfly magnet butterfly bush

butterfly bushes attract butterflies

 

 

 

 

 

If attracting Monarch Butterflies to your garden is your goal, then these are the plants to incorporate in your garden.

Contact us to learn where you can purchase and how to plant Monarch Butterfly Attracting Plants.

Vegetable Companion Planting

Vegetable Companion Planting is the subject of many books and articles. According to Louise Riotte in her book Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Vegetable Companion PlantingCompanion Planting for Successful Gardening, “Plants that assist each other to grow well, plants that repel insects, even plants that repel other plants — all are of great practical use.  They always have been, but we are just beginning to understand why.”

The challenges of vegetable gardening in the greater Prescott area are many, from water to weather to soil composition.  So, we choose to utilize all potentially beneficial techniques even if not scientifically proven.  And, we recognize this is a departure from our commitment to offer science-based information.  As Louise Riotte indicates, this is part magic, part mystery and based on empirical findings.

We have created a chart which summarizes companion planting suggestions for many popular vegetables from Carrots Love Tomatoes for your reference.

COMPANION PLANTING FOR VEGETABLES

summarized from Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte

Vegetable Good Companions Avoid
Asparagus Basil, parsley
Beans Carrots, beets, corn Onions, sunflowers
Bush Beans Cucumbers
Beets Onions, lettuce, dill
Cabbage, Brussel sprouts, kale Aromatic plants such as dill, onions Tomatoes, pole beans
Carrots Onions, tomatoes
Corn Peas, beans, cucumbers, squash, pumpkin, marigold, sunflowers
Cucumbers Beans, peas, radishes, sunflowers No aromatic herbs
Eggplant Green beans
Fennel NONE Not in vegie gardens!
Lettuce Cucumbers, carrots, radishes
Onion Beets, tomato, lettuce Peas, beans
Parsley Carrot, tomatoes, roses
Pea Carrots, radishes, cucumber, corn, beans Onions
Peppers Basil
Pumpkins Corn
Radish Beet, spinach, carrots, cucumbers, squash, pole beans
Squash Radishes, nasturtiums
Tomato Basil, chives, onion, parsley, marigold, nasturtium, carrot Brassicas, corn

PLANNING FOR SUCCESSFUL VEGETABLE GARDENING

Additionally, remember that you want to attract diverse pollinators to your garden. Planting a variety of flowering plants with varying bloom colors, blossom sizes, blossom shapes, and bloom season will attract the most pollinators to your garden.  Add water and shelter and you will have a habitat that encourages these beneficial critters.

We hope you find this information helpful in making your vegetable gardening experience a joyful one.  Contact us to learn more about Vegetable Companion Planting

Prescott Area Vegetable Gardening

Prescott Area Vegetable Gardening is a joy and a challenge given our spring Prescott Area Vegetable Gardeningdrought, variable weather temperatures, soil conditions, and alkaline water. Consider techniques noted below to address these challenges for bountiful produce!

Our climate pattern is one of precipitation in the winter and summer, and drought in the spring and fall.  So, at a time when seeds and vegetable starts need ample water, Mother Nature does not help.  Supplemental water must be provided regularly to assure the plants get off to a good start.  The summer monsoons do help, yet rainfall must be at least .25″ to count as a watering cycle.  Put a rain gauge in your garden to determine rainfall amounts.

Our day and night time temperatures fluctuate significantlyPrescott Area Vegetable Gardening during the late spring.  It is not uncommon to have freezing or near freezing temperatures and even snow during May.  Typically Mother’s Day is the earliest gardeners can reliably plant tender annuals and perennials, though protection from the elements is still strongly encouraged.  I pay attention to local weather forecasts and use walls-of-water to protect against low temperatures and the winds typical of our spring.

Our soils provide another challenge to successful vegetable gardening.  In general, vegetable plants prefer a soil with neutral pH which allows the roots to utilize the nutrients and elements found in the soil.  Our soil is markedly alkaline and this makes nutrients and elements unavailable for use by the plants.  The regular addition of organic matter in the form of well composted compost, manures, seed meals, and liquid acidifiers slowly moves the soil pH toward neutral.

Our soils also are poor in both nitrogen and phosphorous, requiring supplementation of each on a regular basis.  Amendments which help with alkalinity also help to provide nitrogen and to feed the soil organisms responsible for healthy plant growth. Phosphorous must be added, preferably in the root zone, in the early spring for most effective uptake by vegetable plants.  The alkalinity of our soils hinders phosphorous uptake, so be generous in your application.  We recommend the use of triple phosphate as bone meal takes significantly longer to break down to become available to the plants.

