Help Save the Monarch Butterfly with Asclepias Tuberosa, Butterfly Milkweed

Help Save the Monarch Butterfly with Asclepias Tuberosa, Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias Tuberosa) is a native plant that creates a wonder area of your garden for monarch butterflies. The Growers Exchange wants to encourage our gardening friends to set aside a sunny space in their gardens to help these majestic butterflies thrive and slow the decline of their population. Monarch’s exist because of milkweed plants.

The bad news: there can be no question that natural habitats, areas where monarch butterflies live, are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Habitat destruction, defined as changing an area in which a plant, animal or other organism lives to the point where that species can no longer survive. The destruction is generally described as either actual destruction, degradation or fragmentation. In the case of the Monarch butterfly, the major threat to their survival is the loss of milkweed habitat, which is an essential plant in their life cycle. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the counts of Monarch butterflies are trending down sharply, and their migration is now under threat.

The monarch butterfly population has declined over 80% in the last 20 years.

The good news: restoration of habitat can be achieved with very little effort on the part of concerned gardeners. You can easily offset this loss of a critical host plant in your own yard by planting milkweed, the vital host plant for Monarch butterflies. (more…)

Plant for the Bees, Please

Plant for the Bees, Please

No doubt, you are somewhat familiar with the plight of the pollinators.  If you listen carefully, it feels as if so much of our natural world is facing a challenge, and it is, but there is something that all gardeners can do to help.  Plant a garden packed with the right plants for these pollinators.

We are placing our focus on bees right now, as bees are the most critical pollinator we have.  To refresh your memory, the issues facing bees are simple:

  • Loss of flowering plants
  • Loss of habitats
  • Pests and diseases
  • Climate change

We want to think that all of us can affect change, and make a difference, and in this case you can.  If we focus on the loss of flowering plants, we can definitely be of service to bees in our world.  If the problem is the loss of flower-rich habitats, the solution is to plant the best varieties of plants that provide both pollen and nectar.  We grow herbs, and over 60 of our herbs are considered bee friendly. (more…)

The Importance of Soil: The Foundation of Your Garden

The Importance of Soil: The Foundation of Your Garden

We’ve written a lot about soil over the years, mainly passing on information that we’ve gathered over 40 + years of gardening.  And, although this basic element is so essential to the success of any herb garden, and you’d think we ‘knew it all by now, there is always more to share!

We can’t emphasize this enough:  knowing your soil, and understanding what to do to improve your soil, is the most important thing you can do to guarantee healthy and happy herbs.  Nutrients must be available to plant roots. Too sandy and porous means that the nutrients are not going to stay in the soil, and will not get to the plants.  Too compact and heavy, the soil won’t give up the nutrients and compaction around the roots means that you run a good chance of losing your herbs.

Good soil is the foundation for healthy herbs:

  • Soil provides access to nutrients, water, & air
  • Soil stabilizes a plant’s roots
  • Soil assists a plant’s natural resistance to pests and diseases

We classify soil in terms of its consistency:

  • Sandy soil is easy to dig, but it doesn’t hold nutrients or moisture.  On its own, sandy soil cannot provide your plants with the necessary ingredients for growth.
  • Heavy Clay soil is heavy and the clay tends to bind the soil, not allowing air to penetrate and holding water risking rot of your roots.  Additionally, that sticky soil will not release the needed nutrients.
  • Loamy soil is a perfect balance that provides your plants with moist and crumbly soil that smells rich and ‘earthy’.  A significant component of this wonderful blend is compost, decomposed organic matter sometimes referred to as humus.

(more…)

Everything You Want to Know About Growing & Using Lantana

Everything You Want to Know About Growing & Using Lantana

The name of the large genus Lantana may be more commonly known to most people as verbena. The genus comprises more than 150 species, make it a versatile and plentiful group of plants to choose from when selecting perennials for a garden or landscape. In fact, there are so many varieties of verbena that is can be difficult to navigate the sea of colors, growth heights and blooming patterns of the group. Fortunately, we’ve captured all the basics here for you, so read on to learn more about this lovely and prolific genus. (more…)

A Time to Plant, Fall Herb Gardening

A Time to Plant, Fall Herb Gardening

Spring is such a frenzied time for a gardener, and so many of us, tired of the dreary winter, tend to jump the gun and live to regret it. Yes, even veteran gardeners give into emotion when we see all of those bright annuals luring us into the garden center in March. What we don’t see, however, is their weary staff trying to hustle carts back into the greenhouses in the evening after a snap frost has been forecasted. Or, planting early when the soil is still cold, being frustrated by no growth. Do you expect your cake to bake when the oven is off?

Ah, Spring ~ the fickle season. Bringing us out on a lovely day then slapping us back inside with an unexpected snowstorm. “Cover the      “ – you can fill in the blank! And on the other side of spring, another lovely day followed by a scorcher – “Water the      “ and fill in the blank! (more…)

Gardening and Mindfulness

Gardening and Mindfulness

Although some would argue that ‘mindfulness is the new black’, for most gardeners, we’ve been practicing mindfulness since the first moment we connected to the soil.

Don’t get me wrong guided meditation, in the classic sense, is an important I’d argue; a vital technique in which we are able to align our minds, our bodies, and our spirits.  I’ve come away from a weekend retreat feeling more grounded, more peaceful, and more ‘at one with the world’ thanks to the guidance of world-renowned Sharon Salzberg. But, that experience, as impactful as any I’ve had short of the birth of my 3 children, doesn’t happen every day. (more…)