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Need Help with my Garden Plan Challenges - Drought, Grass and Rocks

 
Anne Miller
pollinator
Posts: 460
Location: USDA Zone 8a
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So I am hoping that my Monarch Butterfly Garden comes back and will be established so I can work on my meadow.  I want to plant flowers on the other side of our parking area.  This is a large area so I only want to start with a small strip, maybe about 2 or three ft. wide.  It will need to be drought resistant, deer resistant, tall and can compete with grasses and croton.  I will water to get the plants established and when needed. The native plant that I found growing there died in the drought.  I am hoping they will be back this spring from their seeds so I will not be planting there.

I am thinking of starting with purple coneflower as it can be planted in the spring and gayfeather to plant in the fall.  My other challenge is rock that are too big to remove. The rocks don't show up too well in the pictures, they are big! I am hoping to find some spots where I can tuck the plant in or plant seed. 

Any suggestions?
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Looking Northwest
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Meadow with Rocks
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Looking Northeast
 
Cody DeBaun
Posts: 11
Location: Denton, TX United States Zone 8a
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Howdy Anne! I'm also in Zone 8a and might be able to help a little. It's a big region with many kinds of soil, amounts of rainfall, and maximum heat index, so this will be based on a lot of assumptions.

I take it that, from the dryness in the area, the driveway doesn't send any water towards your prospective flower patch?  A location like the one you're describing will probably need both tough plants and some feature changes to soften conditions a bit.  In my area, rocks like those are ideal mulch- I've laid down six inches of straw and seen the soil underneath still bake in the midsummer Texas sun. Rocks are sun proof though! Any that you could bring over to this area would be very helpful I'd bet, particularly if they could buffer young plants from the heat of the driveway. The land in your pictures reminds me very much of areas where I've seen Prickly Pear cactus come up like weeds. I see you already have some coming up with the protection of those rocks! They're edible, the fruits are pretty when ripe imo, and are pretty tough. Even if it's not all you plant, that might be a good option to consider close to the driveway, or close to the direction your deer pressure is most likely to come from.

Aside from them, Black Eyed Susans are pretty tough, Coneflower is a good idea, Chile Pequin might grow well and might be deer proof. Sage, Thyme and Rosemary can do well in those conditions and Creeping Thyme (Thymus pulegioides) or Lyre-leaf Sage (Salvia Lyrata) could make a good ground cover. I don't know how the wind is where you're at, but here it can have much more of a drying influence than the sun. If you're getting some grass pressure, maybe a big native perennial grass, deep rooted and clumping, could block the wind and help keep your plants from turning to dust and blowing away. Maybe something like Compass plant (Sylphium laciniatum) or Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii)? Around here everyone plants Pampas Grass; that would work well, too, but if I went that route I'd use it as a nurse plant, then take a machete to it before too long, to generate some mulch material and help give the other plants breathing room. Speaking of nurse plants, a Mesquite tree might be ideal for those conditions- well suited to hot, arid sites, fixes nitrogen, casts only a light shade so won't shade out most any plants, and are usually considered pavement friendly. Once you have a community going and the soil is being protected, you might have better luck getting Beebalm, Coumbines, Phlox, etc going.

Hope this is helpful!
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
Posts: 460
Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Cody, welcome to permies!  Thanks for the suggestions. Having lived many years in the Dallas area it surprised me that this is the same zone as the weather is extremely different. Our driveway is dirt and big rocks.  The wind is almost always either north or south. When it rains the water goes right down the drive and some goes off into the area I want to plant. 

When spring comes, I want to identify what grasses we have.  They should be all native grass unless a bird or animal brought some in.  I don't mind the grass as much as I dislike croton.
 
Cody DeBaun
Posts: 11
Location: Denton, TX United States Zone 8a
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Hey Anne, thanks for the warm welcome!

It is strange, isn't it? I'm technically in the Cross Timbers (which only 3/4 of Denton is), so there is a lot of difference, for sure. Are you familiar with Howard Garrett's Plants of the Metroplex? That is an excellent book from a very knowledgable source on plants of all kinds well suited to most of DFW. He's a landscape guy though, so there's a lot of "make sure you only plant male versions of this tree, so you don't have that gross 'fruit' stuff falling off of it and making a mess". Has to be taken with a grain of salt.

