Lessons Learned

This is a running list of my observations based on my work. I will be adding to it and editing over time.

  1. Plan as early as possible in the Spring or in Fall when rainfall is still occurring. Access to water can be a challenge for some sites. The plants, though native and drought tolerant, do need water in the first one to two years to establish healthfully.
  2. Use stainless steel mesh bags to plant in instead of gopher cages. They appear to be more effective.
  3. The cow pots were not effective for raising plants from seed. Recommend starting in gallon sized pots with local soil or sew directly into the ground. Talk to a native plant expert for more specific information on this. Cow pots are made from cow manure, and the nitrogen in the pot may have been to “hot” for the seedling roots. There was also a lot of fungus growth, despite waiting for the soil to dry between waterings, which may have killed the seedlings.
  4. Plant as many plants as possible. There will always be some attrition. The more you have, the more likely some will survive.
  5. Don’t be discouraged! These plants are hardy, and some will come back even if they are eaten, broken, stepped on, dug up, drowned, snipped or do not transfer well.
  6. Some natives, although heat tolerant, will need more shade than what is directed. The climate is changing. It is getting hotter in places where full sun used to be ok for some plants.
  7. Some natives may need more water than they typically have needed for the same reasons as #6 above. There are several native nectar plants that I have needed to water more often than the 1/2 to 1 gal per week recommended. The yarrow have been doing better with more frequent watering. The carpenteria has improved with more water (3x/wk), but I think I need to build more shade around it.
  8. Be patient. It takes some plants more time to grow than others. Soil conditions, heat, sun exposure, drainage can be very different even just feet away from one another.
  9. Take your time. Keep observing. Talk to experts to figure out what a plant may need based on how it looks, its growth pattern, blooming or not. I have sent pictures of plants that looked in distress to Ron Allen – my UC Master Gardener contact and milkweed expert. He has helped tremendously. I have done the same with my contact at the Xerces Society, Deedee Soto. Xerces has been a phenomenal partner, and they are experts on pollinators. Leverage your gardening contacts, the native plant nursery workers, pollinator nonprofits. Most people are happy to give advice.
  10. If you have an ag property and graze cattle, generally, they will graze around the milkweeds. Because of drought conditions, however, which predominate in the west, cattle will begin to view the large, green fuzzy plants as potential food. There is always the possibility of trampling as well. It is best to erect temporary fencing to protect them during the caterpillar season. If you are raising stockers/yearlings, they are more curious than adults and may take bites of the milkweed, reducing the food options for caterpillars or eating leaves with eggs on them. Always fence off the area if you are raising these young animals.
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