Monday, September 27, 2010

The Irony of Weeds

Weeds are the bane of our existence. Yet, once we get into the rhythm of it, weeding is strangely satisfying. It results in a cleaner garden, stronger plants, and a some extra green stuff for the compost pile. 

There is an area of our yard that is often neglected. The vegetables are demanding, if not all-consuming. The patio area must look relatively neat. The side of our yard that almost nobody sees, where the kids chase balls and I toss my rotten cherry tomatoes, inevitably ends up at the bottom of the list. I always have big plans for this area, though. A couple years ago, I put together four raised beds.  Every spring, I throw down seeds for butterfly-attracting flowers. Wildflowers grow in the beds, but eventually crabgrass creeps in and various tall grassy things intermingle. 

In the course of our late summer clean-up, Juniorette and I tackled the area. To our surprise and delight, we found at least 7 monarch caterpillars munching on milkweed. The weeds provided shelter from the many predators that would otherwise have devoured them. Cleaning out the beds resulted in their endangerment! We also realized that the amount of milkweed available would never be enough to feed the whole family of larva. A neighbor who gardens at the local school offered some of her milkweed, but we were still short. We decided to donate the monarchs to Hidden Oaks Nature Center, where the conservation and tagging program could accommodate their need to eat, and eat, and eat. Once they turn into butterflies, they’ll be tracked on their amazing migration to Mexico. 

We’re inspired to plant our wildflowers more densely next year, and to watch more closely between the weeds. 

There are several upcoming, free workshops on butterfly gardening in the DC area:

Backyard Wildlife Habitat Workshop Series
Fall 2010
The following workshops are free and open to the public.
Attract Birds & Butterflies by 
Building a Unique Backyard Habitat
Workshop series – come to one or join us for all!
Focus: Potomac Gorge Habitats
Saturday September 11, 9am-3pm
Palisades Recreation Center, 
5200 Sherrier Place, NW
Focus: Gravel Terrace Hills
Saturday September 18, 9am-3pm 
Benning–Stoddert Recreation Center
100 Stoddert Place, SE
Focus: Rare Magnolia Bogs 
Saturday September 25, 9am-3pm
Douglass Recreation Center
1898 Stanton Terrace, SE
Gardening for Birds and Butterflies
Saturday October 9, 9am-3pm
Langdon Recreation Center
2901 20th Street, NE
Gardening for Birds and Butterflies
Focus: Small Spaces
Wednesday & Friday October 13 & 15, 5pm-8pm
Hearst Recreation Center
3600 Tilden Street NW
Gardening for Birds and Butterflies 
Focus: The Value of Trees
Saturday November 6, 12pm- 5pm
North Michigan Recreation Center
1333 Emerson Street, NE
These FREE educational, hands-on workshops are provided by the District to help property owners create unique and important habitat for wildlife on their own properties.
The workshops will include presentations on conservation landscaping and gardening for wildlife, plant selection, general landscape design principles and how to plan for your site’s specific needs.  Participants will help plant a demonstration garden at the workshop site, and will receive a FREE habitat kit at the conclusion of the workshop.  The kit will contain a native plant guide, an invasive plant booklet, a book on wildlife gardening, a birdhouse kit and live plants. Come prepared for a little work outside, in closed toe shoes.
Pre-registration is required.
For more information about the wokshops or to sign up go to:  Click on “Backyard Habitat Education,” then on “register for a workshop in 2010.”
Sponsored by the District Department of the Environment and Department of Parks and Recreation, in partnership with Audubon Maryland-DC’s Audubon At Home program.

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