I was trying to find the NPSOT Dallas group's plant list, but I'm having no luck. For up this way, we have this, but all I'm seeing for the Dallas group is this.
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
Posts: 460
Location: USDA Zone 8a
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I'm in the Hill Country which is why I have the big rocks.  We moved some rocks out of our trails and they were big boulders. They look big on the surface, its what you don't see underground. Also altitude is 3300.

We used to listen to Howard Garret's radio show.  I have Neil Sperry's Texas Gardening book.

I use the Lady Bird Johnson's wildflower.org a lot but they changed it and I can't find the search function where you put in thing like yellow flower, sun and dry.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 1908
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Anne, Try this link for the list of flowers and plants that support monarch butterfly life. wildflower.org monarch butterfly page

You will probably find that you would have to do some earth works to gather and store water in the ground to be able to grow the plants that the monarchs like to feed on and lay their eggs on.

Redhawk
 
Anne Miller
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Posts: 460
Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Thanks Bryant, This one is just drought tolerant plants.  The Monarch garden was last years project.   We had lots of them and their caterpillars. In the spring I hope the perennials planted there come back.  I gathered lots of milkweed seed so I can plant more if needed.

The purple coneflower has deep roots as does gayfeather, and monarchs like both..  I am expecting that finding soil enough to plant and having to compete with grass will be the major obstacles.  If I can get the coneflower to grow then maybe I can cut and drop the grass to work as a mulch.  I am also considering rosemary and fennel.  I just don't want to get too ambitious.  From the link below it says decomposed granite is a good alternative mulch for the many native plants so this is something I want to look into using.

This website has this info:

http://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/Watershed/growgreen/sun_and_color_s.pdf

Be sure that your total soil base is 6-8” deep;  If additional soil is needed, use a good quality soil mix (approximately 25% compost, 65% loam and 10% sand)

Water Needs:
Once established, these plants require little to no water.  If plants look wilted, however, water thoroughly every 3-4 weeks if there is no rainfall

Mulch all beds to retain water and reduce weeds; decomposed granite is a good alternative mulch for the many native plants in this design
 
Travis Johnson
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Now I live in Maine, so if this is no where near workable fell free to BAPTACTMABTLCOO me; (that is forum lingo for: Buy A Plane Ticket And Come To Maine And Beat The Living Crap Out Of Me.) However a few years ago the USDA was really interested in doing monarch butterfly habitat and funded it heavily through the Wildlife Incentive Program with the acronyms "WHIP" for short hand. They had a whole list of plants i could pick from and one of them was milkweed.

It has a bad reputation because it supposedly is toxic to livestock but I have watched my sheep graze it and it has never killed them, so I think the toxicity is overrated. It does however attract a lot of Monarch's. I am proof of that, but not sure about drought tolerance, I think it is pretty tolerant. But drought here in Maine is much different then what you experience I am sure.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Very Cool Anne, I love monarchs and other butterflies too. Echinacea (cone flower) really doesn't need a lot of soil just some.
About those USDA Zones, they do not actually take into account weather, mostly they look at average temperature, total average rainfall and elevation.
What is nice is that you can find maps that show "Zones" all over the world and if a plant will grow in that zone elsewhere, it will grow in all the places on earth that are in that zone.

Have you thought about doing a "Medicinal" garden? if so, there are quite a few that like the same conditions and most books on herbal medicines have lists of what conditions are considered perfect.
The way I approach plants is perhaps a little different than most folks. I look for plants that will be comfortable, they don't have to do super right off the bat, I'll be creating their microcosm (microclimate) as I do the plantings.
I have things that grow in the high country, doing quite well in not even close to "perfect" conditions. (most of the information we can read about on plants is giving us that "perfect conditions" set of data)

Sounds like you are off to a wonderful start!

here is the link for NPSOT that I have. NPSOT
This might be useful too. pdf from mcmud
Here is the link to "Mr. Smartypants" a Dallas wildflower Horticulture professor MrSmartypants

Redhawk
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
Posts: 460
Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Thanks, Travis and Bryant. 

