Seed Balls or Seed Bombs

I’ve found a number of articles on making Seed Balls or Seed Bombs as a way to distribute seeds without actually having to plant using the traditional tools and procedures. I always have extra seeds and this might be an easy way to distribute the seeds – possibly even Christmas gifts.

Here’s a video which shows the procedure. Seeds needing cold stratification should be done in the fall/winter.

I’ll experiment with this later and report on the results.


Other Recipes


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Asclepias Curassavica – Tropical Milkweed in Missouri


While there are a number of milkweed varieties that one can grow in Missouri, many of them don’t last very long and could be expensive if you want to grow a large patch. Asclepias curassavica is an annual variety that blooms all summer long and is both a great nectar plant and host plant.  There  have been a number of questions about it so I thought I’d review some of the research.

Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, or OE is a disease that Monarchs get and will kill them. The problem is theorized that OE will last over the winter on plants in southern states where the plants will over-winter. That’s not a problem in Missouri when you start your milkweed from seed. I do take cuttings from some plants later in the year and root them for new plants the next year. I cut off almost all the leaves so there shouldn’t be many or any possible spores. I also get so few Monarchs these days so OE should definitely not build up. In 2012 I didn’t get a single Monarch larvae. I’m not concerned about this potential problem in Missouri.

Dr. Lincoln Brower says this, “Another problem with establishing what becomes a continuously breeding population of monarchs is that the incidence of the protozoan parasitic disease (Ophryocystis elektroscirrha) increases with time.  If the diseased individuals then somehow end up breeding with or joining the overwintering clusters of monarchs, then the incidence of the disease will very likely rise with detrimental effects on the migratory monarch populations.” Professor Sonia Altizer at the University of Georgia, who is the World expert on O. e., agrees with me.





Does Curassavica cause Monarchs to leave Diapause?

Diapause is the period of time when the last generation of Monarchs stop maturing sexually. They need to use all their energy for their flight to Mexico and their hibernation while there. Leaving diapause will probably not be a good thing for any Monarch on its journey to Mexico.

Dr. Karen Oberhauser replied to an email I sent to her and said this. “There is fairly good evidence that milkweed in good condition in the fall causes monarchs to break diapause, at least in TX.”

Karen sent me to a great website which has lots of great Monarch butterfly material.

Dr. Lincoln Brower also corresponded with me and gave me this information, “When monarchs are in their non-reproductive phase (gonads repressed in the fall), they will be almost irresistibly attracted to curassavica, remain near the plant, and come into reproductive condition.  When this happens, as far as we know, monarchs lose their migratory urge…….and probably, as individuals, never get it back.”

Now that I have two experts in the field recommend that we not have Curassavica available to Monarchs in the fall – what am I going to do with this great plant? At a minimum, I’m going to cut it down around September 10th. The migration usually occurs around September 20th, so I should be safe. I like having a good supply of milkweed to raise Monarchs during the summer, although that didn’t happen at all last year.



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Monarch Butterflies Have Arrived in St. Louis


Yesterday, April 22nd, I saw my first weathered Monarch butterfly arrive in St. Louis. It went right past my 50 assorted milkweed plants, but I’m hoping it doubles back and lays some eggs. I think it was a female.

I also learned today that St. Louis has started a “Milkweeds for Monarchs - The St. Louis Butterfly Project.

St. Louis City is going to put in 50 Monarch gardens and is encouraging the community to plant 200 more.

While the effort is noble, they have a number of recommendations which need to be tempered with experience. They recommend a 3′ x 3′ area and suggest filling it with 9 different plants – 3 of which are invasive. A New England Aster can fill a 3′ x 3′ area by itself.


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Slender Mountain Mint – Good Bad and Beautiful


One of the native plants that I recommend for most gardens is Slender Mountain Mint or Pycnanthemum tenuifolium.

What’s good about this plant is that it attracts a lot of butterflies and bees, lives a long time and blooms almost all summer long.

What’s bad about the plant is that it wants to spread and is a bit invasive. I just spent about three hours digging it out of a couple areas and have the blisters to prove it. It’s not as bad as common mint, but it definitely will take over an area if you let it.

