Butterfly gardening for beginners

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  • #13947


    Hi all,

    I'm a recent member to the organisation and it has been really enjoyable and so informative reading of the knowledge and commitment/addiction of members to monarchs etc.

    While I envy those with large butterfly houses or dozens of plants, I thought I might offer – to those other relative newbies who have small gardens – what has been working well for me in my monarch farming here on the North Shore since last season. I only have 5 plants. One is in the middle of a small flower garden containing wallflower, gazania, alyssum, roses, marigolds, sweet peas. This gets full sun all day. Monarchs regularly visit this one plant leaving it with a very bad case of egg 'dandruff'! The other four plants are in two groups of two in a sheltered area of a side garden, which again gets full sun. When pillars hatch on the solo plant, after a couple of days I lift them with the blunt blade of a pocket knife (that is only used for pillars). They easily roll onto the blade. I then transfer them to the other plants and roll them off onto the tops of the plant. No casualties thus far.

    The plants are covered with frost-cloth which has been cut to size. (This can be bought from the Warehouse, 2m x 5m. Good to give it a rinse first just in case there is anything toxic on it – I haven't had any problems yet.) I have driven a variety of tall wooden stakes well into the ground leaving plenty of space around the foliage and then wrap the cloth around them. I have also buried it slightly under the soil at the bottom so the pillars don't go walk about and nothing can get in. I then secure the cloth to the stakes with clothes pegs. It takes a bit of rolling and ravelling at the top to make sure there are no gaps for predators.

    I have 11 chrysalis hanging from two plants at present and on the other two, which I started putting pillars on later, I have 2 Js and another 4 fatties plus numerous littlies (and have given a number of small pillars away to others whose plants haven't been visited). Because my plants are a bit older I have a good amount of feed…at the moment (he laughed nervously). If you work the plants in rotation you can have a small yet satisfying operation.

    On another subject, I see the Yates Garden Guide 2009 does not have milkweed etc or mention of monarchs in it. Only buddleia, this despite a section on 'Gardening for kids'. Surely nothing is better for introducing kids to gardening, conservation etc than swan plants!

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  • #23160

    Claire Bear

    HI there – this is a great thread: thank you!

    I have developed a similar system by trial and error. Recently a few branches leaned too close to the netting and within minutes a nasty wasp was there getting at the poor chubby caterpilliars and even one J just as it turned into a Chrysalis. Those wasps are absolutely evil little killing machines. Yuk.

    Anyway, thank you for the tips 🙂



    Of course that's okay, Jacqui!



    Some great tips there, Matt. Thanks for contributing. I'm going to change the heading from "From one newbie to others" to "butterfly gardening for beginners" – hope that's okay?


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