Trees for Butterflies

If you have space for a tree or two, here are a few recommendations which I grow or have tried.

Giant Swallowtail Larvae

Hop Tree – Ptelea trifoliata – host for Giant Swallowtails. These trees are hard to find and you may have to start them from seed. Note you can also plant Rue for Giant Swallowtails which is obviously a lot smaller. Height and Spread is up to twenty feet.

Tiger Swallowtail

Tulip tree – Liriodendron tulipifera – host for Tiger Swallowtails. Up to 90′ tall and 50′ wide.

American Snout

Hackberry Tree – Celtis occidentalis – host for Hackberry, American Snout, Question Mark and Comma. 60′ tall and 60′ wide. I keep mine trimmed back to 7 feet tall.

Red Spotted Purple

Willows – host for Red Spotted Purple and Viceroy. Size depends on the variety. I have never been able to raise caterpillars on willows.

Zebra Swallowtail

Pawpaw trees – Asimina triloba – host for Zebra Swallowtails. These are rare in my location and I have given up on this tree. It also sends up suckers so be prepared for plants all over the area.

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Fighting Weeds

Everyone has weeds. The questions are how do you minimize the number of weeds you have and also minimize the amount of time you spend fighting them.

I define weeds as plants which are not wanted in a particular location. Grass is fine in a lawn, but when it invades a flower garden, it’s a pain to deal with. The birds have brought in lots of bermuda grass which is continually sending out runners trying to get in with my flowers.

My main defense against weeds is a block border and a “Line of Death – LOD” around the border. I have a clear area around the border which I keep clean of any weeds. Here are a couple of tricks regarding the L.O.D.

  • I use a concrete block area to mark my garden area. It not only helps to define the garden, but catches garden seeds and gives me new plants every year. I like blocks that allow you to make a curve.

  • Be vigilant – once a week is about fine for patrolling the LOD.
  • Have good soil, fine mulch or compost in this LOD area so that it is easy to remove weeds. If you are trying to pull weeds from clay, it is much harder. While I buy compost by the yard, you can buy nice mixes in bags.
  • Preen is another product that I use at times. It keeps seeds from germinating. Put in the L.O.D. area to keep the weeds from sprouting.
  • Try Burnout as an organic weed killer. It works great for a week, but many times the roots are not killed and you will have to spray again.
  • I use a Japanese hoe to loosen weeds. It’s my favorite hand tool.

The final tool is an edger to keep the grass back. I do this once a week.

Inside the garden I sometimes use Preen for paths inside the garden. I use my Japanese hoe to get 99% of the rest of the weeds. Persistence is the key. I consider this my workout for the day.

Note – if you have already lost the battle with the weeds, it might be easier to take out the plants you want to keep, mow the area and then cover with either newspaper or cardboard and then add compost or fine mulch. Let the weeds die underneath it all for a couple of months.

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Soil Tests, Nitrogen and Compost

I had a recent soil test done on one section of my garden. I have had plants die in the past and recently the plants looked poorly in most of the area.

The test showed high levels of phosphorous, potassium and organic matter. The test does not test for nitrogen, but based upon my organic matter levels they didn’t recommend any added nitrogen. They did mention that, “Nitrogen is not listed because the level is not stable in the soil. It changes too frequently.”

What they recommended was to cut back on the compost, since my organic matter level is so high and to cut back on the phosphorous and potassium. He said that high levels can stop the uptake of other nutrients.

Their main recommendations were…

  1. Just use a high nitrogen fertilizer without added phosphorous or potassium – blood meal, cottonseed meal etc.
  2. Don’t add compost for a while. Try hardwood mulch on top

I did notice that added milorganite did green up the plants, but also adds phosphorous.

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Uthoff Valley Elementary

Uthoff Valley Elementary is the latest and nicest school garden I helped with this year. Here are a couple of notes about the garden.

  • The wood is treated so it should last longer than the wood we replaced.
  • The whole area is covered with mulch to keep down the weeds.
  • They added compost to the garden area and will add mulch after planting.
  • They asked about fertilizer and I suggested that if the plants looked poorly then they could add some Milorganite.
  • They are using a hose timer and soaker hose so that the entire area will be watered automatically over the summer.
  • The wood is placed on top of the soil. I suggested adding compost every year to build up the soil level.
  • The entire area had to be worked initially to remove the aggressive plants and weeds in the garden.

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Finding Seeds

I was recently asked where I found my seeds for the different plants I grow.

The best place to get seeds is your own garden. Save them in paper bags and label them.I like to let them dry on the plant and then put them in a paper bag. If you save your own seeds, then you don’t have to buy them.

The 2nd best place will be MY garden.I save lots of seeds every year in St. Louis. You are welcome to come over and get seeds in the fall.

The 3rd best place for seeds is Google. Do a search with the scientific name and you will find numerous seed resources. Many times I will visit the Missouri Botanical Garden and find a new plant I want to try. Take a picture of the plant and its name and then there’s a good chance you can find it online.

Another option are some of the Facebook online groups. Sometimes, many of the people are willing to share seeds for the price of a SASE.

Here’s a list of plants I have bought in the past and where I may have bought them. https://butterflygardening.wordpress.com/plants/

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Monarch from Egg to Butterfly

Six Weeks from Egg to Butterfly

June 2nd in St. Louis. as I was weeding the gardens, I found two newly emerged Monarchs. The first eggs I saw this year were around April 21st. Doing the math, it turns out that these Monarchs took six weeks to go from egg to Monarch butterfly. The extra long time period probably has to do with the cooler temperatures and extra spring rain.

If you are weeding in the garden, take some time and see if you can notice these newly emerged Monarchs.

This also emphasizes the importance of having early spring milkweed. My favorite is Ascelpias incarnata – Swamp Milkweed.

Note – June 6th – Monarch is flying around the garden. I’m not sure if it is MY monarch, but it’s nice to see.

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Fixing Soil with Amendments

Mycorrhizae
101010-Osmocote-Milo-Rosetone

This one particular garden area has been a problem for the last 3 or 4 years. Plants would dies for no particular reason, although some plants seem to not be bothered.

In the picture of poppies above, I have seeded much too heavily and the plants look terrible. I’m testing different type of amendments to see which might help the poppies.

Mycorrhizae is on the top and then left to right is is 10-10-10, Osmocote, Milorganite and Espoma Rosetone.

I added amendments on May 27th. Hopefully in a couple of weeks we will see what difference each of them makes.

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