Tips for Gardening in the Prescott Area
1) Plant native plants or plants that are both cold hardy and water wise.
- Agastache (Licorice Mint)
- Aquilegia (Columbine)
- Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
- Datura (Jimson Weed)
- Dianthus (Carnations and Pinks)
- Echinacea (Purple Coneflower)
- Fallugia (Apache Plume)
- Gaillardia (Indian Blanket Flower)
- Helianthus (Sunflower)
- Hemerocallis (Daylilies)
- Knifophia (Red Hot Poker)
- Linaria (Flax)
- Narcissus (Daffodils)
- Rosemary (Cold Hardy Varieties such as Arp.)
- Salvia (Culinar Sage, and Flowering Sage)
- Solidago ( Goldenrod)
- Stachys (Lamb’s Ears)
- Verbascum (Mullien)
2) Concentrate on plants that are not desirable to wildlife: deer, javelina, rabbits, desert rats, pocket gophers, squirrels, or chipmunks. Plants whose foliage has a strong odor or plants with felted leaves will be avoided by these animals. High Country Gardens and Annies Annuals both have lists of deer-resistant plants. Foxgloves (digitalis), monkshook (aconite) and larkspurs (delphinium), can be critter resistant but they do need supplemental water and some light PM shade.
3) Water a plant well until it is established.
4) Understand how cold hardy a plant is. The hardier it is the earlier you will want to place it in the garden, so that it gets well established before hot weather. Some plants thrive in our mild winters, growing slowly in January through March, but developing good root systems then. Iris is a great example. So, too, the native scrub oak.
5) Many plants suffer more from repeated freezing and thawing than they do from a long, cold, steady winter. So sometimes you will need to buy plants that are perfectly at home in freeze/thaw weather, or redouble efforts to protect plants from coming out of dormancy too early in the spring season.
6) Don’t build a new garden without making provision for an irrigation system. We may not get three inches of rain from early February to early July and even well-established, fairly drought tolerant plants can be heavily stressed during the spring drought.
7) Feed the soil. Soil here gets warm and stays warm. In some senses that’s good; but it does cause the soil to burn organic material quickly and lose fertility. So you will want to apply mulch to soil regularly to keep soil flora healthy.
8) When you water, soak deeply.
9) Take advantage of runoff from driveways and roofs. Soil near rocks, pavements, and roofs will get more water from rain than other areas; and this can make a difference in the kind of plants that grow there.
10) Take advantage of spots with a little afternoon shade. The sun here is very bright; and a plant that would grow well in Connecticut in eight hours of direct sun might not need much more than five hours here. A little PM shade can keep the soil cool, reduce evaporation, and help a marginal plant survive. That said, plants that need full sun in the midwest or northeast may not bloom very well here if given much less than five or six hours of good sun.
11) Use containers to protect plants from animals. Vegetables and flowering plants with tasty foliage (roses, for example) can be killed as they leaf out by being browsed by small furry animals. Containers provide some protection.
12) Most bulbs – including crocus and tulips – are considered by javelina and raccoons to be tasty treats. The animals eagerly dig them up and eat them. Sometimes a container can protect them. On the other hand, javelina have been observed breaking ceramic pots to eat the roots of yucca plants within. So containers are not always foolproof.
13) Carefully consider protective cages and netting for plants loved by critters. This will include many rose cultivars and many vegetable garden favorites.
14) Work organic material into the soil before planting. Make compost or cultivate worms as an ongoing method of reinvigorating the soil with organic materials.
15) Bear in mind that there are a lot of plants that do well here in our fairly mild winters. Many knowledgeable gardeners consider winter to be prime gardening season for vegetable gardens. Cruciferous vegetables, especially, (kale, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and arugula) can be quite cold hardy.
16) Large daily temperature swings can cause problems. In higher elevation areas, cool summer nights can slow the growth of vegetables and flowering plants that need sustained high temperatures – tomatoes, for instance. In the alpine areas around Prescott, one might choose to plant short-season tomatoes. Those with fruits no larger than golf balls can be good bets. Or those bred to mature under cool conditions such as Stupice, Celebrity, or ones with “Mountain” in the name.
17) Don’t underestimate the power of the sun. I have seen empty black polyethylene plant pots literally melt in afternoon sunlight. I have boiled a few plants to death in dark colored pots at high summer. Functioning drainage holes would have helped, but dark pots can have special hazards for plants here, even when properly drained.
18) In designing a garden, remember to invite people to linger by providing lots of places to sit. Remember to provide some places with clear morning sun and some with good afternoon shade. In mountainous Arizona one has an unusually good capacity to change one’s comfort level by moving between shade and sun.
19) Remember to encourage people to explore by providing a lot of interconnected paths that disappear from view around a shrub or a bed.
20) Use foliage texture and color to add interest. Grayish greens can work especially well in dryish areas – especially since it’s a natural adaptation to dry climates. Burgundy foliage can look especially good with grayish greens.
21) Make repetitive use of design elements throughout: paving materials, wood or iron structures painted the same color. Make repetitive use of plants, too.
22) Embrace mystery and surprise, especially when trying to make a garden feel like a natural place.
23) Employ whimsey. A really good garden might make a person laugh.
24) Consider sound. Gurgling water, the sound of rustling foliage, or some sonorous wind chimes will intensify the sense that a garden is the right place to be.
25) Seek help when you fail. Seek validation when you succeed. Gardening can be humbling, and it can teach one some nurturing skills; for these reasons it can be good for the soul. That is sometimes why we seek the good company of gardening friends.
26) Invite friends. A good garden needs the attention of its gardener regularly; but it is also a treasured resource. Figure out how to get people to visit your garden. And if you need help with this, we know some people..
See also A Few Good Plants and Surviving Spring