With our « new normal” we probably spend a lot more time in our gardens, so in honor of Earth Day why not make it an eco-friendly butterfly garden
Butterflies are not only beautiful, but they also pollinate your flowers.
To attract butterflies, you must provide the right plants for all life stages of the butterfly, including a place to lay eggs, food for the caterpillar, a place where the chrysalides can form, and food for the adult butterfly. For example, milkweed can sustain the entire life cycle of monarch butterflies.
Creating a butterfly garden can really help protect the local butterfly population while at the same time bolster sustainable native plants. With over 400 species of butterflies in our state it is currently the most butterfly diverse state in the country. Go Texas !
Start your garden by catering to just a couple of different butterflies. You can always expand your garden over the years and as your skill level increases. Consider the always popular Monarch, the gorgeous Black Swallowtail, and the Common Buckeye.
To have a successful butterfly garden you must start out with host plants. Host plants will attract female butterflies to lay their eggs on the plant. Caterpillars use the plant as a food source so be ready for some seriously ravaged plants. You may want to plant these plants in the back of the garden or even just nearby. Putting them front and center may not quite create the aesthetic scenario you’re hoping to create.
Monarchs caterpillars are exclusively attracted to milkweed. If you’re hoping to have an opportunity to watch this beautiful butterfly emerge from it cocoon then you must plant milkweed in your garden. The Black Swallowtail is attracted to parsley, dill, and carrots and the Common Buckeye is drawn to the beautiful Ruellia which is commonly referred to as the Mexican Petunia.
The next thing you have to get planted are your nectar plants. They will attract the butterflies to your garden in the first place and provide food to your newly minted and emerged butterflies. When it comes to the nectars plants there’s a lot more versatility between different types of butterflies. You find that you can’t go wrong when you plant a variety of nectar plants in your garden. You’ll enjoy its general beauty and the butterflies it attracts.
Consider planting any combination of the following nectar plants for your butterfly garden. Butterfly Bush and Purple Coneflowers are a great start. Milkweed is not only a necessity for hosting Monarch caterpillars but it also makes a great nectar plant for the adult butterflies to feed on. You’ll also do well planting, Zinnias, Aster, Black-eyed Susan, Garden Roses, Dianthus, and Marigolds.
Observing and Tracking
Once you’ve gotten your butterfly garden planted and on the rise you can sit back and enjoy the labor you put in to your new hobby. How you engage with your garden is entirely up to you. You might be perfectly content to passively observe your new friends while enjoying your outdoor space. If you also enjoy photography as a hobby then get in there and start taking pictures of your new guests. Incidentally, butterflies make excellent subjects! If there’s a bit of a scientist in you, you can log and track the species that visit your garden over the years. You can also track the weather and temperature conditions and note any population increases and decreases. Above all, have fun with your garden!
Here are some simple things to consider to make your garden eco-friendly, butterfly or no butterfly.
- Go Organic
One way to create an eco-garden is by going organic. You can grow fruits, vegetables, flowers, and lawn in a more organic manner by avoiding chemical pesticides and fertilizers.
Pesticides kill the good insects as well as the harmful ones. They also can kill off food sources for other wildlife. Native plants help take care of any potential insect problem because they provide habitats for the beneficial organisms that discourage pests.
Instead, focus on using non-GMO seeds and organic compost and mulch in your garden. You can also utilize techniques such as companion planting to reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides. Bees and other insects will be happy to visit your garden.
- Solar Lights
While lights are a must to make the garden usable in the evenings and at night, you can reduce the dependence on electricity and make the garden eco-friendly by using solar lights.
- Rain Water Barrels
With many parts of the US experiencing drought and water shortage, you can make your garden eco-friendly and green without feeling guilty about using municipal water by installing rain water barrels. These are barrels that will collect rain water from spouts and store them for use in the garden. You can install a mechanical sprinkler or hose to the rain water barrel to make watering your garden easier.
- Compost Bin
Depending on the size of your garden, you can either install a compost pit or a compost bin in your yard. A decorative compost bin is a great way to go organic in even a small yard. Simply keep adding dead garden waste and food scraps from your kitchen into the compost bin and spread the compost on garden beds. Let’s be honest, you do not eat everything. There is going to be left over food and scrapings if you cook at home at all.