Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Milkweeds for Monarchs

This seems relevant to our interests, as some commentors were discussing last week. Free/low cost asclepias seeds:

Monarchs need your help NOW! This year AGAIN marks the lowest number of over wintering Monarchs in the Mexican mountains in the last 20 years…and we have only known about their over wintering sites for a little more than 20 years!. There are 97% fewer than at their recorded height and 50% less than there were last year. This is a back to back 50% decline in their overwintering numbers. Researchers are worried we may lose a large part of their migration this year if immediate action is not taken and severly threaten all Monarchs if the pattern continues.

This is a crisis situation! In 1991, over 75% of the wintering Monarchs from North America froze to death in Mexico as a result of three days of rain and sub-freezing conditions. Their numbers showed some recovery but now there is a nationwide shortage of milkweed. Freak weather patterns destroy habitat and kill millions of helpless Monarchs. But these natural events are not the only challenges that face the Monarch. Pesticide application and genetically modified crops cover important parts of the Monarch’s migratory path and serve as killing fields for any Monarch that pass through these millions of acres of toxins and biological agents that kill them and their young. They are unintended casualties in a war to protect crops. Are our Monarchs worth our efforts to protect? Do we even know the total effects on our environment from the use of these agents? The Monarch habitat must be protected now to ensure their survival, before we see the day when this miracle of nature is only a memory. The Monarchs need your help NOW. Please plant seeds and ensure their survival. A Milkweed in every yard!…

More seed & plant sources here.

Got no faith in my own capacity to grow anything from seed, but since the ‘butterfly weed’ is supposed to be adaptable to partial shade, I may try a plant or two in my tiny garden this summer.

I did get my tomato orders in — “only” 34 plants this year (down from 42 last year). Also ordered a couple fancy basils, plus a container mini-bell-pepper and a ‘Mexican sour gherkin‘, just to see if they’ll produce for me (and what they’ll taste like)…

What’s going on in your garden (planning) this week?

54 replies
  1. 1
    NotMax says:

    “only” 34 plants this year

    Planning on running your own private Buñol festival?

  2. 2
    raven says:

    Busted ass again yesterday. The princess went to the Grower’s Outlet Loganville, GA and came back with a moderate van load of plants. I have been using the chips from the trees we took down last year to build paths and re-chip the front yard of our rental house next door. It supposed to rain like mad today so it looks like hoops!

  3. 3
    Anne Laurie says:

    @NotMax: My tomatoes grow in overcrowded containers, and don’t get optimal sunlight. Production per plant is… never great, and not reliable. In a good year, there’s plenty for me, the Spousal Unit, and the one dog who’d eat tomatoes by the pound if we’d let him, plus enough extra to roast a few ziplocs of puree for the winter. Last year was crappy for even the local professionals, and the one trayful of roasters I managed fell victim to our forty-year-old electric stove!

    It’s a hobby… an expensive hobby. Probably not more expensive than, say, brewing my own beer… and at least it gets me out in the fresh air…

  4. 4
    WereBear says:

    I got my milkweed seeds. Waiting for the 23 inches of snow to melt.

  5. 5
    JPL says:

    As Raven said, it’s a rainy day in GA, so no yard work today. I’m hoping to plant some kale and arugula next week.
    My fall greens lasted through December.

  6. 6
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    The reason it is so critical to plant milkweed is because milkweed are the ONLY plant monarchs will feed on. Give it a try Anne. As my FIL liked to say, you’ve already got no.

  7. 7
    JPL says:

    Egan has an interesting oped in the NY Times today about Paul Ryan’s attitude towards the poor. link
    IMO, Ryan and others have to come up with an excuse because it makes them look better. The reality is that they don’t care.

  8. 8
    IowaOldLady says:

    I’m a terrible gardener, but luckily, I live in a place where milkweed just grows on its own all over the place. We get Monarchs through here. Not now, of course. It snowed again yesterday.

  9. 9
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    “only” 34 plants this year (down from 42 last year).

