4 Simple Steps for Planting a DIY Butterfly Garden
4 Simple Steps for Planting a DIY Butterfly GardenBecause of weed control and other human-led endeavours, butterflies—especially monarchs—are having a tough time finding flowers to migrate to. For more information, read the first blog in our mini series about why we need to save monarch butterflies.
Naturepedic’s butterfly and bee habitat, certified by the North American Butterfly Association (NABA), is in essence a tiny meadow featuring native plants suited to Ohio’s soil and climate that also offer tasty treats to butterflies and bees alike. Plants are randomized rather than planted with a tall-plants-in-the-back, short-plants-in-front planting order. Also different than a formalized planting, soil erosion is stabilized with annual rye grass rather than being controlled mulching around each plant.
The idea is to offer a planting rich in biodiversity and beauty and then, and here is the best part, leave it alone! With no spraying, mowing, or weeding, the naturalized habitat allows plants and insects to develop naturally. Of course prior to planting, the ground was adequately prepared, removing the upper dense growth of weeds and amending with a thick top dressing of topsoil and organic matter. Prepping the soil in advance is essential!
You want your garden to be a sanctuary for butterflies to seek solace, for caterpillars to feed and grow, and for plants to thrive. “To do this, you will need to choose plants that fall into two groups: nectar plants that will provide adult butterflies with energy and caterpillar food plants that will feed caterpillars,” according to NABA. “With careful selection from these two groups, your garden will provide for the entire life cycle of butterflies”
4 Simple Steps (adapted from NABA’s “How to Start a Butterfly Garden”):
Choose native plants: plants that are suited to your state and climate are going to be hardier and will require less watering, so check with your local greenhouse to find out which plants are native to your location or visit this native plant database. Different butterflies and caterpillars eat different plants; for example, monarch caterpillars solely eat milkweed, but monarch butterflies wille at a variety of different plants.
Choose planting area: make sure your garden had good sun exposure but also a place nearby for butterflies to take shade to cool off, as well as rocks to sun themselves on. A general rule of thumb is, “the larger the flower the more sunlight the plant needs,” so research the needs of the particular plants you’re putting in your butterfly garden.
Prepare soil: After you’ve chosen the types of plants that will be in your garden, choose your soil. Make sure your choice is nutrient rich and organic.
Plant seeds and flowers, water: Butterflies need water, but not very much. Nectar, dew, and tree sap provide butterflies with moisture, as well as puddles and moist dirt or sand.
Arguably the most important thing to remember is to not spray your garden! Pesticides and other substances are lethal for butterflies.
So what’s in the Naturepedic butterfly and bee habitat? Naturepedic’s butterfly and bee habitat features flowers that not only attract butterflies but also look great. Some of the many plants include purple coneflowers, black-eyed susans, bee balm, common milkweed and swamp milkweed (both which provide food for Monarch caterpillars), late blooming Joe-Pye weed, and oxeye daisy. It will also include rocks for the butterflies to sun themselves upon. Behind the habitat is a drop off which provides cover and protection from wind.