By: Kathryn Courtney
My garden is a constant source of joy for me. It feeds my body and my soul. I love to sit on my swing with a cup of tea and watch the wonderful wildlife. This ritual is such a serene way to start or end the day. Nature puts on a beautiful show full of bees and butterflies at this time of year. If you don’t have a butterfly and pollinator garden, this is the year to start one. These gardens are very easy to grow. There are only a few conditions that need to be met. The most important rule is that the garden be organic.
To bring the butterfly show to your yard, make it inviting. Plant nectar and host plants for the butterflies and the caterpillars that will eventually be the butterflies. Organic gardening methods are a must for your butterfly garden. Gardening organically doesn’t mean you have to give up a pretty yard. In fact, most of us at Maas have found that our organic yards are just as beautiful and healthier than chemically treated yards. Pollinators such as bees and butterflies are very susceptible to synthetic chemicals. Chemical pesticides and herbicides will kill your wildlife. I also like to use organic fertilizer on all of my plants including the grass. Organic fertilizers are formulated with natural compounds that are easily absorbed by plant roots. They also break down into compounds that are good for your soil and contain living organisms that will keep the soil fertile. Chemical fertilizers, on the other hand, break down to form salts which are not good for soil.
Avoid chemical pesticides and herbicides all together. Make sure to check any chemical fertilizers you have for hidden systemic pesticides or fungicides. The chemical Imidacloprid is in a lot of chemical fertilizers labeled as systemic. This chemical is implicated in the bee hive colony collapse. Imidacloprid is a neurotoxin that messes up a bees sense of direction. The forager bees cannot make their way back to the hive. It may be true that the chemical does not kill the bees out right but the bees can’t make it back to the hive to feed the queen causing the hive to die. Other chemicals to avoid are Atrazine found in weed and feed products and Glyphosate found in non selective weedkillers such as Roundup. Not only is Atrazine bad for the environment and wildlife it will kill your trees and shrubs in the landscape.
Don’t despair if I have listed one of your favorite yard products as “do not use” in your butterfly garden. There are organic alternatives for all of these chemicals. To make your butterfly plants healthy and green feed them with Microlife 6-2-4, Ladybug All Purpose and John’s Recipe or Medina All Purpose Fish Blend. These fertilizers are especially good for trees, grass, herbs and leafy green vegetables. Your butterfly milkweed will be green and lush for your caterpillars. Organic fertilizers with higher phosphate are an excellent choice for blooming nectar plants. Ladybug Healthy Harvest, Microlife Flower and Vegetable and Foxfarm Big Bloom and Happy Frog are all great fertilizers for nectar plants such as lantana and penta.
As far as pesticides go, it is better to avoid them all together. Monarch caterpillars can eat your milkweed faster than aphids can hurt them. I have learned to live in harmony with aphids on my milkweed. All of my milkweed plants are still alive and happy. Use the pick and squash method on larger insects such as grasshoppers. Garret Juice is a plant fertilizer that we have found to repel stinkbugs. To prevent weeds in your garden use a preemergent weed stopper. Corn gluten is a very effective weed preventer for organic gardens. Do not use this any where you plan to plant seeds as it will keep the seeds from germinating. Maas has both liquid and granular corn gluten. Maas also carries non selective weedkillers such as agricultural grade vinegar. Use this sparingly in place of Roundup.
Having a dazzling butterfly and bee garden is easy. Most plants these winged beauties love are very easy to grow and care for. Keep these plants chemical free and you will be blessed with a gorgeous, entertaining nature watching pastime. It is important for all of us to take time in the garden to reconnect with nature and ourselves. Relieve your stress, relax your mind and love your garden.