Yesterday was another cold, windy day in Auckland. The wwoofers and I spent some time indoors, cleaning the fridges and freezer. We also washed the windows of the house from the outside and the wwoofers helped to do a bit of weeding under the eaves of our house (underneath those plants in that previous photo, which I’m hardening off). Today is the girls’ last day with us, so we’re going to finish off the weeding (only the strawberry patch is left) and sow some more radishes in buckets, as our last lot did really well and we are harvesting them right now. The ones sown into the ground around about the same time were a complete failure! They didn’t bulb up at all. I think the reason was because I planted them in between two rows of potatoes and used a lot of compost in the area. If the soil is too high in nitrogen, root crops generally tend to do poorly, forming lots of leaves at the expense of roots.
In Saturday’s mail, I received a complimentary packet of “Butterfly Field Beneficial Insect Mix” seeds courtesy of Yates (see picture). As part of National Gardening Week, which runs from 15th until 22nd October, Yates are very generously giving away free butterfly friendly seeds. All you have to do is go to https://www.yates.co.nz/nationalgardening/ to request your free packet of seeds.
As much as I love growing veggies, for me, gardening is about so much more than just growing for our consumption. You might recall my earlier post about how important growing flowers in the veggie patch is for the butterflies and bees. There are many reasons why we should strive to preserve our ecosystem. Monarch butterflies are a threatened species and need to be protected or they will become extinct. Every insect has a role. I remember reading a really interesting article in the New Zealand Gardener magazine written by the late Virgil Evetts. In his view, despite slugs and snails being such a nuisance in the garden, we couldn’t quite wipe them out completely or it would upset the delicate balance in the environment.
I LOVE butterflies because they are so beautiful. We have lots of swan plants and monarchs are drawn to the garden year round. A few years ago, we saw the Blue Moon butterfly on six occasions, which was very exciting. I reported the sightings to the Monarch Butterfly Trust, because it was so unusual.
The biggest threat to monarch butterflies seems to be wasps and the lack of food for caterpillars. Let’s all do our bit for the environment and put in a few swan plants this summer. Every spring (including this one), I sow a packet of swan plant seeds from Yates. My swan plants usually survive the winter and self-seed freely around the garden, so once they are established they should last for awhile.
If wasps are a problem as they were in our garden one year, Jackie Knight (aka “Madam Butterfly”) suggested either using one of her swan plant “castles” or draping some net curtains over the plants to protect the caterpillars.
Don’t forget to plant some flowers for the butterflies to feed on. They’re particularly attracted to bright colours. Dahlias and zinnias are my favourite butterfly attracting flowers. This year, I’m growing the zinnias “Gold Medal” and “Lilliput” from Yates Seeds. I’m also growing Tithonia Goldfinger for the first time, which butterflies supposedly adore.
Does anyone else have plans to put swan plants into their garden this year? Has anyone else spotted unusual butterflies in their garden, such as the Blue Moon, as we have?