    Piker. I had 52 plants last year. Gonna try and get it down in the 30s this year (39 is still in the 30s). I have no excuse either. Lots of sun in the garden, always grow more than we can eat, can, freeze, dry, share, it’s just… I can’t say no. There is always one more variety I want to try and a single plant will never do so….

    The wife brought back some seeds from Spain after her father died and they got lost in the shuffle last year. I found them and they actually sprouted, Tomatos Mallorquin and Tomatos de Huelva. I have to find a place to put them separate from the rest of the tomatoes (and each other) so I can save the seeds and hopefully they won’t be hybridized. Someplace where I won’t forget to water them.

  10. 10
    elmo says:

    My garden planning involves a Winter Storm Warning for 3-6 inches of frozen water in various forms, that may or may not result in canceling my flight out of DCA tomorrow morning. I hate traveling, my wife is disabled and I hate leaving her alone, and over the next six weeks I will be away virtually every weekday, coming home only on weekends.

    Really I am among the most fortunate in that I love my job and I’m well paid, but good Christ this is going to be stressful. I promised to build raised beds this year, and I don’t see how I’m going to manage it.

  11. 11
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @IowaOldLady: We used to have milkweed all over the place too. Then Monsanto came up with Round-up and Round-up ready corn and soybeans. Not so much anymore. I should have good luck in the immediate area. The only corn or soybeans is down in the valley. Gonna ninja plant as much as I can.

  12. 12
    Ferdzy says:

    Our potato seeds are up! All three kinds. This is kind of an odd project, but I’ll be very interested to see what happens. Otherwise, got another couple inches of snow last night, to add to the foot and a half already there. Won’t ge getting outside for a while.

  13. 13
    Gindy51 says:

    We let our old horse pasture go fallow and have tons of milkweed. I only mow paths so we can walk. Goldenrod, Iron weed, Asters of all varieties, and other things make up the balance of the “weeds”. We have millions of bees, honey and native, who visit our organic field and tons of butterflies (monarchs are a big part of the population since we are th only game in town for milkweed). and the place is so loud you can’t hear yourself think. I love it.
    We have our garden, raised beds, and I only grow what we eat… cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, peppers. No one likes much else so it is pretty easy. Last year, with the vast amount of early moisture, the tomatoes sucked. The year before we ate them easily into March but the one bag of dehydrated was gone before November. Sadness ensued. I am planting later this year, May 1 MAYBE, so I might be able to avoid that.
    Our gorgeous 30 foot Red bud tree died over winter and now we have to replace it. It shaded the garage, master bedroom closet and my daughter’s closet (none of which are climate controlled), plus housed robins and several other songbirds’ nests. It wil be missed. We may replace with a red maple or multi branched river birch. The area gets gobs of moisture and maybe that’s what killed the red bud, last year it put out thousands of seed pods and I should have known it was going belly up.
    Once we take the recyclables in with the flat bed, we don’t have garbage service and recycle or compost everything, we will swing by the garden store and get the tree, dirt, peat moss, and whatever else we need for the garden. No plants until May, I must keep telling myself this!

  14. 14
    Betty Cracker says:

    Did any of y’all read “Flight Behavior” by Barbara Kingsolver? It was a novel involving monarchs and climate change.

  15. 15
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Betty Cracker: Not yet. It’s on my list (which is about 200 long).

  16. 16
    Betty Cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I found it interesting but not great. I thought her “Poisonwood Bible” was a masterpiece, but nothing else in her oeuvre has lived up to it IMO.

  17. 17
    tybee says:

    butterfly weed will grow in partial sunlight. at least it does here.
    the past few years we’ve managed to raise a few monarchs from orange dots on the leaves to full fledged fliers.
    way cool.

  18. 18
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Betty Cracker: Just about done with her “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”. Also very good.

  19. 19
    Elmo says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    It was a comment here, or maybe a series of them, a few months ago that turned me on to “Poisonwood Bible.” I got it as an audiobook, which is how I do most of my reading now – 2 to 3 hours a day in the car! Anyway, what an amazing, amazing book. Deeply affecting. And the narration was first rate.

