This week, to coincide with the first snowfall I had the delightful privilege of planting a butterfly garden with a homeschool group. The children in this homeschool group happen to be the progeny of my best friend from childhood, so this butterfly garden planting adventure was extra special for me.
A few weeks before we planted this butterfly garden, the children of this homeschool group did some site preparation; we used the organic gardening lasagna no-till method of layering cardboard with organic matter like mulch for smothering the turf. It doesn’t take long for the turf to give up and planting into it is a cinch. The no-till method is not just easy, saving humans from the back breaking, miserable labor of de-thatching- the no-till method is also much better for organic soil health! It takes years and years for complicated fungi relationships to unfold in our soils and when we use the rototiller or dethatch an area, we essentially rip right through the earth’s digestive system, unknowingly interrupting a quiet, sophisticated process. (Tilling is acceptable sometimes for vegetable garden when lots of manure or compost is being integrated, sole exception). When we use the no-till method to develop new gardening spaces, over time the cardboard and all the turf plant materials decompose, forming more organic material in the soil and generously adding to our compost wealth.
We used plants that are 100% native to New York State for the butterfly garden, including this lovely Beebalm (Monarda didyma) shown here. Though it seems late in the year to put plants in the ground, native plants are super tough and acclimated to our climate. Late fall planting nicely eliminates any first season maintenance.
Planting a butterfly garden with the homeschool group was a blast- the kids at different ages and abilities cooperated and shared their joy in adding habitat value to their home property. With a couple day’s reflection I realized that this experience was quite literally the sweetest way the 2014 garden season could end.