What a thrill it is to see a butterfly fluttering in your garden amongst your flowers. Not only do they add beauty to your garden, they contribute to pollination. To entice them to stay you must create a habitat for them to live which provides the essential resources of food, water and shelter.
Creating a butterfly/pollinator sanctuary in your backyard will add to the many benefits of gardening.
It all starts with healthy soil. Your garden soil works like a chain reaction that effects your whole garden environment. Whatever you add to your soil you are inadvertently feeding millions of microorganisms. Creating healthy soil is as easy as adding compost to your sandy or clay soil. This improves the soil structure and fertility. It is a symbiotic relationship and their existence encourages absorption of essential minerals to the plants and creates greater resistance to disease. Healthy soil equals healthy plants which contribute to less pests and disease.
It is best to choose a complete organic fertilizer. A pesticide and herbicide free environment is also essential in creating a butterfly/pollinator garden. When you use herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers you are destroying the natural balance of your garden. The nitrogen in synthetic, oil based fertilizers is derived from the petroleum industry and will leave trace elements of arsenic, lead and a long list of equally obnoxious substances – indefinitely.
The mature butterflies are looking for two things when they enter a garden: nectar and host plants. Nectar is the food that adult butterflies require. Host plants are the places where the female butterfly will lay her eggs on the food that their caterpillars will require. Both are necessary to create a successful butterfly garden.
Choose plants that flower at different times for continuous bloom from spring until fall. This will ensure that nectar sources are available throughout the growing season. Large groups of three or more of the same plants will be easier for butterflies to see than singly planted flowers. If you don’t have a large property, consider planting container gardens using groups of the butterfly’s preferred plant choices.
The book, Spectacular Plant Combinations for the Perennial Garden, is filled with many examples of plant combinations that will attract butterflies and pollinators.