Whether the calendar says summer or fall,
these flowers such as Russian Sage, Bee Balm, Yarrow, Borage and Sunflowers, will attract butterflies and hummingbirds until the first frost – and sometimes beyond. It’s important to keep flowers blooming as long as possible to help butterflies and hummingbirds later in the season. With tons of monarchs and hummingbirds migrating south for the winter, these amazing creatures still need good nectar sources to fuel them on their journeys. While some hummers and monarchs start their flights south as early as late July, many of them are still passing through in late October or even early November.
Choose a sunny location! Butterflies are solar powered. They need to be warm and dry in order to fly. If you do not have an open yard, plant a series of small gardens that will take advantage of the sunny spots as the sun moves through your yard. The butterflies will move with the sun.
Provide shelter! Butterflies are fragile and can be blown about easily. Gardens on the edges of your yard, up against shrubby or forested areas or a fence can offer considerable protection from winds. Gardens placed out in the most open part of your property to take advantage of the sun all day long will be more attractive to butterflies if designed to also offer shelter. Hummingbirds utilize cover near gardens and feeders in between feeding sessions. Dead snags and bare twigs in nearby shrubs will become favored resting spots and can be predictable places to search for perched hummingbirds. Keep in mind that hummingbirds favor slim, downward sloping branches over open areas for their nests, just the sort of branches that border your open yard and gardens. Keep this in mind when trimming in the early spring.
The importance of diversity. A wide open grass lawn with a lone hummingbird or butterfly garden in the middle of it may attract some activity but probably very little compared to an area with more options. Think diversity. You can incorporate into your plan natural or weedy areas, plantings of trees and shrubs, a wildflower meadow and a minimal amount of lawn. Butterfly and hummingbird activity will take off!
Work with what you already have. Incorporate your gardens into available spots. Do not cut down your forest to put in a butterfly garden or create a meadow. Use some of your mowed lawn instead. The library offers some stellar research on caterpillar food plants. You will want to plant some of these.
Long term planting. Sketch a plan for your property incorporating all the elements mentioned above that you want in your garden habitats. The plan can be carried out in stages, each year tackling a different garden, meadow, shrub border or even a pond area. You’ll find it very helpful to have a rough plan to be working from. If a permanent watering system is possible, consider it early on before you’ve planted hundreds of dollars worth of plants. Such a watering system will help you through drought periods and in the first year of a new garden’s life. By planting natives you should be able to keep watering to a minimum.
Be selective and plant in masses. A garden with dozens of different kinds of plants, one or two of each, is much less attractive to butterflies and hummers than massed plantings of well-selected plants. You’ll probably want to include plants favored by butterflies and hummers. Bee balm, coneflower and honeysuckle are all high on the list. Your local nursery should be able to make some good recommendations and don’t forget the folks at the Master Gardeners through the extension. They are a veritable wealth of information and love to talk gardening.
Mix perennials with annuals. Perennials only need to be planted once; they live from year to year, with varying blooming periods. Over time, many perennials need to be divided, providing you with new plants to stretch your gardens even further into the yard or to give away to friends. Annuals are short-lived plants; their entire life cycle takes place in one growing season. They must be planted from seed each year, although some do reseed themselves. Many of them have a longer blooming period than perennials and they can be tucked into bare spots in your perennial garden as filler. Many annuals bloom right up until first frost. Be sure to check the archives for information on gardening with annuals.
Natives. Choose as many native plants as possible. Being native, they belong here and will require less care. Many gardeners in the Rogue Valley are purists when it comes to tree, shrub and vine selection for bird gardens/food, but not when it comes to butterfly and hummingbird gardening. Include as many natives as possible, but compliment those with outsider plants that are non-invasive and fill in the spaces in the garden, so there is in unending offering of intense nectar from spring through the first hard frost.
Provide Nectar Spring Through Late Fall. Choose as many plants as you can that flower in the spring, but also value and spare some of your “weeds” that are spring bloomers (mustards, purple dead nettle, clovers, dandelions, common strawberry) and note the butterfly activity they attract. To encourage such a lengthy blooming season does require some work on your part. You need to deadhead the spent flowers; otherwise the plant puts its energy into developing seeds and stops producing flowers. Save space in your gardens for long blooming annuals like zinnias, Mexican sunflowers, tropical sage and tropical milkweed. Some gardeners swear by marigolds. All of these annuals bloom right up until the frost, an important time period to cover.
Recently, I was invited to use (at a really attractive discount) and review this new vacuum sealing unit from Smarson. I have one of those other vacuum sealers; you know, THAT ONE that just about everyone has. Expensive. Finicky. Takes up way too much counter space. I have a tiny little kitchen, and counter space is at a premium. This unit (mine is the model S-02 Plus) is the perfect size for us!
There are a lot of reasons for anyone to own this unit, especially families seeking to save some budget dollars. That’s one of the reasons we got one. Plus, you can preserve a ton of local and seasonal foods to enjoy later, after the season has changed.
When my daughters were playing softball – travel league – time was ALWAYS at a premium. It was super-awesome to be able to spend a day making freezer meals that we could whip out at a moment’s notice, and feed my kids something wholesome, clean and tasty.
This particular sealer is super easy to use, has plenty of power to create a really good seal that’s not going to let loose after a week in the freezer, and isn’t touchy or finicky at all, like that other more spendy unit that’s been collecting dust on a pantry shelf because I literally hate using it. You can check out the Smarson sealer right here at Amazon. It’s well worth the cost!
Now, get out there and grow something!