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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

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A Garden Neutral Caterpillar

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Post  Unmutual 6/7/2013, 8:23 am

Since I decided not to use chemicals a little over 3 years ago, including organic methods, I thought that this year I could do something different with some empty space/grass. After researching a few things and also after helping maintain a couple of small civic gardens, I decided to provide Monarch butterfly habitat.

Most people would probably think I'm crazy to attract a population of caterpillars to a vegetable garden, but the Monarch only eats one type of plant: the milkweeds. They won't touch anything else. They're also endangered, which seems rather strange since you can have any type of garden along with a Monarch habitat. Granted, the milkweeds aren't very appealing visually once the Monarchs have had their way with them, but you can hide those within other bushes.

So far, I have seen 20+ caterpillars and 3 chrysalises. Soon it will be time to take pictures of these good looking butterflies emerging and going on their merry way to the north. Since this one season experiment was successful, it's time to research other critters that are either veggie garden neutral or even beneficial to the vegetable garden(outside of the normal range of beneficial insects that is).
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Post  ETNRedClay 6/7/2013, 8:31 am

Lots of questions here -- because I don't think you can have too many butterflies!

How big a space did you give their habitat? How close is it to your main garden area? What was in the habitat? Milkweed only? Did you buy seeds and sow them? Do you have pictures? How unsightly is unsightly?

THANKS.
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Post  RoOsTeR 6/7/2013, 8:46 am

Looking forward to the pictures of this one unmutual Very Happy

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Post  mschaef 6/7/2013, 10:16 am

I love butterflies and would love to do this too. Please post picture of you area so I can see how to do it please. Thanks!!
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Post  Unmutual 6/9/2013, 8:56 am

Sorry for the delay, but since I had to find a host and I needed to get back in to practice with websites, I went ahead and made one. There's nothing on the actual site yet except for the pictures.

The pictures of the caterpillars were taken from the back yard milkweeds.
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This is a milkweed after being eaten by the monarchs. One cool thing is that they will regrow, so it's not a continuing expense. Got to love perennials.

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And here is a milkweed before it's(mostly) eaten.
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Some pictures of the Monarchs pupating.
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They even crawled up the wall of the house!
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I hope to get some pictures of the emerging butterflies in a few days.
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Post  mschaef 6/9/2013, 10:32 am

That is simply beautiful!!!. Did you buy the milkweed plant or can you grow them from seeds? Also did you order you caterpillars?
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Post  southern gardener 6/9/2013, 12:05 pm

unmutual...we grew some caterpillars last year, and they hatched at about day 10. Do you know when yours shed their skin? If so...watch them at about day 9-10 and you should be able to catch them hatch...it's amazing!!
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Post  brainchasm 6/9/2013, 2:19 pm

@mschaef wrote:That is simply beautiful!!!. Did you buy the milkweed plant or can you grow them from seeds? Also did you order you caterpillars?
mschaef: you can buy seed or starts, obviously seed is cheaper. There are a few varieties, mainly differentiated by what kind of weather they can handle.

There's some decent info here, as well as a source of seeds.

http://www.livemonarch.com/free-milkweed-seeds.htm

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Post  Unmutual 6/9/2013, 3:29 pm

@mschaef wrote:I love butterflies and would love to do this too. Please post picture of you area so I can see how to do it please. Thanks!!

When they pop out of their chrysalises, I'll take a couple of pics of the front yard while I'm at it. It's not finished, but at least it's presentable hehe.

@mschaef wrote:That is simply beautiful!!!. Did you buy the milkweed plant or can you grow them from seeds? Also did you order you caterpillars?

There's a Monarch garden in Lafitte that I help maintain, so I took a few seeds from there but they never came up. I bought 6 plants at roughly $7 each. I think you can find them on sale about this time since monarchs have probably chewed them all up by now(lucky for gardeners, big box stores aren't aware of the plant's function). I didn't buy caterpillars. The garden is only 3 months old, and I was amazed to find Monarchs making their home already, but then again, I guess it only takes one fertilized female monarch.


@southern gardener wrote:unmutual...we grew some caterpillars last year, and they hatched at about day 10. Do you know when yours shed their skin? If so...watch them at about day 9-10 and you should be able to catch them hatch...it's amazing!!

Monarchs take 8-12 days to emerge, so I'll be keeping my eye on them and hopefully take some pictures of them coming out.

Another good resource for Monarchs is http://www.monarchwatch.org/
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Post  Goosegirl 6/9/2013, 4:34 pm

The house across the street from me used to be on the Monarch migration path. Until they had to remove some trees because of Dutch Elm Disease, Monarchs used to swarm one of their trees every year for a day or so, then be off to the next stop along their way. She called me over to see them one year. It is an amazing sight. You are going to have a rare treat seeing them emerging!

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Post  southern gardener 6/9/2013, 4:57 pm

We had some milkweed growing "wild" in our back yard, and my grandson found some baby caterpillars. WE (meaning most me lol) fed them until they turned into chrysalis, and then they hatched. He showed up within 5 minutes of it hatching! it was sooo cool!! Here are the pics, hope you like them.

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Post  Triciasgarden 6/9/2013, 6:47 pm

I just love the coloring on the monarch caterpillar! Beautiful pictures! One year (probably 20 years ago) on my street, we had thousands upon thousands of monarchs migrating. It was an amazing site!
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Post  littlejo 6/9/2013, 8:25 pm

OK, I love Monarchs and think the thread is great, but, I guess I have done something because I cannot see any pics. Anyone have any ideas to help?

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Post  brainchasm 6/9/2013, 8:33 pm

Some of these threads (especially the picture-heavy ones) will load all the text and formatting first, and then take a fair while to load the pics. Patience, I guess?

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Post  Unmutual 6/14/2013, 11:17 am

I have some new arrivals, so I also took a pic(and labelled) of the front yard.

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Butterfly Bush(Buddleja spp.): Nectar source
Comfrey(Symphytum officinale): Chop and Drop mulch(nutrient accumulating plant).
Crape Myrtle:  Existing trees
Delphiniums(Delphinium spp.):  These are just now coming in to flower.  Nectar source.
Dwarf Yaupon(Ilex vomitoria):  These small shrubs will grow together to form a semicircular hedge.  Food source for birds in winter.
Geraniums(Geranium spp.):  I've always wanted to see how they perform.  Nectar source.  This is my only annual so far.
Goumi(Elaeagnus multiflora): Nitrogen fixing shrub.  Nectar source.  Human edible berries.
Lantana(Lantana spp.):  Nectar source.
Milkweed(Asclepius tuberosa):  Monarch caterpillar food source.
Persian Shield(Strobilanthes dyeriana):  I just like the metallic purple look.
Strawberries(Fragaria x ananassa):  Nectar source.  Easy ground cover.  Human edible berries.  These are june-bearing plants(I forget the specific cultivar).
Water source:  birdbath with some rocks in it so insects don't drown themselves.

Not labelled are the small coffee plants(Coffea arabica) which I'm testing.

Plants to add later:  Purple/pale coneflowers, black eyed susans, mexican hats and other prairie type flowering perennials.  I may not replace the geraniums next year(assuming they die).

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Post  GWN 6/15/2013, 10:20 am

Just on the topic of Monarchs, Barbara kingsolvers latest book is about Monarchs... and as her books always do, you learn all about monarchs and what threatens them, in a fiction novel.
It is called "flight Behaviour"
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