Follow these steps to build a thriving butterfly destination and watch the colorful visitors arrive!
What Are Host Plants? Do I Need Them?
Photo: The Dahlonega Butterfly Farm
"HOST PLANTS are the plants where the female butterflies lay their eggs and where the caterpillars forage. Host plants aren’t always the prettiest plants in the garden but they’ll definitely bring butterflies into your yard. A few common host plants include Milkweed for the Monarchs, Parsley & Fennel for the Black Swallowtails, and Passion Vine for the Gulf Fritillary (to name a few). Keep this in mind; caterpillars eat a lot! So if you want to enjoy raising your own caterpillars – make sure to plant several host plants."
What are "nectar plants" and how do I choose which one to plant?
Photo: The Dahlonega Butterfly Farm
NECTAR PLANTS support adult butterflies (and other beneficial insects) with their sweet nectar and add beautiful seasonal color to your garden. It’s a good idea to have a variety of nectar plants which bloom throughout the summer to give your butterflies a regular source of food. There are hundreds of nectar plants to choose from but you’ll want to pick the right plants based on your zone and location. North Georgia is in Zone 7a, which is great for growing Perennial Lantana, Verbena, Coreopsis, Zinnias, Black-Eyed Susan, and Buddlei. For a seasonal pop of color you can also add annuals, Begonias, Pansies, Impatiens and Geraniums. And don’t forget the shrubs and trees; Butterflies need a safe place to rest and sleep.
How To Create a Butterfly Garden
Photo: The Dahlonega Butterfly Farm
A SUNNY SPOT and a small water puddle are also important to complete your butterfly habitat. Butterflies love to soak up the “sun” because they’re cold blooded and need the heat to fly. Butterflies need a water source to stay hydrated.. You can try adding a shallow dish to your garden with water or fruit juice. As a matter of fact, some butterflies prefer fruits and will be happy to feed on rotting bananas, oranges, mangoes or even dung. Last but not least; try to eliminate or reduce the use of pesticides and herbicides. Chemicals aren’t safe for butterflies, pets, or humans. Butterflies need a healthy environment and so do we!"
Top Photo provided by instagram account user, @i_shoot_people77
"Most of us ﬁnd "sheltering in place" something to be endured until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Plants, on the other hand, are of course happy to stay put and ﬂourish in dirt, no less. And like most of us, they do even better when they are surrounded by nurturing companions, hence the gardening practice of companion planting.
Now that most of us are expected to spend most of our time at home, an escape to the garden for exercise and sun is a logical stress reliever to being home bound. So, what better time than this spring planting season to add to our gardening "know how"?
To that end, I would like to share some of my favorite gardening tips, especially for our ﬁrst-time gardeners. So, let's talk about frost dates, using planting calendars, and companion planting techniques which may help you grow a beautiful and productive garden."
"Frost dates can be confusing. Gardeners talk about the last "hard" or "killing" frosts and "light" frosts. A frost date is the average date of the ﬁrst or last light freeze that occurs in spring or fall. Dave’s Garden website tells us that, on average, our risk of frost in Dahlonega is from October 27 through April 10. And, almost certainly, we will receive frost from November 14 through March 21. We are almost guaranteed not to get frost from May 1 through October 9. Our frost-free growing season is about 200 days. I try to be relatively conservative with frost dates and use March 30 as the last killing frost date and May 15 as the last average light frost date in Dahlonega. There will be a lot of variation in these reported dates due to local weather, microclimates or topography, but the conservative dates seem to work well for me."
"These are wonderful slide rule type planners that you can use to enter the last frost date and learn when you should start seeds indoors and/or outdoors. They provide information such as recommended plants, dates to start indoor seeds and the types of seeds to start, ﬁrst outdoor planting dates, and expected harvest dates. You can also find programs on line to help you develop and save your own gardening data.
My ﬁrst garden planner was called “Clyde's Garden Planner - Clyde's Vegetable Planting Slide Chart” which I found on line. I also have a “Garden Vegetable Guide” that United Community Bank gave away a few years ago, and it provides data such as: how easy or challenging different seeds are to grow, when to start or plant them, planting depth, row width/ spacing between seeds, days to maturity, hardiness and type of soil. The University of Georgia has a fantastic web site you can easily access. Just google: Vegetable Garden Calendar, UGA Cooperative Extension."
What Should I Plant? What is Companion Planting?
"Said to be part experience, part folklore, and part wishful thinking, most companion planting teachings are passed down by gardeners who experimented with different pairings of plants and had some success. The companion planting technique is the result of placing various crops close to each other so they symbiotically compliment each other leading to greater vigor, growth and often better ﬂavor. Some companion plants are used to repel and deter insect pests and diseases. Companion planting also involves separating plants that are antagonistic to each other.
Tomatoes are one of my favorite vegetables. Here is some information you may ﬁnd helpful if you plan to grow your own tomatoes.
Companions for tomatoes include: amaranth, asparagus, basil, bean, borage, calendula, celery, chive, cleome, cosmos, cucumber, garlic, lemon balm, lettuce, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, parsley, peas, sage, stinging nettle, sow thistle, and squash. Amaranth may repel insects. Basil improves growth and ﬂavor and repels mosquitoes and ﬂies. Borage improves growth and ﬂavor and repels tomato worms. Bee balm, chives, and parsley are reported to improve tomato health and ﬂavor. Garlic repels red spider mites and garlic sprays help control late blight. Stinging nettle nearby improves taste, while sow thistle aids growth. Tomato antagonists include: cabbage and members of the Brassica family (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliﬂower, kale, kohlrabi, rutabaga, turin), corn, fennel, and mature dill plants.
Tomatoes are in the nightshade family and it is best to avoid planting together vegetables in the same family, like eggplants, peppers, and potatoes, which are susceptible to early and late blight. Also, avoid planting your tomatoes near walnut and butternut trees as they produce juglone. Juglone is an allelopathic substance produced by walnut and butternut trees which stunts the growth of other plants."
Companion Planting Resources
"Some of my favorite resources on Companion Planting include: Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte and Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham. (My disclaimer: Contrary to popular belief, tomatoes and carrots may not have a symbiotic relationship. In fact there is some suggestion that tomato plants can stunt the growth of carrots.)
The glory of gardening, according to Alfred Austin, English Poet Laureate, means "hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden," Austin says, "is to feed not just the body, but the soul.” What could be a better remedy for our couch stiffened bodies and soul stagnating confinement than putting our hands in the dirt and heads in the sun, nurturing our souls with garden creativity, in partnership with the Creator, enjoying our ever-improving garden paradises during this COVID-19 spring."
Thank you Dr. Whitfield and JoAnn for the lovely gardening tips! Try incorporating some of these tips this spring while you stay-inplace for a gorgeous life-giving garden! You'll thank yourself later, we promise!