  20. 20
    JPL says:

    @Betty Cracker: Like you, I found it okay but not great. Nothing can top Poisonwood Bible but for pure enjoyment, I’d recommend the Bean Tree and Pigs in Heaven.

  21. 21
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Betty Cracker: OK. Poisonwood next. A,V, Miracle is not a novel, if you haven’t read it. It is about her family’s decision to go “Locavore”, growing and raising as much as they can on their VA 40 acres and everything else is bought from local farmers and ranchers. A little bit personal memoir mixed in with the trials and tribulations of their first year at it. Very interesting, very informative, and not a little funny (her youngest daughter is a hoot).

  22. 22
    currants says:

    @Betty Cracker: YES. Agree with others on the Poisonwood Bible masterpiece (heard a recommendation on NPR years ago to read it as part of a trilogy with King Leopold’s Ghost and Things Fall Apart, and in that context it is truly stunning). The human stories in Flight Behavior are less interesting than the science, IMO.
    Well, that’s not really what I mean–I think I mean I found the science interesting and compelling, and I thought she really nailed some aspects of the human stories (esp women in low-income areas), but some other aspects were too predictable. Too stereotypical? Did not reveal the same deep observation as other aspects did. If that makes ANY sense at all (and it might not).

  23. 23
    currants says:

    @JPL: Also Animal Dreams. Shortest sex scene in literature in that one.

    Also hilarious characters. LOVE the women in the Stitch n Bitch club, their pinata excursions, and above all their exchanges with the TeeVee news folks..

  24. 24
    cmorenc says:


    IMO,Egan has an interesting oped in the NY Times today about Paul Ryan’s attitude towards the poor. link
    IMO, Ryan and others have to come up with an excuse because it makes them look better. The reality is that they don’t care.

    Oh, Ryan DOES care about the poor all right – he cares a lot about getting those moocher’s hands out of the pockets of the producers, and his “caring method” amounts to yelling at the poor to “get off your lazy ass and get a job” (working at McDonalds, who would gladly hire more of you if only that damn minimum wage thing didn’t get in the way). Ryan is Archie Bunker, dressed up in pseudo-intellecutal clothing.

  25. 25
    currants says:

    @Elmo: I first heard her on audio book in High Tide in Tucson. I loved hearing her voice, but I cannot focus on an audio story in a car–couldn’t do it even though I was driving across country. I was interested enough, however, that when I got to AZ, I bought the book at the first bookstore I found. Among other terrific essays in that book is “Civil Disobedience at Breakfast”–which is sort of about that moment in parenting when you realize that teaching your offspring to think for themselves and have their own opinions necessarily means that they won’t always want to do what you want them to do when you want them to do it. Again, hilarious (despite my leaden description).

  26. 26
    rikyrah says:

    How The Bush Family Dynasty Became America’s First Family Of Finance
    Lucas Kawa
    Feb. 28, 2014, 11:18 AM

    America doesn’t have many political dynasties as powerful and well known as the Bush Family. Their success is an effort that takes money, power, and all of the right connections — some of which comes from a history on Wall Street.

    Bushes have served in both the executive and legislative branches of our federal government. The family provided a pair of Presidents — the 41st and 43rd — and have held two state governorships.

    And because of George W. Bush’s close ties to Texas and connections with the oil industry, the Bush family is often perceived as a bunch of oil tycoons.

    In reality, however, the oil industry is just one of many in which the Bush family displayed their financial expertise. The family tradition, which continues to this day, was founded upon the pursuit of riches through investment banking and wartime business ventures.

    This is why the family has had a hand in businesses from Halliburton to Merrill Lynch, and also has a history of owning major league sports teams.

    Read more:

  27. 27
    currants says:


    Ryan is Archie Bunker, dressed up in pseudo-intellecutal clothing.

    and is equally unself-aware and hypocritical (class, race, you name it).

