August Buzz

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!

Late August vegetable harvest
Late August vegetable harvest

What I’m…

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.

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Milkweed and Monarchs: Plant It and They Will Come

Monarch Butterfly in the Garden

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.

Burst Tropical Milkweed Seed Pod
Burst tropical milkweed seed pod

Is that when my fascination with monarchs started? Perhaps.

Monarch Butterfly in the Garden
Monarch butterfly on tropical milkweed

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:

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.

Monarch Caterpillar on Common Milkweed
Monarch caterpillar on common milkweed

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.

Monarch Caterpillar on Butterfly Weed
Monarch caterpillar on butterfly weed
Monarch Caterpillar on Swamp Milkweed
Monarch caterpillar on swamp milkweed
Monarch Caterpillar on Whorled Milkweed
Monarch caterpillar on whorled milkweed
Monarch Caterpillar on Tropical Milkweed
Monarch caterpillar on tropical 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. 

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