Plant a Garden
- Preparation: Evaluate your site and choose a spot with at least six hours of sunlight. Simply add native plants to an existing garden, or replace a patch of lawn. If replacing a lawn, start with a clean planting bed and remove non‐native vegetation if necessary. Select plant species that match the light, soil, pH and moisture conditions of your garden plot. See: Local Ecotype Guidelines
- Design Considerations: To be visually appealing, select native plant species of varied heights that bloom at different times. These plants will provide nectar for adult butterflies throughout the season. Don’t forget to include native grasses such as little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) not only for contrast, but also to help keep the blooming forbs upright. If it all possible, plant at least two types of milkweed for Monarchs and then additional host species for caterpillars of other butterfly species. Enhance your garden by adding a butterfly puddling spot and small brush pile for over‐wintering species like mourning cloak butterflies. Take a “before” photo of site.
- Plant Selection: Make a sketch of the planting plan, and perhaps color‐code bloom times for early, mid‐season and late flowers. Fall blossoming nectar‐rich plants are particularly important to migrating Monarchs. Make a list of your plant species and check the number needed. Allow for sufficient room between plants as they mature. Mulch to provide an initial weed barrier. Find a reputable native plant nursery that carries plants and seeds from your area (local genotype) and uses best management practices appropriate for sensitive ecosystems. If seeding, use a nurse crop of annual oats to reduce weed growth. To purchase milkweed plugs through Monarch Watch go to Monarch Watch Milkweed Market
- Maintenance: At first, water regularly, remove weeds and keep mulched until the garden is established. Try being pesticide‐free since this garden is wildlife food. Some butterfly gardeners cut back some stalks of summer milkweed (late June or early July) to force new leaves for Monarch caterpillars ‐‐ be sure to transfer any eggs or larvae to plants that you don’t cut back. Later in the season (August‐September), practice benign neglect! In the fall, leave some dead leaves and stalks to provide overwintering sites for pollinators. Go back to your garden plan and update. Take an “after” photo of your garden.
- Lots of space? Plant native trees for butterflies and moths including oak, cherry, willow and hackberry.
- Send milkweed seeds to Monarch Watch. Here is a list of milkweed seeds needed by State. Please contribute.
Spread the Word
- Talk to your friends, family and neighbors about the role of pollinators in food production and ecosystem health.
- Download or request materials from the What Wild Ones is Doing About It page to hand out to friends and family.
- Post and share this information and links on your Facebook page, your blog and your website.
Keep Up-To-Date with Wild Ones
- Watch this website for updates and new events.
- Check to see if you have a Wild Ones chapter near you and check out the local happenings.
- Post your comments and photos and tell us what you are doing on our Wild for Monarch blog.
- Apply for Wild Ones Butterfly Garden Recognition after your garden is two years old.
- Collect native milkweed seed and encourage others to grow milkweeds on their property. For details check out our Milkweed Basics.
- Join local efforts to protect and restore natural areas and monitor pollinators. Encourage land stewards of parks, preserves and wildlife areas to include more milkweed species in their restorations.
- Does your state follow a Roadsides for Wildlife program? If not, why not help start one? Work with your township to reduce roadside mowing if there are native species remaining. See xerces.org/pollinator‐conservation‐roadsides/
- Find out about policy issues that affect pollinators and share information with your government representatives.
- Join your state’s landscape register to be alerted to use of pesticide applications in your neighborhood by landscapers.
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