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Monarch Waystation Project Kicks Off

100 Monarch Waystations 2020

The Western Monarch butterfly population is down to 1 percent of its historic levels and is dangerously close to extinction.

The good news is that home gardeners can make a difference-but only if we rally!

Windsor Garden Club is looking for 100 home gardeners who want to help monarch butterflies by planting critically needed butterfly gardens at their home. As a community, we can create monarch corridors through our neighborhoods that are beautiful, resilient, and ecologically powerful.

Join us as we rally to save this iconic butterfly!

Contact for more information or to become a designated Windsor 100 Waystation Gardener.

Thanks to everyone for your help. What will happen in Windsor? Will we see monarchs? Will someone actually have caterpillars? We are on the edge of this migration and getting started now is very good whether we see monarchs or not. I think we can certainly provide lots of nectar rich flowers for the monarchs returning to the coast in the fall. Read on for a list of plants and other features that will make your garden a Monarch Waystation!

Plant Recommendations

Milkweed (asclepias) -T he only plants that monarchs will lay eggs on and the only plant that their caterpillars will eat. It is the way they have evolved and the only thing that works.

Windsor Garden Club will notify volunteer project participants when starts are fully rooted and available. Our first time propagating these plants but so far so good. We also made a volume purchase of native milkweed seeds appropriate to our county and are willing to share for those inclined to start seed. Calflora said that seeds planted in the ground may be trickier to protect but if you want to try it go ahead. You could also plant in old 6-Pak containers and put started plants into the ground mid-April.

I will plant seed in mid march, put out some Sluggo, and protect the starts with collars to foil snails and see if there is a big difference in how fast they mature with no inhibition of the tap root as co0mpared to the flats. We have not had a freeze in a while and I am leaving my trays of starts outside most days and nights now. A good starting medium is unamended organic compost like the cheapest Napa Compost at Ramm. It has worked out great for us if we sift it through a ¼ inch square of hardware cloth fitted into a nursery tray. We work it through ½” hardware cloth first to make it easier. If you already planted your seeds after the meeting on the 10th and want to try inside too just let me know. We want to get lots of plants in the ground. Click here for more details on propagating milkweed.

Cal Flora Nursery will have dormant gallons of milkweed available that will produce bigger plants this year along with 4 inch starts. Plant both recommended native types. 9 plants total-3 patches of 3 plants each per sunny 100 sq foot garden. Space plants 18 inches apart. We need to develop big patches! One caterpillar increases in mass by 2000 times in 2 weeks and eats about 20 large leaves. Then it becomes a chrysalis for 2 weeks where it releases enzymes that digest its caterpillar body into a soupy mix of proteins and reforms them around the intact central nervous system into a butterfly body. Amazing!

If you do not have 100 square feet of sunny garden space no worries. Look at your neighbors’ yards and see what they are offering next door and complement it with your plantings. Maybe you can go in with a neighbor to create good habitat.

Milkweed varieties native to Sonoma County

  • Narrow Leaved Milkweed (asc.fascicularis) required habitat but weedy and spreads, plant in a discreet spot where it can be kept drier once established to control spreading too much as it would in a well watered garden bed next to your zinnias. light shade okay

  • Showy Milkweed- (asc speciosa) 4-5’ h A striking plant with beautiful leaves and blooms. Can be propagated from root cuttings in the fall for larger plants sooner.

ropical Milkweed (Asclepias Curvassica), is available in most nurseries but it’s use is controversial and if using it you must learn when to cut it and how to maintain it so as not to spread the microscopic parasite that causes OE.

No OE has been reported in northern California but with warming climate and more people planting for monarchs most experts are erring on the side of caution and saying to not plant it. Florida where tropical milkweed has become well established has a nonmigratory population that has a 70 percent rate of high infection for OE. Switching to natives could help a lot but it is hard to put the genie back in the bottle.

Our hope is that people will plant lots of native milkweed so that we have large patches established throughout Windsor to aid a healthy monarch population for now and into the future. Here is a link describing OE.

