Monarch News

The Monarch eggs have hatched and it’s fun to watch the caterpillars chew up the Swamp Milkweed.

Below is a fun video on the Monarchs as they hibernate in Mexico.

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South Facing Basement Wall

If you have a basement with a south facing wall, then you are in luck. I have a couple of different plants that wouldn’t live if they were just out in the garden alone, but with the extra heat, they can over-winter and come back every year with no work on your part.

Here are a couple of plants which have come back reliably for the last five years.

Black-Blue Salvia – hummingbird favorite
Lantana – Miss Huff or Star Landing
Note – May 1st and they are just showing

For schools, try and use a south wall for the garden and put the more tender plants up close to the wall.

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School Plants

Here is a list of butterfly plants I am adding to some of my school gardens.

Milkweed

  • Swamp milkweed – Ascelpias incarnata – note – it’s probably best to plant seeds in the fall. Mark their location.
  • Butterfly Weed – Asclepias tuberosa – plant seeds in place in the fall. Mark their location.
  • Tropical milkweed – this will bloom all summer long.

Host Plants

  • Bronze Fennel – perennial for Black Swallowtail (BST)
  • Golden Alexander – perennial for Black Swallowtail (BST) – looks great in May.
  • Dill/Parsley – perennial for Black Swallowtail (BST)
  • Kale – host for Cabbage White
  • Pussytoes – host for Painted Ladies

Annuals

  • Purple Globe amaranth – covers a large area.
  • Lantana – large type to cover a big area – needs lots of sun.
  • Zinnia angustifolia – you can also just plant the seeds as they germinate in four days.

Perennials

  • Allium – large – blooms in May
  • Allium small – blooms June
  • Aster – smaller versions
  • Bee Balm
  • Calamint – this is not invasive and blooms most of the summer.
  • Coreopsis
  • Echinacea purpurea
  • Liatris
  • Maltese Cross
  • Nepeta – Walkers Low
  • Phlox
  • Veronica
  • Purple Salvia
  • Red Salvia – reseeds inself
  • Rudbeckia
  • Sedum – blooms in the fall, but may get large and floppy
  • Slender Mountain Mint

Also Bring:

  • Soil to fill-in.
  • Fertilizer – organic – spread on after planting.
  • Spades for kids.
  • Gloves
  • Stand tools in cart

Notes

  1. Make sure the water is on.
  2. Since most schools are closed in the summer, most of the plantings are mainly for spring and fall blooms.
  3. Encourage the sponsor to find a summer helper to weed and water during the summer.
  4. Use small containers so kids only have to dig small holes.

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Goldenrod – the Good and the Bad

With Solidago or Goldenrod you have lots of different choices when you go to the nursery and it’s hard to know which variety to buy. I have bought many, if not all local varieties and most of them look like the type below. I don’t know exactly which species this is, but I do know that the school kids and myself have a lot of work to do. You not only have to dig it out, but also make sure that you don’t leave any runners or pieces of runners in the ground. This is a good reason to be very careful when you buy plants for a school garden. Don’t put in any plant which is aggressive and will take over an area.

Many varieties of solidago in a home garden will take over an area and spread via runners and rhizomes which grow at a prolific pace. If you look at the size of the stalks left behind, these plants get at least five foot tall and many times will flop over. Nothing else has a chance when it has taken over an area.

I have finally found a nice variety that stays in place and looks gorgeous in the fall – Solidago sphacelata – Golden Fleece.

This variety only gets 24 inches tall and grows at a slow pace.

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Swamp Milkweed Importance

It’s April 21st and in St. Louis we have just been visited by our first Monarch butterfly. This was a female looking for milkweed to lay eggs on.

What is interesting to note is that just six days ago, we had frost yet the cooler temperatures have not hurt the monarchs or the milkweed.

Unless you have started milkweed from seed, most people won’t have any milkweed to provide the visiting monarchs.

Swamp Milkweed is one of my favorites in spring as it has a lovely form and beautiful flowers.

The problem we have is that it only lasts three or so years before it dies off. The problem is probably the hot dry summers we have, which is not conducive to any plant with swamp in it’s name.

To avoid having to buy new plants every year, make sure you collect the seeds when they ripen on the stem, put them in a paper bag and then plant them in late fall where you want them to grow. Next year you will be rewarded with lots of new plants free of any cost. You can also buy seeds online and plant them outside in the fall.

Another trick I have learned is that your can dig up plants early in the spring and divide them. This way you may end up with six plants instead of one.

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Playgrounds and Gardens

Yes – this is a garden.

If anyone suggested putting in a garden in a baseball field, people would think you were nuts. We just had a similar situation where 1700 plants were put in a playground last year and a year later they are almost all dead and gone.

Kids running around in a limited area, playing soccer, tag, etc. are going to run right through the gardens and trample all the plants. That’s what happened in this one school garden. Do the math on buying 1700 plants and the effort involved in planting and you realize how much was wasted on that one garden.

One solution in a limited playground area is to put out a few large pots which are out of the way and can stand up to soccer balls. Large pots do need more frequent watering than plants in the soil.

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Mycorrhizae Fungi

I just had a conversation with Scott Woodbury from the Shaw Nature Reserve about their use of Mycorrhizae in the production of their plants.

They initially use a potting mix which is 50% mix from St. Louis Composting plus 50% BX-ProMix. BX already has some Mycorrhizae in their mix.

When they transplant the seedlings to their own pots, they add Mycorrhizae. The brand they use is http://mycobloom.com/

He has had good results with this brand. Scott wrote am interesting article about Mycorrhizae in the Kansas City Gardener.

While the initial price of this product – $20 for two pounds, seems a bit high, when you consider that many plants cost $10 or more, then if you could save just a few plants using Mycorrhizae, then the price would be justified.

Scott did mention that they had not done field tests, but that they great results in the greenhouse.

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