I still have two areas where I have it in my garden. One area has a problem with erosion and so this plant is ideal for that. The other area is one that I just have to control it by digging every year.

What is beautiful about the plant are the orchid like flowers and the many types of butterflies it attracts. It’s also a bee magnet, so if you have kids you may want to put in in an area which is away from foot traffic.


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Japanese Garden Notes


One of the advantages of taking a Grounds Management course through Meramec is that we got to see the Japanese garden which is closed to the public. Greg, the senior horticulturist for the Japanese Garden, took us around and gave us some great advice.  While most of this doesn’t specifically apply to butterfly gardening, you can apply the principles to any garden.


He talked about this topic most of the time. Here are some tips I wrote down.

  • You are working to create structure.
  • Early spring is a great time to prune as you can see the structure of the branches. Later in the year, things are covered up.
  • You want to allow light to get into the center of the plant.
  • If you have a hole in a plant, create other holes to balance the plant.
  • You can remove about one-third of the plant per year if you need to restructure the plant.
  • He usually starts pruning with shoots that are pointing out from the main plant. Plants talk to you by raising their hands. He uses the analogy of people raising their hands. Those are the first branches he prunes first.
  • If you can – make one cut to take out two branches – saves time.
  • You prune farther back than the edge of the plant. You want to allow it to grow out to where you want it to be.
  • Prune the larger branches – give the smaller branches space to grow.
  • Pruning is a multi-year process. You prune and see how the plant responds.
  • You are constantly watching the plant and see how it is reacting and growing through the year.
  • He doesn’t fertilize 99% of the garden. He doesn’t want a lot of growth. He wants to keep things smaller.
  • Never shear a plant – then you only get growth on the ends.
  • When you prune, you don’t want people to be able to see the cuts. Cut farther in so that the outside foliage hides the cut.
  • He prunes 1/4 of the plant at a time – he moves around in a circle.
  • You want to be able to see into and through the plant – then you know that light is getting into the plant.
  • He use Lysol spray to disinfect his pruners and other tools.
  • Most of his plant shapes are hamburger bun shape.
  • Take off crossover limbs.
  • In parts of the plant that the public won’t see, he makes larger holes so that light can penetrate. Usually he might do this with the top of the plant that the public can’t see.
  • You can train a tree to grow down by pruning out the buds and shoots which grow up and only leaving the buds which point downward.


He keeps many of his trees down to a small size by selective pruning. This magnolia is a standard size tree. He says you can do this with any tree, but need to start when it is young.


This is a viburnum that he keeps very small. The one in my yard is almost six feet tall.

They do use leaf mold as a mulch on herbaceous perennials.

If the garden looks good – don’t mess with it. When you see a problem then you can start to do testing.

He doesn’t recommend bamboo – it is invasive and takes a lot of work.


Greg also talked about layering your plants/trees so that you first see on plant layer then look behind that etc. He even talked about using trees outside the garden as part of the layering process.



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Harden and Toughen Plants Before They Are Planted

I have trouble moving my carefully pampered and wimpy indoor plants to the outdoor Mother Nature boot camp. My indoor plants have gotten plenty of water, fertilizer and not a whole lot of sunshine from my fluorescent bulbs. As a result they are a bit like that kid in the old comic books that needs to grow some muscles and toughen up.


FAN – Indoors, I still have a few plants which haven’t transitioned outside yet, so I have turned on a fan to get some air movement and hopefully strengthen and toughen up their stalks.

CART – I like to use a five level cart with wheels so that I can move plants in and out of the garage.


SHADE – Keep plants in the shade for the first week or so and then gradually introduce them into full sun. I bought this shade fabric at Harbor Freight for $27.00. I’m going to try it out and see how it does. I like that it has lots of grommets.

WIND – You can put up a board or wind-break to let you plants gets used to it.

WATER – I’ve read that it’s best to reduce the watering during this time, so I will only water once a day.

FERTILIZER – no extra fertilizer.

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April 16th – Grand Saga of the Monarch Butterfly

Try and go to this program – reservations are needed, but it is FREE.


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