Our Prescott area water is all from underground aquifers.  Since it travels through our alkaline granitic soils, it too becomes alkaline in nature.  So, every time you water you move the chemical composition back toward alkalinity! Therefore, the addition of organic matter to counter this trend must be an ongoing process.  Harvesting rain water for use on your vegetable garden is helpful too, as rainwater is neutral in pH.

Contact us for more information about Prescott Area Vegetable Gardening.

Intrepid Gardener Garden Musings

Intrepid Gardener Garden Musings is Lesley’s personal thoughts on her garden adjacent to her Prescott home.  Mary Ann will share her musings about her garden at her Prescott Valley home too in another post.

intrepid gardener garden musingsOne of my favorite things to do in the late afternoon and early evening is to sit on my deck with my cat to unwind and simply observe the garden.  While all seems still and quiet at first, it quickly becomes clear that there is a riot of activity going on with bees, butterflies, hover flies, bumble bees, dragon flies, humming birds swooping in, and lizards scurrying about.

Outside my 5′ welded wire fence are cottontails and the occasional jack rabbit,  javelina, rarely squirrels or chipmunks, and periodically a resident roadrunner. Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks streak through regularly in hopes of a meal near the bird feeder, yet they are typically thwarted by the lack of sufficiently clear fly way.

To say it is a joy to behold is an understatement!  I love the wildness of the garden, both in terms of structure, variety of plants, and animal habitat.  In fact, my garden is a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation as it provides food, water, cover and places to raise young.  This certification reminds me daily that everything is connected and that caring for the garden and its inhabitants promotes and protects those wonderful connections.

And, since I grow vegetables in plots throughoutIntrepid Gardeners Garden my native Prescott garden, I have incorporated a diversity of flowering plants that attract a wide variety of pollinators to assure abundant crops.  There are penstemons and Hesperaloe parviflora (Red Yucca) to attract hummingbirds. Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower), Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan), and Buddleia davidii (Butterfly bush) attract butterflies.  Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence’ is a bee magnet.

My garden reflects me and my style.  May you create a garden that reflects you!

Contact us to share your Intrepid Gardener Garden Musings!

Rain Water Harvesting Benefits

Rain water harvesting benefits plants and is an effective way to help your garden grow!  Rain water is neutral in nature, helping to counter the alkalinity of our soils and groundwater.  Our prior post discusses how alkalinity negatively influences the ability of plants to use minerals and organics in the soil.  You can refresh your memory here.

This sustainable practice also respects our ground water as a finite resource.  Ground water is being used more rapidly by our citizens than it is being replaced, or “recharged”, into the aquifers.  It is estimated that 70% of our water use is for landscape use.

How does one harvest rainwater?

  1. It can be collected from your roof via gutters that direct the water into containers known as cisterns.  These can be above or below ground.  Above ground cisterns are typically equipped with a connector for a hose for hand watering.  Pumps can be connected to underground or above ground tanks to effectively move water into a drip irrigation system.
  2. Water can be slowed down and directed to specific plants by the creation of raised berms.  Using berms helps prevent rapid runoff and allows water to percolate into the soil for uptake by plant roots.  Berms allow you to direct water toward planting areas rather than losing it from your property.
  3. Drainages can be reconfigured to maximize percolation and minimize runoff.  Drainage channels should meander across the slope of your property rather than parallel to it.  Why? To slow water down!
  4. Check dams can be used to slow water down in natural or man made drainages.  Small boulders can be placed in drainage channels in a semi-circle facing upstream for this purpose.
  5. Water can be directed toward planting areas by lowered channels or “swales” which meander through your landscape.  Used in conjunction with berms, lowered channels encourage water to flow where it is needed.

Rain Water Harvesting Benefits

Contact us to learn more about rain water harvesting benefits!

Prescott Area Gardens Watering Tips

Prescott Area Gardens Watering Tips offer ideas for your most efficient use of water in our gardens and landscapes.  Without going deeply into the WHY of each of these recommendations, we will suggest ways to maximize the benefit of our most precious resource.

  1.  Water slowly.  Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon, so filling large basins with many gallons at a time compacts the soil.  This diminishes the air pockets vital to root and microbe growth.
  2. Use drip irrigation.  Typically water soaks slowly into our soils, requiring repeated small applications of water whenever watering by hand in order for the water to penetrate into the plant’s root zone.  You may think you have watered sufficiently only to discover that moisture has not gone more than 1/2″ deep!  Drip irrigation bypasses this challenge and allow you to know how much you are watering by the number and gallons per minute of emitters.
  3. Water deeply and less frequently to create and improve drought tolerance. Prescott Area Gardens Watering Tips In doing so, you encourage the roots to grow deep and wide in search of water.  Frequent watering encourages the roots to stay near the surface waiting for their next dose of moisture.  This practice actually makes plants thirstier!
  4. Water at the drip line of trees and large shrubs.  As woody plants mature, the fine root hairs that efficiently absorb water are found further and further from the trunk.  It is necessary to move drip emitters away from the trunk to the drip line, the area bordering the leaf canopy.  Also, additional emitters must be added to accommodate the increase in root mass.
  5. Give supplemental water during our dry spring and fall seasons to your favorite native plants and trees not served by irrigation.  The use of a soaker hose along the drip line of larger trees will provide the needed water to minimize seasonal drought stress.