Nectar Plants to fuel Adult Monarchs on their Journey

Better to plant large patches of the same type of flower in 3-4 foot masses rather than sprinkling lots of different types of nectar flowers throughout the garden. That is why this list is short and sweet. Masses of the same type flower means easy feeding and larger drifts are monarch magnets! Daisy types of flowers that provide flat landing pads, like simpler single asters, zinnias, echinaceas, and rudbeckias fit the bill. No huge petal counts that get in the way of feeding please! These butterflies are on a mission! Make sure you have something blooming in spring, summer, and fall.

Native Nectar Plants

Well behaved small-garden friendly varieties to power our native ecology!

  • Verbena lilacina “De La Mina”- neat, compact mound that is beloved by pollinators.

  • Coyote Mint (monardella villosa)-a powerhouse with our own local “Russian River” and “Mark West” available at Cal Flora.

  • Ca. Buckwheat (eriogonum fasciculatum) This buckwheat variety is the easiest to grow but there are lots more that are enchanting. A coast plant so good drainage and some filtered light in the afternoon is probably a good idea. Eriogonum is host to 4 other butterflies so it is a great addition to a habitat garden.

  • Salvia Clevlandii-“Pozo Blue” 6 wk bloom This does not have a long bloom time but the reviews and pictures are amazing. Pollinators and butterflies seem to love, love, love it. There are tons of salvias to choose from.

  • Goldenrod (solidago) Californica spreads. Lepida v. Salebrosa, or Rugosa are more compact.

I have added a 6th plant to the list for you here.

  1. Manzanita (arctostaphylos Dr. Hurd) A more garden friendly variety of manzanita that grows to 15 feet but still requires good drainage to survive. Plant manzanita on a mound or bank. Some people put broken cement, rock or bricks into the mound to increase drainage even further.

Manzanita is an early blooming nectar source for monarchs and pollinators. Hummingbirds love it too. I added this to the list after reading about the importance of early blooming nectar plants and the fact that monarchs are leaving the overwintering sites earlier than usual.

Non-native nectar rich blooms

Monarchs are generalists when it comes to feeding and these plants can make a huge contribution to the availability of nectar. However, these plants have not evolved with our native insect populations. Aiming for 70 percent of your garden by mass to be native can help slow down what scientists are calling the Insect Apocalypse and contributing to the loss of species up the food chain. Planting annuals, like Zinnia and Tithonia from seed is a quick and inexpensive way to get lots of nectar plants into your garden this year while your native plants establish themselves. Fall is a great time to plant native perennials and planting native trees provides a lot of mass!

  • Buddleia Davidii-8’ perennial. Blooms spring through fall. Cut back hard to 6 inches in Fall. I believe these plants are so tough you could probably cut them back now if you do it right away.

  • Lantana-Low spreading perennial type recommended. Plant in a sunny hot spot as soon as they are in at the nursery in April. Water regularly for 2 weeks to establish a strong root system. Requires little water once established. Cut back to 6 inches in the fall.

  • Zinnias-Zowie Yellow Flame, Purple Prince, State Fair Mix. Plant in a mass using tall varieties with low petal counts and very visible yellow centers. Ball zinnias do not work. Super fluffies like Zinderella do not work.

  • Tithonia rotundifolia-Mexican Torch Flower- annual 5’ - yellow or bright orange varieties.

  • Asters-Simple varieties with strong yellow centers. No china asters or doubles with petals crowding the source of nectar.

Other Helpful Features in your Monarch Way Station

Puddling stations- a place for monarchs to get their minerals.

  • Mix a couple Tbs. of compost with coarse sand, spread it in a saucer, moisten with water, and place it on the ground in a sunny spot.

Monarch Patios-Monarchs need warmth to fly and also use the sun for navigating so this is the perfect rest stop for them. Flagstone. Flat stones or pavers is all you need.

  • Surround your puddling station with flagstone or pavers to create a monarch pool party.

Monarch Feeding Stations- Monarchs will feed on fresh fruit and /or rotting fruit This may be an especially good early spring strategy with citrus or bananas. Take it inside at night to keep the rats and possums away.

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