Why Plant Native

Some of our past blog articles have talked about native plants like Butterfly Milkweed. A couple of them have talked about invasive species that are found all over our area and have been here for a very long time like Queen Anne’s Lace. But we haven’t talked about why native plants are important. So why plant native?

Why Natives

Natives as a general rule of thumb are adapted to their environment.  This makes them more hardy to their particular climate conditions. honey bee on butterfly milkweed

PROS:

  • Less water
  • More tolerant to drought (if the area frequently has them)
  • Provide homes and food for native insects and animals
  • Don’t require as much fertilizer
  • Don’t require as many pesticides
  • Root systems are designed for the area’s geography, stabilizing rocky terrain or river banks for example.
  • Native plants have also developed to withstand their regions climate like wind and sun.

 

How Invasive Species Affect the Environment

 

Invasive plants have not had the time to adapt to their new conditions in some cases. In other situations non-native plants compete with the native plants and even effect the animals and insects. Queen Annes Flower

CONS:

  • Need more water
  • Need more fertilizer
  • Need pesticides
  • Take over native species, in essence choking them out
  • Take away nutrients from natives
  • Take sunlight from natives
  • Don’t provide sufficient food or shelter for native insects and animals
  • Do not have natural controls in place to control their expansion
  • Run rampant on uninhabited property

 

Yard Scenario 1

 

In a yard that just consists of a grass lawn and all non-native plants on average there maybe about a dozen native insects present.

 

Yard Scenario 2

In a yard with a grass lawn and all native tree, shrubs and flowers there should be hundreds of mostly all native insects.

 

Why Insects are Important

 

It is estimated that 97% of native insects are beneficial. They provide food for birds , bats , fish and other native animals. Spiders and other predatory insects keep fly and mosquito populations under control, along with a horde of other nuisance pests.

 

Native Plants and Animals Create a Sustainable Ecosystem

 

Incorporating just 20% – 30% of natives into your homes landscaping will encourage more native insects and birds to take up residency.     chickadee

 

A single pair of chickadees need up to 9,000 caterpillars to produce a clutch of eggs.

One native oak tree supports the caterpillars of 500 native moth and butterfly species. caterpillar-monarch

 

If we stop planting and encouraging native trees to grow on our property the caterpillars won’t be present for the chickadees to feed on in the quantity they need to breed.

 

We have turned 54% of the continental U.S. into a mixture of suburban and urban development, another 41% is being used for some sort of agricultural pursuit.  This leaves only about 5% undeveloped and still wild. With numbers like that our individual yards and landscaping choices can make a big difference to the environment and ecosystem as a whole.

 

To be honest I grew up in a family that loved to garden but in reality this doesn’t mean that I know a whole lot about native plants. My family loves plants like  elephant ears and banana trees, these are both far from native and are no use to our visiting wild rabbits.

We try now to incorporate as many natives into our personal yard as we can along with companion gardening. But…. the elephant ears and banana tree are both fond childhood memories that I still continue to plant every year. Native or not I feel close to my grandpa ever year when we plant them.         wild rabbit

 

Planting native is a choice that is beginning to give a whole new meaning to the term “Victory Garden”.   

 

Grass Watering Tips

 

That beautiful lush green lawn is still just out of reach and on a lot of folks minds. Most of it comes down to water. Earlier this year we had nice temperatures and a lot of rain. Now it’s hot and no real chance of rain. Water is the key to life and new lawns need more. So how much and when should we be watering our yards, and is the water bill going to break the bank?

 

Check the Forecast

 

First the weather if your lawn starts looking brown keep an eye on the forecast. You don’t want to waste the time or money watering if it’s going to rain the next day. We have control of our sprinklers but not Mother Nature. Too much water can be just as detrimental as no water. Our lawns need to 1”-1 ½” of water per week every week summer or winter.

 

Rain Gauge      

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Simple Beaker Style Rain Gauge

 

This is where a rain gauges becomes handy. They are fairly cheap or if you don’t want to run out and buy one it can always be improvised. A small old bowl, can or even a cut down bottle will work just fine.

