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Butterfly Gardening and a greenhouse for Great Expectations School

NorGard_100710.mp3109.81 MB

The Oct. 7 Northern Gardening show featured Karina Roth and Kaitlin Erpestad who talked about youth gardening and the new greenhouse at Great Expectations School, and Max Linehan, who talked about gardening for wildlife, which she has successfully done in her garden in Hovland.
Pictured at left  is one of the monarch butterflies which hatched in her garden this summer.
Hosts Joan Farnam and Ann Rosenquist also discussed great ways to cook winter squash with their guests.
To listen to the program, click on the audio link above.

Here are Max Linehan's notes for her presentation:

"Most gardeners look at plants as ornaments…try looking at what the plants do as part of
the environment. When we design our landscapes only for aesthetics, we put in pretty
plants and if we see an insect, we kill it. That’s an extremely artificial environment, not a
living, changing ecosystem.

"We have a serious extinction crisis on our hands. Ninety percent of all birds rear their
young on insects. That’s why we don’t see songbirds at our seed feeders during the
weeks of midsummer. They are feeding their nestlings exclusively on the protein
rich insects the babies need to develop quickly into strong fledgelings. If there are no
insects, there will be no birds. In fact, in the last fifty years we have lost half our songbird

"If nature is to survive, it will have to be in our yards and parks. In the lower forty-eight
states we have taken 41% of the land for agriculture and 54% is under cities, highways,
factories and such. That leaves us with 5% of the original wilderness habitat in scattered
pockets throughout the states. For our own good, we humans need to share.

"Consider a lawn…. It’s a pretty barren place compared to the forest or prairie it used to
be, supporting about three species of wildlife compared to a native oak which supports
over 500 species of butterflies and moths alone, plus many other insects and other
animals. Willows are right behind the oak by supporting over 450 species of butterflies
and moths. Other excellent native trees are cherry and plum, birch, poplars, maples and
box elders, pines, hickory, hawthorn, alder, spruce and ash.

"When we plant exotic species of trees, shrubs and flowers from other continents they do
not participate in the local food chain or web. Our wildlife does not recognize them as a
food source, and usually has not even evolved a digestive system to utilize them. These
exotic species may as well be plastic. There is always the risk that the alien plants can
escape our gardens and become part of the 3400 invasives we already have. Also, exotic
imported plants sometimes carry with them invasive insects or diseases that become a
problem spreading out of control.

"Any time we can plant native trees, shrubs and flowers to diversify our landscapes we are
bringing nature back. Planting native trees has the biggest long-range effect. The Soil and
Water Conservation Dept. helps by making economical bundles of tree and shrub root stock
available for sale every spring. Last spring I planted twenty-some hazelnuts on our
five acres and was delighted to see their bright red fall color. But, like pines and cedars,
they have to be protected from the deer until they are tall enough. Native plant nurseries
like Boreal Natives in Cloquet, and Prairie Moon Nursery in Winona can provide trees
and shrubs in smaller numbers. Both nurseries also supply a wide variety of wildflower
species as seeds, root stock or started plants.

"Butterfly and hummingbird gardens are a great way to bring nature into your yard. Cook
County extension agent Diane Booth has a wealth of information on choosing plants and
a site, and setting up such a garden. Prairie Moon Nursery’s catalog and website has lots
of information on flower species and their preferences. More species-specific information
is available at the Monarch Watch website.

"Providing for butterflies, moths, bees and other pollinators is a first step toward tolerating
other interesting insects in one’s yard.

"Butterflies need to land on flowers to sip nectar, so “platform-like” flowers such as
daisies, zinnias and coneflowers are best for them. You will find hummingbirds will
use your butterfly nectar flowers as well as the tubular flowers you plant for their use.

"Be sure to include in your butterfly garden food plants for the caterpillars as well as
nectar plants. Some plants, such as swamp milkweed will provide both nectar and
caterpillar food. Parsley, dill and other plants in the carrot family will be visited by
swallowtail butterfly caterpillars. Last spring they ate all my dill and parsley, but by
late summer the parsley grew back for me to use. One thing I learned about butterfly
gardening is to place plants closer together, maybe one per square foot. That way the
caterpillars have more protection from predator birds, and can easily travel from their
food plant to a different plant where they can attach their chrysalis. You will also notice
spiders preying upon the smallest caterpillars. I found myself moving more than one
daddy long legs to a different place in my garden, but that’s just my reluctance to fully
accept nature’s food web!"

For more information, here are links to more resources:
"Bringing Nature Home" by Douglas Tallamy, entomologist
Click here to see info on the book.
and catalogs from
Prairie Moon Nursery in Winona,  and
Boreal Natives in Cloquet
Here's a link to Chuck Waibel and Carol Ford's Web site about growing in their low-tech greenhouse.