(BPT) – Farmers, gardeners and lawn care aficionados take great pride in their work, which typically involves removing weeds. However, a new movement flips that script by encouraging people to establish milkweed habitats.
Milkweed is at the epicenter of a monarch butterfly habitat, as it is the monarch larvae’s only food source. Without this vital plant, monarchs will not have a safe place to lay their eggs and produce future monarchs. Monarch populations have declined more than 80 percent over the past 20 years due to many factors, including climate change, deforestation and loss of milkweed habitats along the monarch migration path.
To aid the monarchs, families along the migration path have begun establishing milkweed habitats on their land, and have found it to be a fun family activity. However, planting milkweed can be tricky. Here are some simple, helpful tips to get a successful habitat started:
- Ordering milkweed seedlings is easy. If a request is made, most nurseries can order the weed ahead of time.
- Common milkweed is the most prevalent type of milkweed across the U.S. Visit www.monarchmilkweedhabitat.com to find a list of native milkweed plants in every state.
- For best results, transplant the milkweed seedlings in early spring or early fall.
- Find an area that receives at least six hours of sunlight daily and is away from frequent mowing.
- The milkweed seedlings should be planted at least 3 feet apart. Depending on the variety, they can spread throughout the habitat once they are established.
- Milkweed can be a finicky plant. To get it established, remove all existing vegetation in the area you wish to plant. This allows the weed to grow without other competition.
- To reduce weed competition, dig a large hole or spray a small amount of herbicide before planting.
- It’s best not to spray the herbicide right at planting. Try spraying the area a few days before.
- If there has been lack of rain, make sure to water the seedling. However, it doesn’t need to be watered once the weed is established, which is usually after the first year of planting.
Once your milkweed plants are established, you’ll see the beautiful monarch butterfly’s life cycle occur before your very eyes. Your efforts will help preserve the monarch population for generations to come.
To help families establish monarch habitats, BASF created the Monarch Challenge, a program that is a part of the company’s Living Acres biodiversity initiative. Participants can sign up for the newsletter to get additional information on milkweed management, and have the opportunity to receive free milkweed seedling packets. To learn more, please visit www.monarchchallenge.com.