 

Another great trick is to just keep an eye on your grass if Mother Nature isn’t providing a lot of rain. When you notice that it’s a dull green color and  footprints or other tracks are leaving indentations in your lawn for more than 30 minutes it is a good sign that the grass is to dry.  

 

When to Water

 

Whether you choose to water in the morning or the evening make sure that your lawn is not in direct sunlight.

 

Between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. is good time to water because there is less wind and the sun has not fully risen. This will help reduce evaporation and help sprinklers apply water more evenly. Along with providing your yard with water throughout the hottest part of the day.

 

4 p.m. to 7 p.m. is a fairly common time for most people to water, it tends be when most of us have the time to do it right after work. These are also good hours because the sun is setting and temperatures are beginning to drop. Experts however warn that in some climates watering at night may cause mildew and fungus.

 

6 p.m. to 10 a.m. is when experts recommend lawns be watered in humid climates.

 

Timers             

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Best times to water your lawn

 

Timers are a great way to control when watering begins and how long it lasts. A timer is a great tool if you have an irregular schedule and to conserve water. They can however be pricey depending on the features that one may want. The options begin with a hardwired system or battery operated and range of the intervals of time that you may want one to operate on. A cheap one is just fine and no matter what you choose it will probably still require some attention.

 

How Long to Water

 

The amount of time that every homeowner spends watering will vary. Factors like water pressure, soil content and grass type  all play a role in how long a lawn will need to be watered. It may only take 15 minutes or up to 1 hour.

 

It’s About the Roots

 

In the end we need to get all of that precious water down to the roots of the grass. A good root base is what makes healthy grass. To build roots they need deep infrequent watering. Watering every day will make the roots shallow and they will be more dependant on the water every single day.  This will lead to unhealthy grass that is prone to disease and unable to handle traffic.

 

Sprinklers                             

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Sprinkler

 

Sprinklers are a lifesaver but require a lot of attention. Finding one that you like may be difficult. They don’t always spread the water evenly and may need to be moved around. In some cases this takes away from the convenience of having a timer. But it is important to be observant and make sure the water is going where it supposed to evenly. Standing puddles of water in your lawn can weaken the root system.

 

Mowing

 

Leaving your grass a little bit tall in the heat of the summer will help protect the roots. The longer grass blades will act as shield and hold the moisture in preventing evaporation. It’s also a good idea to mow in a different direction from time to time. Mowing in the same pattern every time may stress your lawn with the extra traffic.

 

Lawn Traffic                            

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Switch up the pattern you mow in to prevent damaging your lawn

 

Heavy traffic lawns with lots of activity from pets children or parties will require more water than lawns that don’t have a lot of activity on them.

 

Keep your grass green and and your grass roots healthy for a picture perfect lawn.

 

Best Grass to Grow in the Ozarks

Benefits of Over-Seeding

What is overseeding, and who should consider overseeding their yard?

 

Overseeding is adding grass seed on top of your existing grass. This process helps fill in bald or thin patches in your lawn, that may be caused from heavy traffic, kids, pets, erosion or poor weather conditions.    

dog grass trail
No one want bare spots in their lawn. Overseeding can help.

 

On occasion the homeowner may choose to use a different variety of grass seed. High traffic area may benefit from a type of grass that is more adept at handling the added stress. Or a cold wether variety of seed may add more color to your lawn during the winter months when the rest of your grass is dormant. The best part is that the already established grass in your lawn will help to hold the new seed in place, preventing heavy rain and watering from washing it away.

 

Overseeding may be done in early spring or fall. It can be as simple as throwing handfuls of new seed in the areas you want the new grass. For better results and larger areas it may be necessary to rake the desired area to remove debris and loosen compacted soil. A seed spreader may come in handy too. 

seed spreader1
Why you should over-seed your lawn

 

Lawn maintenance can continue as normal for the most part. A few extra waterings may be necessary, and it wouldn’t hurt to cut down on excessive traffic until the new seed establishes. But the existing turf should help establish the new seedlings.

