One cluster of plants or spread them out?

It’s that time of year that most of us aren’t planting or tending our gardens.  For many of us, we’d have to dig through a foot of snow or more to even find the soil.  What are we to do for our gardens now?  Easy – plan!  Dream!  Shop!

Winter is the time that nature cleans our our yards and gardens.  Many disease pathogens either die or are washed into the soil over the months of winter.  While nature is busy, we can be too.

Planning and dreaming:

You can draw out plans for new gardens or additions to your existing garden.  Remember that a butterfly garden isn’t the goal.  Our goals should be a butterfly and pollinator habitat, across our entire yard.

Drawing out garden plans
Drawing out garden plans

When all host plants are in one place, predators have it easy.  They can stay in the same spot and find all the caterpillars.  Florida predatory stink bugs hatch out in clusters.  They don’t mind staying in one area as long as there is plenty of food.  They can kill all the caterpillars in a host plant cluster quickly.  Adults have wings and can fly.  Watch for predators and either kill them or relocate them to another area, out in the wild in nature.

Florida Predatory Stink Bug nymphs drinking the hemolymph/blood of a Sleepy Orange butterfly caterpillar
Florida Predatory Stink Bug nymphs drinking the hemolymph/blood of a Sleepy Orange butterfly caterpillar

Learn your predators!  Milkweed assassin bugs are so-named because of their resemblance to milkweed bugs, not because they stay on milkweed.  Last year I had hundreds in my passionvine.  They laid many clusters of eggs, hatching over a dozen young assassin bugs from each cluster.

Milkweed assassin bug nymph has killed a caterpillar
Milkweed assassin bug nymph has killed a caterpillar
An adult milkweed assassin bug searches milkweed for caterpillars
An adult milkweed assassin bug searches milkweed for caterpillars
milkweed-assassin-bug-egg-cluster-6
Milkweed assassin bug eggs

Life becomes more difficult for predators and easier for caterpillars when host plants are planted in small clusters rather than all together in one spot.

The same is true for nectar plants.  One praying mantis in a nectar garden will have a feast.  If nectar plants are planted in smaller groups rather than all together, predators are unable to kill as many butterflies.

A praying mantis is eating a Gulf Fritillary butterfly

Again, these predators are a good balance for nature.  I don’t allow them in my garden but don’t mind them out in the fields and woods.  You can make your decision: allow to stay, kill, or relocate.

Our winter butterfly garden
Our butterfly garden – it sometimes looks like this in the winter

Shopping:

From websites like www.shadyoakbutterflyfarm.com to seed and plant catalogs to trading with fellow gardeners, you can buy (or trade for) plants (or seed) from many sources.

When you prefer to order from Shady Oak, you can place your order at any time and designate the date you’d like to receive your plants.  Because we grow only a few of some species of plants, pre-ordering ensures that you will receive them when you want them, even if they are shipped after someone else orders.  The pre-ordered plants are marked with the names of those who pre-ordered and will not be sold to anyone else.

So let’s read butterfly books, be active on butterfly facebook pages, do internet searches (with the full realization that some ‘facts’ on the internet are incorrect), and plan, dream, and shop!

2 thoughts on “One cluster of plants or spread them out?

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