Having decided I must take action locally after my previous posts about the decline of Monarch butterflies, I contacted a fellow gardener who has kids in the local elementary school. Previously, over the twenty plus years I’ve lived here, I had volunteered to do garden projects at the school and knew they were open to my ideas. She was enthusiastic, so together we coordinated a project to plant a field at the school to help our native pollinators.
She worked with the school and town officials to establish a no-mow area and canvassed for volunteers. She gave me contacts to the PTO so I could ask for funding. I also went to our local garden club to ask for a donation. I received enough to purchase 250 Milkweed and Coneflower plants from a local grower who kindly gave us wholesale pricing.
Thanks to six adult volunteers and one intrepid homeschooler, we came together one afternoon this week to plant our Monarch butterfly field habitat. In the space of a few hours, two hundred and fifty plants were added to the south-facing bank of the field at the end of the parking lot. When flowering, these will be visible from the road, brightening the school grounds while simultaneously providing crucial native pollinator habitat.
The planting will also serve as an educational tool for teachers to use for various age levels of children in both spring and fall. On-going studies can be conducted through the years that children attend the Grammar School. The field will be mowed once in the fall at the end of the growing season.
It is not too late to add more plants attractive to pollinators to your own garden. Monarch Watch recommends planting in groups of seven or more of each species to supply the needs of both adults and larva. (These are merely guidelines, whatever you can plant will be a positive improvement.) The most popular are Milkweed (Asclepias spp.), Coneflower (Echinacea sp.), Gayfeather (Liatrus spp.), New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), Joe-Pye-Weed (Eupatorium purpureum), Iron Weed (Veronia baldwinii),Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), Zinnia (Z. elegans), French Marigold (Tagetes patula), Verbena (V. spp.) and Azalea (Rhododendron spp.) Willow, Cherry and Poplar are good host plants for other types of butterfly larva. Monarch only lay eggs on Milkweed. Please help bring back the Monarchs!