Travis, BAPTACTMABTLCOO is too long to remember and I don't do planes anyway so you are in luck.  That is good to know about WHIP, I will look into it.

Bryant, that is good to know about those zones.  I look into that.  I have a medicinal garden in the planning stage, I want bidens and sidas but due to their seed I want the away from our Zone one.  They will be on the edge.  And I want to plant ASTRAGALUS, Devil's Claw and Mexican Sunflower there.

Narrow leaf purple coneflower is medicinal but I don't know what for as I have not research it yet. I don't know the time of year to plant.

I also want to find a place for frostweed for a fall plant for the monarchs.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Have you looked here for ideas? http://www.seedsource.com/   ;

That's where I get most of my native seeds.

Here's a deer-resistant mix:  http://www.seedsource.com/catalog/detail.asp?product_id=1812

I'm planting natives around the yard by cutting the grass super short, planting the seeds,  and putting up a temporary fence around the seeded area until the plants get established.  Most seeding is done in the Fall but there are some that can be planted in the Spring.

I don't know why the first link doesn't work.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Echinacea is used to build the immune system, usually thought of for prevention of colds and reducing the effects of influenza.
The petals are normally dried and then brewed as a tea or you can dry and grind them into a powder ( stores sell it this way in a capsule ).

Interestingly enough, there are nine varieties that can be used.

Echinacea angustifolia – Narrow-leaf coneflower
Echinacea atrorubens – Topeka purple coneflower
Echinacea laevigata – Smooth coneflower, smooth purple coneflower
Echinacea pallida – Pale purple coneflower
Echinacea paradoxa – Yellow coneflower, Bush's purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea – Purple coneflower, eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea sanguinea – Sanguine purple coneflower
Echinacea serotina – Narrow-leaved purple coneflower
Echinacea simulata – Wavyleaf purple coneflower
Echinacea tennesseensis – Tennessee coneflower

Studies are currently on going with the focus being whether or not Echinacea is actually effective in prevention of colds and flu symptoms.
It has been in use for millennia first mentioned by the Greeks in literature.

Some care needs to be taken with this and all herbal remedies since there is the possibility of allergic sensitivity by some people.

If this is an area of interest to you, I can offer up some good books that are very complete and concise in proven information.

Redhawk

 
Anne Miller
pollinator
Posts: 460
Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Thanks, Bryant

I now remember that I took Echinacea in pill form for colds.

Last week it was a low of 7"f and yesterday it was 78"f, today is suppose to be 80"f!  I took a tour of the area I want to plant and found more dirt than I expected in the area where it washed off the driveway.  That's the good news, the bad news is I could only dig 2".  It felt like I was hitting a lot of gravel.

I have decided to start composting using the pit, trench, or hole method.  Until now I have been using the wind method, sharing my goodies with the butterflies and wildlife.  What I read says it take 6 mos to a year to use those area so I decided to start with coffee grounds, that's how I found the soil was 2" deep.  I am hoping the deep rooted plants can push their roots down into the soil.

Also we will be planting sunflower seeds to the south of that area into a food plot for dove.  We will see how that goes.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 1908
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
139
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Plants will grow just about anywhere they can gain a foot hold.
I've seen them growing in pavement cracks, bare rock where there was some fissuring in the high Serra Nevada mountains.
Spread some seeds and see if they won't sprout and grow. Roots are great at deteriorating rocks and turning it eventually into soil.

Redhawk
 
Anne Miller
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Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Have you looked here for ideas? http://www.seedsource.com/   ;

That's where I get most of my native seeds.

Here's a deer-resistant mix:  http://www.seedsource.com/catalog/detail.asp?product_id=1812

I'm planting natives around the yard by cutting the grass super short, planting the seeds,  and putting up a temporary fence around the seeded area until the plants get established.  Most seeding is done in the Fall but there are some that can be planted in the Spring.

I don't know why the first link doesn't work.


Thanks for posting. We bought our wildflower seeds there so they send me a catalog.  They have a really nice place, too. When we were there they didn't have a store, just an office and warehouses.
 
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