Milkweed


I’m going to attempt to grow some Milkweed for the Butterflies this year.

The seed packet says to start indoors 8-10 weeks before last frost. That is right about now… I mean, our last frost date is very dependant on the year. And there are things that I can do to help protect the little plants if we have a cold spring.

The seed packet description reads: “Asclepias curassavica. Attractive to butterflies! This easy to grow cheerful flower provides large clusters of orange to reddish colored blooms along landscapes. Tolerates dry conditions. Annual”

Days to sprout: 14-21

Bloom Period: June-Frost

Since the seed packet doesn’t usually give a lot of helpful “how to grow” info if you have no idea what you are doing, I did a little googling.

This website suggests that Milkweed needs to go through a period of cold stratification. It is actually the most helpful site that I found in my quick googling so I’m going to follow their suggestions. A few things I learned:

  • Many varieties of Milkweed have a long tap root that should not be disturbed. They suggest using peat pots for this reason.
  • transplant out when plants are still small, less than 3 inches tall (because of that tap root).
  • apparently it is normal for the plant to lose all of its leaves after transplanting. The plant is building roots and will regrow its foliage after a bit. {This is a little concerning, so I’m going to have to keep this in mind, and cross my fingers that it doesn’t happen}
  • You should only have to water these just after transplanting to let them get established, and then after than only in periods of drought.

Okay, so Why grow Milkweed in the first place? For the Monarch Butterflies. According to the website saveourmonarchs.org the Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. Because of habitat destruction through development and spraying weeds in fields, Milkweed is fast disappearing. Thus Monarchs are fast disappearing.

Adult Monarchs do have a varied diet using other flowers as sources of nectar… It is the caterpillars that are facing the habitat loss.

From a more Canadian Perspective, Here is a link to Animal Facts on Monarchs from Canadian Geographic.

So this is what I’m going to do. I’ve put some seeds into a wet paper towel and I’m putting them in the fridge for a week or so. Then I will put them into seed starting mix in a large peat pot. I’ll start some not ‘cold-stratified’ seeds in the same sized peat pot at that time too. (I sowed/put seeds on paper towel into the fridge, on March 8th)

AND I will also be planting a few other wildflower mixes as well, but I’ll save that for another post.

I have done a little more googling since I first wrote the first part of this post. In some areas Milkweed is considered a noxious weed. So if you live in areas where this could easily self seed itself in areas outside of your growing area, maybe reconsider growing it. Check out information on your area and make your decision based on that. Please don’t blindly follow just one source on the internet. Find more, with different viewpoints and make your own decisions. I am going to still plant this. I don’t for see it escaping my yard. I might reconsider if I lived in a rural area with less containment. It is a choice, and it should be an informed one.

Front: Cold Stratified Seeds;    Back: Straight from the seed packet.


So, since I forgot to hit publish on this post when I first wrote it… As of March 29th, I have not noticed any difference between the cold stratified and the seeds straight out of the seed packet. The cold stratified ones are slightly behind, but there was about 10 days between when each was sowed into dirt. They are a little bit leggy, but I cannot adjust the height of my little grow light, so they are just doing their best.

March 23/2014 Garden Update (Herbs and Flowers)

Yesterday I updated you on the progress of all the edibles, saving today for Herbs and Flowers.

We go through a lot of “Italian seasoning” around here because of the amount of spaghetti we end up having for dinner on work nights. It’s fast, easy and cheap. And the majority of the ingredients we typically use, we can stock up on and keep in the cupboard. I made it a goal to try and make my own. So this year, I am growing all the “spices” listed in the ingredients. The few I don’t have yet (like Rosemary) I will purchase as already started plants.

Sage and Parsley
(started Feb. 15)
They are doing pretty good. The parsley really reaches for the light, so as soon as I have a warm enough place, they will be moving.

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Oregano, Thyme, Summer Savory, Marjoram
(started: March 9th, March 15, March 15, and March 17)
They are all forming little green carpets of sprouts in their little pots. No true leaves yet, but they are only a week (give or take) old.

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Basil
(started: March 15)
Tiny sprouts. Will start more to go by tomato plants in the next couple weeks. I need to replenish my seed starting supplies.

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Basil on the left
Catnip on the right

Garlic Chives
(started: March 15)
I started these in a peat pot and they have been quite a lot slower than anticipated. BUT I usually place plastic wrap over the edges of pots to help speed germination, and these didn’t get that treatment. They are just barely starting to poke through the surface now.

Spearmint
(started: February 28)
These are like tiny little green carpets on the peat pellet they were started in. They have just got their true leaves, and some are starting on their second set. I will have to pot them up soon.

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Catnip
(started: March 15)
Sprouted within a couple days! I am kind of looking forward to having my own catnip plant… I’m sure Ekki and Hali (my cats) are too.

Lavender
(started: March 5)
These are working on true leaves. When you brush your hand over the little seedlings, they release that relaxing lavender scent already. Sniffing my seedlings could become a problem. I may end up keeping one in a pot in the house just for aroma therapy!
2 years ago I had a beautiful Lavender plant in the yard, but Wilson (my little dog) peed all over it an it died. Hopefully I can keep him away from these ones.

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Lemon Balm
(started: January 1)
I could probably spend a good, solid half hour talking endlessly about Lemon Balm. I love it. I have already been “harvesting” from my little plants, to help encourage them to grow bushy, rather than tall.

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Those are all of my herbs so far. Now onto the flowers:

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Viola and Bee Balm

Columbine (started: March 15)

These are slow to germinate… but I think I see some trying to poke through the surface. I may start some earlier next year.

Hollyhocks (started: March 15)

These jumped up almost immediately. They will be ready to be potted up soon.

Viola (started: February 28)

Slowly working on their true leaves.

Bee Balm (started: March 12)

Sprouted a few days ago. We had these in the flower bed at one house growing up, and I remember just watching all the butterflies on them. Fingers crossed that they will attract the butterflies (and bees, and all the other pollinators) here too. If I can get them to maturity… I failed last year.

That is all that is growing right now. As soon as I have more room (and seed starting supplies) I will start more basil and few other flowers. I have been thinking of adding some chamomile to my herb/flower area, so I may try and find some of those seeds soon.

Here is the link to last week’s Herb and Flower update.