 

Overseeding is a cheap and easy way to help a tired looking lawn get a new lease on life. Add curb appeal without using expensive toxic chemicals and spending a fortune.  

 

For more information on what grass seeds may work best in your yard check out

Best Grass to Grow in the Ozarks

Natural Tricks for Better Soil

The Northwest Arkansas and Ozark regions are well known for their rocky and poor soil conditions. Most of us who plant a vegetable garden or even flower garden yearly end up investing in raised or hanging beds. As well as bringing in soil. Even after all this work some of us have purchased topsoil only to find out later that it was full of clay. At this point some people try to add sand, but sand is not the solution.

Then we move on to commercial fertilizers. This gives some temporary benefits but in the end we haven’t actually changed the soil conditions. All the chemical fertilizers have done are run off each time we have watered our crop and left trace elements in our produce. In the end we just keep spending more money to replace these fertilizers and our soil content gets worse.

Lots and lots of organic matter is the best solution. Leaves, manure, hay and composting in general are a great way to start. But first maybe we should take a minute to find out what is or isn’t already in our soil.

Your local extension office may be a great place to start if you want to take them a sample of your dirt. Or you could buy a soil test kit and perform one yourself.

Soil content is measured on a PH scale from 0 to 14. 0 is pure acid and at the top 14 is nothing but alkalinity. This can all be kinda boring so maybe we should just pause a little longer and look at what’s already growing in our yards.

 

What to look for in the plants you’re growing

If you have noticed the lower leaves on your plants turning pale it may be from a lack of nitrogen in the soil. Poultry manure, egg shells and legumes are an easy cure for this problem.

Leaves that are turning yellow and beginning to to curl up with black tips may be plants that are lacking sufficient calcium. Bone meal or crushed oyster shells which we also feed to our chickens to make sure they get enough calcium in their diet is a good place to start. An even easier solution is saving your egg shell to add to your compost pile.

A magnesium deficiency is noticeable if your plants are loosing their leaves or fruit has poor color. Epsom Salt is great cure we pray our grass with it too a couple of times a year. The directions are on the back of most Epsom Salt bags. Potassium will help with this as well, that’s as simply as adding a banana peel. For years I had problems with my roses bushes until a wonderful lady told me she chops up her banana peels and puts them at the base of her roses bushes.

Phosphorous is last you will notice this one if your leaves are turning purple, the plants aren’t flowering or producing fruit. Fish emulsion or chicken manure should level this back out. I take this one for granted because when I vacuum out the fish tank once or twice a year I pour the waste water in my garden. A word of caution if you are buying fish emulsion it may attract raccoons, and chicken manure should be left to sit. If applied fresh as it may burn your plants.lambsquarter

 

Henbit, chickweed and lamb’s quarters are signs that your soil is fertile. These plants commonly are seen as weeds right up there with dandelions, mullein, dock and sorrel which are all signs that your soil is acidic.  

Alkaline soil will grow plants like goosefoot, salad burnet,  true chamomile and wild carrots. So in a nutshell we need to pay more attention to our weeds instead of just ripping them up because they can also be the cure for poor and rocky soil.
savory

 

Yes, you heard me you want weeds. At least for part of the year, and really some weeds are kinda pretty. I love dandelions, and the long tap root that thedandeliony grow helps aerate the soil. Broadleaf plantain does the same thing and tolerates both wet and dry soils as well standing up to a lot of foot traffic.

