Monarch Butterflies – April 8th

I’m doing a program on Monarch butterflies and what you can do to attract them into your garden.

Saturday – April 8th – 9:30 a.m.
Whitecliff Recreation Center
9245 Whitecliff Park Ln, Crestwood, MO 63126

It’s free and everyone is welcome.

I’ll be giving away free seeds and plants  to get you started.

Here’s a video of the Monarchs in my garden last fall.

 

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Butterfly Gardening Series

I came across Friends of the Garden recently and found that they have a great series on Butterfly Gardening.

It is written by Lenora Larson and seems to be an ongoing series. I’m impressed with her knowledge and obvious energy since she has a two acre garden in Kansas.

This is a great series and Lenora is quite knowledgeable.

Here is the link for the Butterfly Gardening series.

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Garden Calendar

This time table is for St. Louis Missouri, but should work for most Zone 6 areas. I will adjust it this year as my plants dictate.

After flowering – Amsonia – cut back a third and shape
After flowering – Baptisia – cut back a third and shape
After flowering – Maltese Cross – cut down to base
After flowering – Monarda – cut to base
After flowering – Salvia – cut back to base
After flowering – Shasta Daisy – cut to base
After flowering – Veronica spicata – cut down to base
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04-01 Rue – prune to 6″
05-15 Solidago rigida – pinch
05-20 Agastache – pinch
06-01 Ironweed (old) – cut down to ground when 2 feet
06-01 Monarda – cut back by half – once or twice.
06-01 Shasta Daisy – layer front row for lower display
06-05 Sedum – cut back to 4″ when 8″ tall
06-06 Solidago – cut back by half
06-07 Hibiscus – when 16″ tall – cut back by half
06-07 Echinacea – cut back some by 1/2 to delay bloom
06-10 Liatris – TEST – cut back by half when 18″
06-10 NE Aster – cut back by half for native – shape
07-10 NE Aster – cut back by half for native – shape
08-10 Coreopsis verticillata – shear blooms
08-20 Agastache – cut back to rebloom
08-30 Gaillardia – cut down to base

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Old Time Nectar Plants

I found this book available as a free download at:
http://horizontalhive.com/download-free/american-honey-plants-pellett.pdf

While it appears to be only for bee keepers, it’s advice can also be applied to butterflies and all pollinators.

It’s a bit daunting when first look at the 312 pages, but becomes easier to use if you do a search for your specific state.

I’ve found that many of the plants and trees I have planted are listed in this book.
Did you know that TULIP-POPLAR or TULIP TREE (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a good nectar plant?

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Hydrangea paniculata – host/nectar plant

hydrangea-02-800One of the plants that I have had great success with is Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora  – also called Pee Gee Hydrangea. While it’s not on most people’s nectar list, I have found that when it blooms it attracts tons of pollinators. It also attracts Spring and Summer Azure butterflies which lay eggs on the blossoms.

I’ve decided to create a hedge with these and am going to use this page to collect ideas and notes from the web.

Here are some recommendations from Craig of SurfingHydrangea.com

  • A few that I like are Limelight, Tardiva and Pink Diamond. These plants all have sturdy branches that help hold the large flower heads up with minimal flopping.
  • Placing plants at 3′ on center would allow for a tight hedge in a reasonable period of time without overplanting. You may be able to space even farther if you begin with larger stock plants.
  • Personally, I would stay with one variety to allow for uniform shape and growth pattern among the plants. All varieties have a very long length of time between bud stage, full bloom and gradual fading of flowers through the fall.
  • I believe that Limelight is a good pollinator plant, but have no real evidence to support this. I do not know if any studies have been done on this characteristic for various paniculata forms.

Deborah Silver says, “I would plant your hedge 4′ off the sidewalk. No need to crowd that walk.”

Limelight is a variety that seems to get good reviews, so I may go with this hydrangea.

Note – if any readers grow this variety, I’d appreciate their comments.

Hydrangea is also listed as a good native nectar plant.
http://grownative.org/plant-picker/plant/wild-hydrangea/

Here’s a good video on pruning this shrub.

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Controlling Bugs on Inside Plants

QUESTION

I received this question recently.
“Yesterday, while watering the plants (which are thriving) I noticed there were small bugs that flew out from under the lid. They were very small and hard to notice at first yet, I am not sure if we should be concerned.  Lately at our school we have been having fruit fly problems, so the teachers used a small cup of vinegar to try to get ‘rid of them. Is that something we should try?  If you have any advice or information for our bug problem, please let us know. ”

Here’s my response.

First off, if the plants look like they are thriving, you may not have to worry over a few bugs.

On the seedlings I raise in the basement, I do have problems with small gnat type flies and also white flies. If I didn’t do anything, the population would get out of control.

I have three ways I control basement insects.
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Yellow sticky traps. These are very effective with the flying insects, but less so with white fly. This might also help with the fruit fly problem at the school.

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My second method is to use a shop vac with a soft bristle and simply vacuum the plants and remove the bugs mechanically. Be gentle with the plants.

 

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My third method is to use Safe Insect Killing Soap. I have had good results with this spray and it should not have any residual effects when you put the plants outside. You could also try a horticultural oil spray which should be safe to use.

With the above, first test the spray on one plant to make sure it doesn’t hurt the plant.

I would not use anything stronger than the above methods.

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After Seed Germination

There are lots of websites and videos which show you how to start your seeds inside, but the question is “What do you do after the seeds have germinated?”

I have started seeds indoors for many years and have pretty good success. The problem I always have is that the plants get tall and have weak stems and don’t do as well as I’d like when they go outside.

Mary Ann Fink has given me a number of suggestions which should help.

pinch-8Pinch the end of the plants when they get two or three sets of true leaves. This will encourage the plant to send out lateral shoots and be bushier instead of just tall.

fan-800Use an oscillating fan to push the plants back and forth. This will encourage them to make their stems sturdier.

Finally, give them a pat on their tops. This is supposed to keep the plant smaller and sturdier and not quite as tall.

Another tip I have learned from a plant propagation class is that when you want to harden the plants off, you need to reduce the watering of the plants. You want them to dry out between watering.

 

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