Neighbours talking over the garden gate has long been a tradition. They share gardening tips, complain about the weather and pests yet are ever eager to discuss their gardens. That is what I had in mind when creating this blog. So stop by my garden gate to find out the latest happenings in my garden.

Happy Gardening!

Garden Gnome
"All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child." ~ Madame Marie Curie"

Monday, May 22, 2006

Attracting Butterflies

Butterflies are a beautiful sight in the garden but more important they are pollinators so should be encouraged in your garden. Some decide to plant a specific garden to attract butterflies while others like me encorporate butterfly attracting plants and elements into the garden. I plant marigolds aroung the perimeter of one of my raised beds that is home to tomatoes, peppers, onions, and lettuces. Marigold is the perfect companion plant for these vegetables for pest management yet they are perfect for attracting butterflies! Many herbs and flowers are perfect companion plants. Most will deter the damaging pests yet encourage the beneficial allies.

Here's my number one rule: if you want butterflies, don't use pesticides indiscriminately! Instead rely on natural insect control like companion planting, toads, birds, bats, lady bugs, rosy red minnows and parasitic wasps. Keep your plants healthy by proper watering, not over crowding them and regular fertilizing to help ward off insect infestations. If you really must use some form of pest control, try the simplest solution first like manual removal. If that doesn't work, use Safer's Insecticidal Soap or a homemade solution of 2 drops liquid soap, 2 drops vegetable oil dissolved in 1 quart water. The homemade insecticidal soap is likely the strongest chemical I've used in my garden in the past four years. With that being said, here are tips to attract butterflies to your garden.

Butterflies are insects that go through a complex life cycle: egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. It is important to recognize the stages of the butterflies you are trying to attract so you don't inadvertedly destroy them. It is also important to understand that there may be some foliage damage ranging from minor to severe during the caterpillar stage. There are two ways to deal with this problem. Plant some sacrificial plants, remove the caterpillar to those plants and let them be or plant a special butterfly garden away from your vegetable garden. You can simply manually remove and destroy which is not the best solution but sometimes may be the only way to save your favourite crop.

Butterflies need the basics including a food source for caterpillars, full sun, sheltered areas to reduce wind, water, and nectar for the butterflies. The most successful butterfly gardens bloom from early spring to late fall. Include native plants in your garden including some weeds like milkweed and thistle. Emphasize red, yellow, orange, and purple single blossom flowers. Here are the top 20 plants that butterflies love: aster, bee balm, butterfly bush, butterfly weed, cardinal flower, cosmos, globe thistle, goldenrod, joe pye weed, liatris, lilac, marigold, mexican sunflower, phlox, purper coneflower, scabiosa, stone crop, sunflower, yarrow, and zinnia. Other plants include members of the carrot family, cleome, clover, dill, dogwoord, hollyhock, milkweed, snapdragon, thistle, violet, and willow but be aware that certain caterpillars will feed on the foliage. Night blooming plants are attractive to many moth species.

Butterflies are cold-blood so like to bask in the sun. Add flat stones to a sunny spot in your garden for them. Male butterflies like a wet patch of mud or sand for "puddling" and will often gather in large groups to lap up the minerals. Use a shallow dish or birdbath to provide water for butterflies.

Here's my second rule: take pictures! Get close and personal but get those pictures not only of the butterflies but any other life stage you can find. Some caterpillars are absolutely gorgeous! Keep details such as when to discovered the butterfly, caterpillar or chrysalis along with what plant you discovered it feeding on. This will help you fine tune your butterfly garden.

Happy Gardening

Garden Gnome


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