  28. 28
    Scout211 says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    We read it in January for my book group.

    My review: It was two books. The book about the Butterflies was like a wonderful Nature episode. Amazing and wonderful. The book about the main character and her family was probably her worst book about family. And that usually is her strength.

    We do have milkweed planted on our property but currently have it caged with hardware cloth.

    Does anyone know if it is poisonous for chickens? We assumed yes, so we caged the plants but we weren’t sure.

  29. 29
    MomSense says:


    Fantastic oped. Thank you for the link. They keep trying to justify cruelty and get away with it all too often. Is cruelty a sign of seriousness in the village?

    I don’t have space to start seeds so I’ll buy seedlings. Took down two spruce trees with rust so I have much more sun now for my garden area. Boys are going to help me build raised beds and I have a friend who is going to give me several truckloads of manure.

  30. 30
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scout211: From the Wiki page:

    Milkweed is named for its milky juice which consists of a latex containing alkaloids and several other complex compounds including cardenolides. Some species are known to be toxic.

  31. 31
    Betty Cracker says:

    @currants: It makes perfect sense to me, and I concur 100%.

  32. 32

    Thank goodness! Candy Crowley has almost President McCain on to tell us what should be done in Ukraine. I was beginning to worry the liebrul media was shutting him out and we’d never hear from him again.

  33. 33
    p.a. says:

    Goddamn milkweed grows like it evolved in my yard. I’ve let some alone for the last 10 years or so, to the tune of 30 plants and 2 Monarch chrysalis (chrysalises? chrysali?). To bad little black ant aren’t endangered; I would be able to repopulate the world from my yard. I almost never water the ‘grass’. What I have is green(ish) but will never be confused with the greens in Augusta. The ants just lurv that dry, hard baked earth. I understand their tunnels can go 10ft. deep. They even nest in my pots. Boric seems to work a bit, but I don’t want to do more than that to avoid killing anything else.

  34. 34
    elmo says:


    have you tried diatomaceous earth (DE)? Totally harmless to consume, chemically inert, but kills little bugs by tearing them to pieces with sharp little fossil skeletons, basically. (Not really – it dehydrates them or something, but I like thinking about little fossil skeleton tiger traps for ants.) Works fantastic against fleas, I imagine it might help with ants.

  35. 35
    StringOnAStick says:

    Husband and I get to go back home today after spending a week helping my BIL and sour FIL move to their new home 60 miles closer to BIL’s new job. It has been a horribly snowy winter in central MI, and how he handled commuting every day for 65 miles is a wonder to me. They are all moved in, and we can’t wait to go home – very, very stressful and we’re both at 95% capacity for listening to the constant “life sucks” complaining from FIL. He’s gotten worse but he’s always been someone who finds the negative in every damned thing and goes out of his way to be as miserable as he can possibly make himself because it gives him more to complain about. Tough situation.

  36. 36
    burnspbesq says:

    Here in SoCal, the last of the planting was completed yesterday. Tomatoes, peppers, and three new blueberry bushes. One of the tomato plants we put in this time last year is still producing.

  37. 37
    keestadoll says:

    Hi all. Today I seek a bit of advice: I’m giving vertical growing a try with my cucumbers. Have any of you ever done this, and if so, any tips (best way to tie up the vines, etc)? Thanks! PS: I just put the seeds in yesterday, so I’m not there yet, just preparing myself.

  38. 38
    TaMara (BHF) says:

    @WereBear: In a whim one year, because I love milkweed flowers (I have a series of photos on the blog of one over an entire season), I transplanted 3 live plants from the local river. By year 3, I had a crop of them. They spread easily and transplanting them was almost foolproof – lot of water and they took to their new home like, well, a weed.

  39. 39
    Gvg says:

    Most people have better luck with locally adapted milkweed. Check with your local native plant society.