If you are highly opposed to weeds, or your POA has strict policies on dandelions there are other options, without using a ton of chemical  fertilizers. Green Tea fertilizers are a terrific additive, followed up with crop rotation, and planting ground covers.
clover red

Legumes including peanuts and clover are great alternatives. Peanuts not only aerate but add nitrogen back into the soil when the left over or spent shells get tilled under at the end of the season.

clover

 

Medium Red Clover is also a legume and can be planted in between seasons. The beginning of spring or fall. It loosens compacted soil and provides nutrients to your yard or garden. White Clover is a pretty perennial that will help with erosion in the winter. Crimson clover is an annual with gorgeous strawberry blooms that will help attract pollinators to help your yard thrive. Yellow Blossom Clover may be the best clover it is drought tolerant and helps with phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen. Can you tell how much we like clover yet, the blooms are pretty and our yard has huge erosion problems it’s a win win because there is a clover for almost every ailment your yard may have.bee-802589__180

The type of grass you pick for your yard can play an important role in your soil rejuvenation too. Winter Rye Grass helps with erosion and nitrogen control in a season when most of our gardens and yards are laying fallow.

Remember that if you give back to your garden it will show you its thanks.

Being productive in the yard or garden has more to do with increasing the fertility of your soils. Try to remember to rotate where you plant your crops and in the winter use a cover crop to help keep the soil loose and rich in nutrients. Also if you’re using clover for a cover crop bees and other pollinators will be happy to help your gardens flourish.

Companion Gardening

help prevent garden pests without chemicals
help prevent garden pests without chemicals

We started learning about, and using companion gardening about seven years ago. It is a very easy, time saving and cost effective method to keep your garden happy and cut out a lot of chemicals. There are a lot of great books and the internet is full of resources about the practice. I wish we had started doing it sooner.

To break it down companion gardening is simply growing plants that are beneficial to each other in the same location. In some cases one plant may repel pest that commonly affect another plant, or a certain plant may grow deeper roots and deposit nutrients and minerals that another plant needs. Some vegetables or herbs may even make others taste better or increase yield. This is the way our grandparents did it, and now it is nearly a lost art. Lucky for us thanks to the trendy new green movement this practice is making a come.

Planting tomatoes and basil near each other is a good example of companion gardening. The basil’s strong smell repels unwanted insects from the tomatoes, and in return the tomatoes provide shade for the basil as they mature. Some people also believe that basil makes their tomatoes taste better (kind of makes since I add basil to almost everything I cook with tomatoes).

On the other hand it is important to realize that not all plants should be grown near each other. We learned this the hard way in our home vegetable  garden. One year we ended up with spicy banana peppers because we planted them to close to jalapenos. The nearby bell peppers suffered the same fate and the jalapenos came out sweet. Cross pollination in the works, but lesson learned and we won’t be doing that again.

Marigolds and other flowers provide benefits as much as veggies and other herbs do. Incorporating flower  borders around your vegetable garden is a great idea. This concept adds a lot of of appeal and turns an otherwise visually boring vegetable garden into a landscaping masterpiece. Most visitors will never know how hard those gorgeous marigolds or nasturtiums are working to protect your crop from aphids and other pests.

I love companion gardening it costs less and helps make my garden be more self sustaining, which saves us time and worry. We have less little critters eating our valuable produce before we can get to. I don’t have to worry about my chickens getting into all of those chemicals that would otherwise inevitably wash out into my whole yard.  Top that off with giving my whole yard a cozy cottage appeal, and giving the birds and butterflies more reason to stay.

Here are some of the combinations we use in our garden. There are many more and to be honest I can’t remember a lot of them or the exact reason why we plant things where we do any more it just works and we haven’t had hornworms in our tomatoes for years.

 

Tomatoes by Basil and marigolds

Beans go with just about anything

Mint deters mice and aphids we plant it all over (be careful it spreads fast)

Broccoli by Oregano

Bell Peppers by Tomatoes

Sage goes well with Broccoli and Cauliflower plus the bees love when it blooms

Strawberries and Thyme go well together if you have a worm problem

Hot Peppers no where near the Sweet Peppers

Catnip and eggplant to deter flea beetles

Cucumbers and radishes

Cilantro and spinach

Garlic and roses help keep japanese beetles away

 

Positive little critters that will prey on the more destructive ones

Yarrow brings in bees

Camille bring in wasps

Angelica attracts lady beetles and lacewings