How to plant a beginner organic pollinator garden
SAN ANTONIO – If you want to add some color to your garden, always choose plants that also benefit pollinators. Without bees and butterflies, there would be no vital vegetation needed to nourish and cool our planet.
You can read more about the importance of our pollinators and the threats they face by clicking here.
The most important thing to remember when planting a pollinator garden is not to use any pesticides, herbicides or chemicals.
The job of pesticides is to kill insects. The whole point of planting a pollinator garden is to attract insects. Remember that butterflies and bees are insects. If you use chemicals on your plants, it will defeat the purpose of attracting these super important pollinators, or worse, it will attract them and then poison them.
You also want to plant heat and drought tolerant plants. SAWS has a great list of these, and most on this list are native and great for pollinators.
One of the flowers I picked for our garden is called Gregg’s Mistflower. I have these at home. You are doing wonderfully in San Antonio. As well as being native, they are drought and heat tolerant and bloom for much of the year (February to November).
And here’s a little secret. It’s like candy for butterflies. Planting this will keep your garden filled with all kinds of butterflies for a good part of the year.
I also chose Tropical Milkweed. This isn’t technically native to San Antonio, but SAWS recognizes it as a water-conserving plant.
It’s great when it’s hot. Most importantly, it is a source of nectar for monarch butterflies, and they need milkweed to lay their eggs. If you spot monarch or queen caterpillars chewing on your leaves on your plant, that’s a great thing! Let them eat the leaves and don’t worry as the leaves will regrow and help pollinate your plant.
It’s important to note that spurge is a poisonous plant for your pets. If ingested by your pets, it may harm them. I will say this, I have two dogs that are always in the garden and they have never tried to eat any of my dozen milkweed plants. However, if your pet has been known to eat anything, either don’t plant them in your yard or plant them in a window box that is high up and not in the ground.
I know some might say I should use native spurge as not tropical spurge, but I plant native spurge at home from seed and it is very difficult to grow and can be very picky.
So Tropical Milkweed is a great plant for a beginner garden like the one we grow here at KSAT. I know there is a little controversy. A study was conducted that indicated that Tropical Milkweed could harm our monarch butterflies. But I spoke to the director of the National Butterfly Center and she says there isn’t enough evidence to support this research. The National Butterfly Center supports the use of Tropical Milkweed as a source for monarch butterflies.
If you see yellow spots on your milkweed, those are aphids. You really don’t want them on your milkweed because they can smother your plant. You also don’t want to use chemicals or pesticides. You can simply hose them down or gently rub them off with a damp paper towel. You can also dispatch the defenders of nature. I’m talking about ladybugs. Ladybugs like to eat aphids. You can purchase a box of ladybugs from local nurseries.
Remember not to spray the aphids with chemicals or pesticides as these will poison the butterflies that land on your plants.
And let’s plant!
Before you plant, it’s important to place your plants before you start digging so you have a good idea of what it will look like. The next step, of course, is to dig your holes. You don’t want them too shallow, but you don’t want them too deep either. A good way to measure is to use your 1 gallon planter if it will fit in there. Then this is probably a perfect size for it. Sometimes I use a drill on a drill to speed up the digging process.
After all, you want to water your plants thoroughly right after planting. As they establish, you’ll want to water often depending on the heat and drought. A good way to tell if you need to water is to touch the soil, when it’s no longer moist it’s time to water.
I water every other day for the first two to three months to help them establish. Remember last summer when we had a month of 100 consecutive days? No matter how drought or heat tolerant, most of our native vegetation has been hit. During this time I put all my potted plants in the shade to protect them and hand watered them every day to keep them alive.
It’s all worth it when you see a monarch landing on your milkweed and laying eggs. Within just a few days of planting the milkweed in the KSAT garden, I experienced this magical moment.
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