  40. 40
    Scout211 says:


    I use a cucumber trellis that I purchased from Gardener’s Supply Company. It is not vertical but you can make the angle close to vertical. The cucumbers don’t need much help as they are vines and do their own thing fastening to the trellis. Sometimes I do tie the vines with plastic plant tie tape if they are not staying on the trellis, though.

    I use the same type of trellis for cantaloupe. It saves space in the garden and keeps the fruit off the ground.

  41. 41
    MazeDancer says:


    Negativity is such a black hole. People who delight in saying no, no, no feel superior, in control, and another kind of “monarch”. As long as they can be Zeus with the ultimate blast, they feel safe, powerful, and have no fear. Destruction is so easy. Creating can be so hard.

    Good that you are leaving soon. Your BIL would be wise to do same. Or take up Buddhism and breathing exercises pronto.

  42. 42
    satby says:

    @elmo: Diatomaceous earth will also kill monarch caterpillars, so that would negate the good of planting milkweed.

  43. 43
    satby says:

    Started only 9 tomato plants this year: Kellog Breakfast, Hillbilly Potato Leaf, and Pineapple. None of the pepper seeds have germinated yet, since they’re as old as the tomato seeds not sure what’s going on there. I know they need a bit more heat, but they’re on a heat mat. I was way oversupplied last year so I really did cut back. I also am confident that even though I’m letting the big garden patch rest this year I’ll end up with a million volunteer sungold cherry tomatoes. Evidently they naturalize.

  44. 44
    p.a. says:

    @satby: do the caterpillars travel much? My milkweed are in odd corners of the yard’s flowerbeds, the ants are mostly in the lawn.

  45. 45
    currants says:

    @keestadoll: My nephew had an amazing vertical balcony garden last summer (incl STRAWBERRIES he started from seed!). Here are some links to some resources that might be useful

    And here’s a link to a free vertical guide from Rodale (with trial subscription, but still).

    Also (and this will surely make this entry not post right away): very cool pallet converted to vertical balcony garden on this site: (also

  46. 46
    currants says:

    Yep, well, keestadoll, there’s a comment w/links that will come up at some point post-moderation, and they are helpful I think for vertical gardening. One from Rodale Press and two from a (blog I think?) called life on the balcony. See? Now you don’t even need the actual links.

  47. 47
    tybee says:


    when the caterpillars get ready to go into the chrysalis stage, they can travel 50 feet or more and sometimes across open ground to find another high perch upon which to do their thing. i was amazed at how far they’d go and much of it over a mowed lawn.

  48. 48
    p.a. says:

    @tybee: tks for the heads-up.

  49. 49
    Violet says:

    As usual, I’m very late to this thread. I live in a southern state and it has come up recently that we should cut back our milkweed by mid-October so as to encourage the monarchs to keep going to their winter homes in Mexico. If the milkweed is still blooming–which, due to the weird climate stuff, it frequently is–the monarchs will stay and eat it and apparently they can catch some sort of virus or something. You want to feed them when they’re supposed to be fed and then encourage them to move on their way by making the food more scarce.

  50. 50
    Interrobang says:

    Milkweed will grow in partial shade. I had one come up in my front garden last year, and my front garden is mostly in deep shade. I stayed pretty quiet about it, because the city considers them “noxious weeds,” and will fine you for growing them.

    I didn’t see a single monarch butterfly last year. Fuck the city. If I can get more milkweed this year, I will.

  51. 51
    satby says:

    @p.a.: glad tybee knew, cause I didn’t :)

  52. 52
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    I’m a fan of milkweed because I can always say, ‘Its good for the butterflies’, while not weeding it out of everything. I don’t have to plant it, I just need to not remove it, which I don’t. because butterflies.

  53. 53
    chopper says:

    my tomatoes have been in for weeks now. then again, it’s in the high 80’s here today, so that’s why.

  54. 54
    Bill D. says:

    @elmo: Make sure you use food-grade DE. The pool filter version has been altered and is hazardous to breathe. You don’t want it all over your yard and getting stirred up by wind or cultivation, let alone having it indoors.

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