Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Knit for Monarchs?

Have you heard about #knit4monarchs?  Its a David Suzuki campaign to get people knitting a chrysalis to keep monarch caterpillars warm.
(posted on April 1, you should note)

Otherwise, they are serious about planting milkweed, the only plant on which monarchs lay eggs and it is the only food for Monarch caterpillars.  The major threat to monarchs is said to be the destruction of wild stands of milkweed, especially caused by agricultural practices across North America.  The use of Round-up ready crops and therefore, the herbicide "Round-up" to destroy the nearby weeds (including milkweed), has destroyed the home-base of monarch butterflies.  Given this, the Okanagan should really be a heaven for monarchs.  Milkweed grows wild all around here and there are no such thing as Round-up ready grapes or tree fruits.  Milkweed really lives up to its "weed" name, as it actually thrives in neglected spots all over the place.

Our wild milkweed, Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed) is rather coarse looking large plant with large pink ball of pink stars.  They are very drought tolerant, which is demonstrated by the ones growing alongside the cactus in the scrubland across the street from our house.  They survive in zone 3-9 and grow up to 6 feet tall!

Asclepias tuberosa seedlings
I decided to grow milkweed other than the local native one, so I have some seedlings going for the yellow variety of Asclepias tuberosa.  I started the orange variety last year.  I am also growing Asclepias curassavica, the Tropical Milkweed.  I think these other milkweed are a bit more attractive, but are also good for the monarchs.  Milkweed seeds are VERY easy to germinate.  They germinate quickly in warm conditions with no need for a cold period.

Stock tank raised bed

The stock tanks are full to the brim now.  The previous layers of rocks and sand are now covered in potting soil.  Last week, I planted spinach and carrot seeds in this first one.   
Plants in the greenhouse
 My greenhouse is growing plants for the yard and cilantro for regular use in Thai and Indian dishes.  Yum!  I planted potted herbs outside this week too, with the exception of basil, which is too tender. 
Chionodoxa in bloom

Spring is the season for the lovely small bulbs like scilla, crocuses, chionodoxa and more.  Also, if you stay indoors, you can know its spring in the Okanagan because the seniors are now wearing sandals (with socks)!  Yes, despite the freak storm of sleet at lunchtime today, the sun did come out in the afternnon and I got a photo of my Chionodoxa blooming.  I picked up some drumstick primulas and a few more bunches of grape hyacinths to fill in the "rock garden" flower bed.  Once the peony and other perennials get going, it might not look so bare.

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