Sunrise at FeatherField looking to the northeast.

Most days, I am up before the sun. Especially in the summer, it is helpful to get my outdoor chores complete before the searing heat of the day. We had some cloud cover this morning, which made for a spectacular sunrise.

Milkweeds provide the “nursery” for the monarch butterfly larva, but they need nectar plants for food. There are many good plants that provide this food source, and I plan to provide a diverse grouping for them to choose from. Because we have a lot of heat and light left in the season, I decided to start some nectar plants so they are established for the spring.

Nectar plants, and some herbs, in raised bed ready for planting.

I am starting with a red and a purple salvia, a petite butterfly bush and marigolds. There are some herbs and alyssum included because I couldn’t resist when I was at the nursery. The marigold is an annual. It still has some blooming time left, and I am hoping it will self seed so it comes back next year. The other nectar plants are perennials. They will establish (I hope) and stay. I’ve grown all of these before, but Hornitos is rough country in which to have a garden. For various reasons, including the lengthy drought and grasshopper infestations, I’ve lost them over the years.

The plants will be planted in the fiberglass raised bed due south of the South Plot of milkweed. I have used that raised bed for my garden most years. It was formerly a tomato hauler that goes on the back of trucks. You see them all over the Valley during tomato season. I had a large hole dug and then filled it in with dirt, carefully, since it is fiberglass and can puncture or crumple. This way, I was able to keep the gophers out without having to make multiple raised beds over wire mesh.

I also plan to seed sunflowers in the raised bed and along the interior fence line due north of the North Plot in November and again in February, so there is time to germinate and have a continuous supply of nectar.

Sunflower seed heads gathered from large groupings in Mariposa County.

I love sunflowers! I am so excited that they are a preferred source of nectar for monarchs. I have been stopping along the roadways sniping off some of the sunflower seed heads. I choose only very large groupings of sunflowers to harvest from so I do not impact the plants ability to reseed in its place. I know I am also sharing with the birds. It is important to be thoughtful about all our relations and their needs as opposed just to mine.

In time, I will add other nectar plants to create a nice grouping. Grouping the plants close (not crowded) offers the butterflies more security. Monarch Watch has good information on these nuances and more when starting a butterfly garden.

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