Late summer in Texas is a little like the middle of winter when temperatures outside keep gardeners indoors more. Both are good times for planning new things for the garden, just like the middle of winter is when it is too cold to linger outside for many, depending on where you live. Garden plans with flowering plants to help benefit pollinators, butterflies and bees and moths and others, is rewarding when pollinators are seen enjoying the fruits of our labor. Helping out our ecosystem and in many cases, our food crops, in the process is a bonus we all benefit from. The thrill of seeing a new type of bee or butterfly visiting flowers in the garden is unmatched. There are so many more types of bees around than just honey bees, it is amazing to see them thriving. Seeing monarch butterflies visiting flowers in the garden during their migrations is magic and can be a great way to introduce children to gardening in ways that will stick with them through life.
Tips for butterfly/pollinator gardening from my Mom:
-include a flat light colored rock for warming up on cool mornings. Butterflies move faster as they warm up
–include a dish of wet soil containing some manure which some butterflies, especially males, like to sip from for minerals.
Hiking trips in National Parks on trails where horses also go confirms this tip as butterflies are almost always spotted on piles of horse manure in the middle of the trail, as well as a few birds.
-include some over ripe fruit, like bananas, for those butterflies that like that rather than nectar. Hackberry butterflies really like those rotten bananas that do not make it into homemade banana bread.
-use organic, pesticide-free, gardening methods. Really important to follow this one to prevent harm to our pollinators. Read retail plant labels carefully or ask where you shop for plants to make sure plants are butterfly safe and pesticide free. Plant milkweed by starting from seed, especially for some of the harder to find varieties, or by using pesticide free plants from retailers
-plant large groupings of the same type of flowers together to make them easier to find. Sure, butterflies can “smell” plants from a long way away, but they waste less energy fluttering around when there are large groupings of flowers. It is more magical when there are many butterflies fluttering around, which happens when many nectar flowers are blooming in a large planting area. Large plantings also make it easier to share some when the plants are a host plant for caterpillars, as there will be enough for all to enjoy. Bees also tend to gather together around large plantings of the same type of nectar flower.
-consider planting native plants which are easier to care for and mesh well with the rest of the ecosystem
-sunny locations are best for butterfly friendly plants
-plant to have flowers available year round. Early emerging Spring butterflies will appreciate having more to choose from than dandelions coming up in unwanted places in yards.
-install a mason bee house
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