Windy day in the garden…milkweed seeds carried away. Hope they spread far and wide.
The energy in the garden seems to change by the end of August. While the days are getting noticeably shorter, it also feels like the vegetable garden gets one final burst of energy.
For example? The summer squash plants finally started growing. Honestly, I had been going back and forth with pulling out the plants but decided to leave them. I’m happy I did because I’m a big fan of homegrown zucchini. Not to mention needing zucchini so I can make this relish, which I put on everything from eggs to burgers.
The bigger tomatoes continue to disappoint this year. The cherry tomatoes weren’t exactly superstars, either. I’m chalking it up to the wet summer but, as a self-professed tomato snob, the lack of abundance has been a bummer. I haven’t even made tomato jam yet this year but I’m planning on hitting up a farmer’s market next weekend. Having to buy tomatoes hurts!
Harvesting: Zucchini—finally! Along with edamame, lima beans, pole beans, tomatillos, tomatoes, beets, peppers (hot and not), and some herbs.
Making: Pickled green tomatoes. Can’t get enough.
Reading: Comic: Why You Should Turn Your Yard Into a Mini-Farm. Infographic that clearly explains why mini-farms are the way to go! I think we’re getting there…slowly.
Wanting: A Mortier Pilon glass fermentation crock. Certainly don’t need it but would look so cool on the kitchen counter!
Looking Forward to: A break. Honestly, I love the vegetables I harvest in the fall but part of me is already looking forward to some time off in the garden. Although I still have a couple months.
Let’s take a trip in the wayback machine. Like the way, way, way, way, wayback machine.
I can remember playing with milkweed pods growing through the fence of my elementary school’s playground. While I was unaware of the relationship between milkweed and monarchs, I remember there was milkweed everywhere and vividly remember playing with the pods as they burst in the fall.
Is that when my fascination with monarchs started? Perhaps.
Regardless, all these years later monarchs have a special place in my heart and my garden. As does milkweed. Because, as we all know, milkweed is the only host plant for monarchs.
Planting Butterfly Weed
Five or six years ago, I started planting milkweed in the garden. Like many people, I first planted butterfly weed (asclepias tuberosa) because it was easy to find at my favorite garden store.
Butterfly weed also spreads on its own, but not too quickly, and comes back reliably year after year.
Planting More Milkweed
Over time, I realized I could attract and help more monarchs if I planted different types of milkweed. Logical, right?
So, I added the following:
- Common milkweed (asclepias syriaca): perennial, added two years ago, can be invasive
- Swamp milkweed (asclepias incarnata): perennial, added two years ago, monarchs have loved it from the get go
- Whorled milkweed (asclepias verticillata): perennial, added this year
- Tropical milkweed (asclepias curassavica): annual in my zone (6a), added this year, grows easily from seed*
* There is some controversy surrounding tropical milkweed but I’m confident growing it in Cincinnati due to our cold winters.
I’m fortunate that I have a large yard to play and plant in. Butterfly weed is growing in three different areas, swamp milkweed has taken over the wet area in the back of our yard, common milkweed is growing in a defined area (aka, easy to pull out milkweed that has travelled too far) in the backyard of our rental house, whorled milkweed is just getting started in my Monarch Waystation, and I sowed tropical milkweed seeds closer to the house (hubby and I have enjoyed sitting on the deck watching the butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds).
Spotting Caterpillars Everywhere
Each summer, I impatiently wait for the first sighting of a monarch in the garden. This year, my first sighting was in the form a caterpillar on the common milkweed in mid-June.
Good start but then I waited and waited and waited some more.
The monarchs began arriving in the garden around the second week of July.
Finally, in mid-August, I started seeing monarch caterpillars—without having to look too hard—on all the different types of milkweed.
So, yes, if you plant it they will come. Given the struggle that monarchs and all pollinators have these days, it’s the least I can do to help.