St. Louis has been blessed over the last few weeks with lots of Monarchs flying around our gardens. There are plenty of eggs and caterpillars to keep the next generation going and with milkweed also comes aphids.
If you look at the recent picture, you will see not only a beautiful Monarch butterfly, but also lots of aphids. This happens every year, but this year the aphid population has waited to explode. Normally, they come out in June and are gone by July. This year they waited until July and August.
The normal response of most gardeners is to rush to their local big box store and get the most deadly pesticide they can find. They then spray their milkweed over and over until every aphid is dead.
If you love butterflies, this is exactly the WRONG thing to do. Any pesticide that will kill aphids will also kill Monarchs in the egg and caterpillar stage. I’ve recently heard of people spraying their milkweed with Insecticidal Soap. While this will certainly kill the aphids, it will also kill any Monarch caterpillars who are trying to make it into the butterfly stage.
You could try and use a high power water hose to wash them off, but that is only a very short term answer and they will quickly find their way back to your plants.
The response I have is to do nothing at all. Aphids, while not aesthetically pleasing are not hurting the plants or the caterpillars. Aphids are also food for goldfinch and hummingbirds.
When you do find yourself getting upset over aphids in the garden, take a deep breath and try to relax – this is all part of Mother Nature’s plan.
If you are going out of town and are concerned about your plants, here is a timer I am testing.
It’s the Orbit Single Outlet Programmable Hose Faucet Timer.
You can set it to water at specific times and for specific durations.
My main suggestion is to test this out ahead of time to check the coverage and how much water is actually being delivered to your plants.
For my plants in pots, I am also using a saucer underneath each one to capture more water since they have a tendency to dry out.
Below is a video on how to setup this timer.
My garden is part of the FREE Crestwood Garden Tour 2018.
If you’d like to visit my butterfly garden, plus a number of other gardens in the Crestwood area, please start your tour at 9016 Robyn Rd. …63126.
I will have handouts for the other gardens locations.
June 16th 9 a.m. to noon.
Every year I like to feed the soil with a mulch/compost mix (Black Forest) or just straight compost. This year I am trying 3 yards of Black Gold compost from St. Louis Composting. It looks very similar to the Black Forest Mulch, but is a bit more expensive.
It’s always amazing to me how compost and mulch just disappears over the period of a year. You can buy the compost relatively inexpensively for $25/yard, but you will need a trailer or pickup. To buy it by the bag, one cu. yard would cost $101.25.
My cost delivered to my house was $140 for 3 cu. yards = 81 cu feet. Black Gold Compost
Note to Self – Buy four yards in 2019.
It took Joe R. nine hours to spread three yards.
After watching a couple of years of Monty Don on “Gardeners’ World,” one of the differences I noticed was he doesn’t use peat moss in the U.K. He mainly uses a lot of compost, perlite and grit. I’ve also never seen him use fertilizer other than compost which he makes himself.
You would be hard pressed to find this mixture in any nursery or big box store.
What I have found is a mix which seems similar to what Monty Don uses.
SLC Grower’s Mix has a combination of pine bark fines, compost and PBH rice hulls, although they wouldn’t tell me the exact percentages.
When I talked to SLC they did indicate that they would recommend using Osmocote if I was planning to grow from small size to large size in a pot. He recommended using a medium dosage. They do include a small starter nutrition in the mix and a micro-nutrient charge.
The product will be a bit drier since it drains so well. You may have to water more often.
I’m going to be doing some tests with this product versus my standard BX ProMix. The SLC mix is only $6 per 2 cu. ft. bag.
You would obviously be better off buying the mix in bulk, if you have a place to dump it.
The one odd thing about this mix is that it is in bags which say Cotton Blossom Compost.
In St. Louis, we finally have confirmation of the first monarch butterflies and hummingbirds. Margy Terpstra has a great blog which shows these recent sightings.
If you have some milkweed which you have started inside, now would be the time to put some out. I would probably leave it in the pot for a week or two since we still may have some freezing weather. For laying eggs, Monarchs don’t care whether it’s in the pot or in the ground. Group it together to make it easier for them to find.
Also start putting out your hummingbird feeder since they are also back in St. Louis. Margy has a great picture of them nectaring on Bluebells. It’s a great early season native flower.
In St. Louis, Missouri, April is always a month for safety first when it comes to new plants. Many new plants that I buy or have started in the basement are much better off outside, but with temperatures below freezing at times, you have to figure out how to protect the plants.
I don’t plant until after May 1st, so I have to keep on top of the weather for all of April.
Here is one way I use to protect my plants.
I put them on a rolling shelf unit. When the temperature is above 45 degrees, I roll out the plants and give them water and sunshine. I don’t put them in full sun all day, but will start them out in sunshine and then move them to a shady area.
At night when the temperatures go below 40 degrees, I bring them inside the garage for protection.