Contact us to learn more Prescott Area Gardens Watering Tips

Improving Prescott AZ Area Soils

Improving Prescott AZ area soils is critical to the health of your garden unless you are only using well adapted native plants.  In our prior post, we talked a bit about soil and how its texture and structure supports plant growth.  With this knowledge in hand, you can positively impact how the plants in your garden grow and produce fruits, whether flowers, fruit or vegetables.

If you wish a greater diversity of plants beyond plants native to your area there are distinct actions you can take to improve the health of your soil include:

  • Maintain the aeration of soil
    • Create pathways in high traffic areas to avoid soil compaction
    • Use drip irrigation rather than filling plant basins with gallons of water at a time.  Water weight more than 8 pounds per gallon and will compact the soil if too much is added at once.
    • Till or work the soil to loosen compacted areas
    • Incorporate amendments to improve the soil
  • Improve fertility
    • Correct for alkalinity so that plants can better use the nutrients already within the soil.  The addition of organic matter, elemental sulfur, and liquid acidifier moves the soil pH toward neutral.
    • Add organic materials to the soil:
      •  Compost
      • Well rotted manure:  use it sparingly as it is high in salts
      • Plant legumes to fix nitrogen in the soil for future annual planting
      • Use the right fertilizers at the right time in the right form
    • Notice how water percolates into your soil, then:improving Prescott AZ area soils
      • Amend with organic material  and course sand, small cinders or gravel to improve heavy clay soils
      • Add organic matter to help hold moisture in sandy soils which drain too quickly
      • Break up caliche or create “chimneys” which penetrate through caliche layers to allow adequate water drainage
    • Add soil or use raised beds if the topsoil layer is too shallow for good root growth or drainage is poor
    • Feed the diverse microbial communities in the soil. Microorganisms and organic mater help to protect soil structure and keep it in clumps or “aggregates” which allow air and water to move through it more easily.
      • For annuals use nitrogen rich amendments and mulches
      • For perennials, trees and shrubs use carbon rich amendments and mulches
    • Select soils best for your intended use:   recognize the difference between potting soil vs planting mix

Contact us learn more about improving Prescott AZ area soils.

 

Prescott AZ Area Soils

Prescott AZ Area Soils can be a challenge to the dedicated gardener who wishes to grow a wide variety of perennial and annual plants.  Native plants tend to be well-adapted to our soils, other plants not so.

Soil is the top layer of the earth’s surface where plants grow.  It is made up of minerals, varying sizes of rock particle (clay, silt and sand), decaying organic matter, air and water.

Soil is a living organism and, like us humans, needs air, water and food to thrive.   It is teaming with microbes.  Microscopic organisms such as bacteria and fungi help to break down organic materials and make them available to plant roots.

Think of soil as mother earth’s medium for plant growth!  Soil serves to:

  1. Hold and maintain water and nutrients for plant uptake
  2. Provide structural support for plant roots
  3. Provide essential mineral macronutrients to plants such as nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sodium as well as a host of micronutrients

The composition of soil creates texture and structure which may facilitate plant growth or make it a challenge for area gardeners.  Prescott AZ Area Soils

  • Frequently our soil layers or “horizons” are shallow, if they exist at all.   In many areas there is bedrock quite close to the surface.
  • Clay, the smallest of soil particles, is common in many Prescott areas.  It clumps so tightly together that it drains poorly and holds little oxygen or organic matter.
  • It’s not uncommon to have caliche, an impermeable cement-like layer of soil held together with lime, just beneath our topsoil.  It prevents movement of air and water through the soil.
  • Our soils are alkaline in nature, making the nutrients and minerals therein unavailable for use by many non-native plants.
  • There is little organic matter in our soil which helps to hold water and make it available for use by plants.

An understanding of these challenges will help area gardeners to create a plan of action to remedy them!  Look for our next post for suggestions.

Contact us to learn more about Prescott AZ area soils.

Consider Water Wise Landscaping

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Utilize a moisture meter to determine and schedule frequency of watering.
  4. Measure your rainfall and the water content of snows.  If more than .25″ ofConsider water wise landscaping 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

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 alkalinityPrescott AZ area gardening challenges alkaline soil and water.  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.