Gardening with Laurie: Butterfly gardening
By Laurie Garretson
Many gardeners tend to be interested in nature. Nature and gardening, the two just naturally seem to go together. Being in the garden and observing nature up close can provide hours of enjoyment for anyone. I think this is why butterfly gardening has become so popular.
To attract various species of butterflies to your yard, plant different types of flowering plants, such as lantana, zinnias and pentas. Butterflies like to dine in sunny areas, and these plants are true sun lovers. You can also plant larval food plants that pre-butterflies, otherwise known as caterpillars, will need for eating. Parsley, milkweed and rue are good butterfly larval foods.
Here are a few other things you can do to attract butterflies:
Keep a dish of very ripe fruits, such as peaches, plums, nectarines and bananas out in sunny areas of the garden. Add a spoonful of beer or rum to the fruit to really make it tasty. Butterflies will be attracted to these sweet treats.
A very easy thing to do to entice these beauties is to provide them with a location for sunning. A large rock placed in a sunny area is all they need for hours of sunning pleasure.
Another important thing to provide butterflies with is a puddling area. You might have noticed a butterfly on the edge of a puddle before. The butterfly is there to sip up needed salts and amino acids that are in the damp soil. We commonly think of butterflies just wanting nectar from pretty flowers to drink. These dainty beauties also need to have sources for their mineral salts. The more contaminated the soil the better the butterflies like it. Any soil that's contaminated with dung, urine, or even a dead animal of some sort, and stays consistently moist, makes for a great butterfly hangout.
To make your own puddling area to attract butterflies in your yard is easy. And it won't require having any dead animals.
Find a sunny location near your flowering nectar plants. Plan to use an area that's about 2x2 feet in size. Clear the area of all vegetation. An old metal garbage lid or a large shallow plastic pot saucer work great to provide the shallow pool that's needed. Dig out enough soil in the middle of your cleared area to be able to place the pool in. You'll want the rim of the upside down garbage lid or pot saucer to be flush with the soil level. You'll need a sheet of plastic large enough to cover the soil and that's several inches bigger than your container. This will prevent any salt from leaching into your garden soil.
After the plastic sheet is in place, lay the container in the hollowed out area on top of the plastic sheet. Press the container in place and smooth the plastic sheet as best you can all around the container.
In a bucket or dish pan, mix 1 gallon of sand with cup salt and mix well. A cup of manure compost can be added to the mixture to further entice your butterflies.
Fill the container with the sand mixture, and add enough water to completely wet the sand. Add additional water as needed. Use gravel or more sand to cover the surrounding plastic area.
Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.
Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to email@example.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.