Sunday, November 16, 2008

Got Milkweed?

Now that the season has ground to a rest for winter, it's time for more research into what will go into the ring garden. There is lots of information on the 'net as to which plants attract/ benefit which pollinators. The Melissa Garden in California has a good list.

When you can score a plant that attracts multiple pollinators, (and, be still my heart, a perennial to boot!) then those are the ones to cultivate.

Take, for instance, the humble milkweed.

It grows wild in open fields and the pods/seeds are ripe in mid-November around here. Easy to collect (if you can find an open field these days *grumble* otherwise here is a good site to get free milkweed seeds and plants). According to honeybee experts, milkweed flowers apparently produce copious nectar. One description I found says that you can tap a plant in bloom and actually see tiny spits of nectar shake out. And the nectar is a honeybee favorite. This was good news because I had already tagged milkweed for the ring garden for another, slightly more spectacular pollinator. Monarch butterflies.

As you can see by the top photo, the 2 pods I collected contain lots of seeds. I'll keep them in a cool, dry place until Spring when I plan to start them in trays (at about the same time I start my zinnias). My goal is to get nearly 100 milkweed plants. Not only will the blooms encourage honeybees and the leaves feed monarch caterpillars here in my yard, but the seeds can fly from the ring, spreading this beneficial plant in the area. After all, I hunted for pods for almost a month before I found a couple of plants in an area slated for new housing development. No wonder pollinators are in trouble. Too much sterile lawn, not enough forage plants. So, every little bit helps.

Milkweed. It does a garden good!

More garden buzz soon!


  1. Do we get monarchs in this area? I live in SE Indiana, just across the border from Cincinnati, and I've yet to see one.

  2. Monarchs are pretty much everywhere. Here's a clip from Wikipedia:

    In North America, the Monarch ranges from southern Canada to northern South America. It rarely strays to western Europe (rarely as far as Greece) from being transported by U. S. ships or by flying there if weather and wind conditions are right. It has also been found in Bermuda, Hawaii, the Solomons, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Australia, New Guinea, Ceylon, India, the Azores, and the Canary Islands.

    They should carry teeny weeny passports .... ;-D


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