Blazers' butterfly garden - monarch waystation 2015
University High School EcoBlazers
The University High School EcoBlazers built a perennial flower garden specifically designed to attract and support Monarch butterflies. While the garden’s focus is providing for the monarch butterfly, the plant selection attracts a wide variety of butterflies, moths and pollinators. Monarch Waystations are outdoor spaces that provide the resources essential for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration. Recently, the monarch population has plunged from an estimated 1 billion to less than 60 million. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined the decline is due to loss of milkweed and native flowering plants.
To begin, the group had to turn over the dirt. The ground was all clay and hard to dig up. Despite delays due to broken tools, they continued to work, and with some determination they were able to complete this first task.
Parents, students, faculty and staff volunteers attended special work days dedicated specifically for the installation of the garden. This ecosystem restoration project is designed to provide host plant milkweed during the monarchs' spring and summer reproduction time and nectar plants for monarchs during their fall migration to Mexico.
The butterfly garden bed is about 282 square feet large. It is located between the UHS Community Garden and the tennis courts. The garden not only provides for the needs of the monarch butterfly, it also is a teaching tool for biology classes.
The finished garden meets criteria set by Monarch Watch.org, and is registered as an official Monarch Waystation. Monarch Waystations are places that provide resources necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration.
The need for host plants for larvae and energy sources for adults applies to all monarch and butterfly populations around the world. Milkweeds and nectar sources are declining due to development and the widespread use of herbicides in croplands, pastures and roadsides.
After digging up the dirt, the bed was loosened with a rototiller. This softening and aerating of the soil is very important to cultivating healthy plants in any garden.
A variety of small, pollinator-attracting plants were transplanted into the garden. Common milkweed is the food source needed for Monarch caterpillars. To get more details about monarch restoration and free milkweed seeds to create your own garden, click here.
Everybody chipped in to make it a success. The students used compost created from school cafeteria and garden waste which was aged in the huge compost tumbler purchased as part of last year's Carmel Green Teen funded UHS Campus Green Up project.
As proof of a successful first year, a cluster of bright yellow spherical eggs appeared on the underside of one of the milkweed plants (Asclepias syriaca) in the garden. Without milkweeds throughout their spring and summer breeding areas in North America, monarchs would not be able to produce the successive generations that culminate in the migration each fall.
To offset the loss of milkweeds and nectar sources UHS students felt the need to create, conserve, and protect milkweed/monarch habitats. Without a major effort to restore milkweeds to as many locations as possible, the monarch population is certain to decline to extremely low levels.