Category Archives: garden (gardening info and eco-friendly project ideas)

For the Love of Butterflies: Plant Butterfly Weed

butterfly weed plant

This North American native is a wonderful source of nectar used by many butterflies. Butterfly weed is one of several species of flowers that we grow around our house to attract a myriad of butterflies.

To attract butterflies to our southern Maryland yard, we have included food for both stages of a butterfly’s life: the butterfly as well as the caterpillar. When you plant a butterfly weed you have done both. Plus, the strong orange flowers will give a festive touch to the outside extension of your home.
How to:
My girls scattered some butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberose) seeds in their garden. The seeds were a gift from a thoughtful friend. You will want to plant your seeds in a location that receives full sun. They prefer dry, sandy soil. It turned out to be easy to grow; just keep the seedlings moist. The older plants are much more tolerant of dry conditions. You can plant your seeds in late spring, summer or early fall. Either way, plan to wait until next summer for flowers. Seeds need a cold treatment before germinating. This can be done by either planting outside in the fall, or placing the seeds in the freezer for a few weeks before planting. New plants are also fairly easy to start from cuttings. Our plants have come up each year with no effort on our part and provide butterfly alluring powers. They flower all summer long and in the fall they have cool seed pods with fluff inside.
If you are a southern Maryland local (i.e. you live close enough that you can stop by), I’d be happy to save you some seeds. If collecting your own seeds, wait until the pods are already starting to open.
FYI, avoid pesticides because they kill butterfly larvae.

monarch butterfly caterpillar

Butterfly Weed, a species of milkweed, is a host plant for Monarch Butterflies as well as others.
This is the monarch butterfly in its larval stage completely devouring several of our butterfly weed plants.

Plant a Strawberry Patch: Decreasing The Size Of Your Lawn Is Eco-friendly

child strawberry picker

In an area that used to be part of our lawn, I made a garden for my two children. They have used it to grow edibles and things of beauty. This spring/ summer they decided to let the strawberry plants take over most of the growing space. Apparently you can be very tidy with your strawberries and snip off all the runners or you can let the runners do as they will. We like the second method; in which you end up with a beautiful mat of strawberry plants. My kids try to be the first each day to search for the sweet bounty. Growing a strawberry patch in place of some of your yard is twice as sweet: less lawn to mow and fresh local organic fruit besides.

strawberry patch

Here is the kids’ garden.

Protect Vegetable Transplants With Home-Made Glass Garden Cloches

MYO jug cloche
My husband made these cute little garden cloches for me. I Think that Martinelli’s apple juice jugs (1.5 liters) look nice with the leaf pattern in the glass but use whatever you can get your hands on. I hope to find some gallon sized jugs next; I’ve seen them in stores. Cloches are very useful in family vegetable gardens like mine!

MYO jug garden cloche
These home-made cloches acts like a mini greenhouse.
How to:
Collect glass jugs. After I transplant tender plants into my garden, I like to set out my home-made garden cloches beside each plant (in this case broccoli) that way they will be close when needed. If it gets cold at night or if it is going to be cold for a few days, I put these cloches over the transplants to keep them warmer.
Removing the bottom off your glass jugs:
Basically you roll the bottle around creating a score line: the tool holds the bottle in place so you get a straight line. You heat the score line with the flame of a candle then cool the area with cool tap water. If all goes well the bottom will just fall off. Then file or sand the raw edge. Plan to practice on a few scrap bottles. Follow the detailed instructions included with your bottle cutter. This is a good beginner bottle cutter project because the edge doesn’t need to look flawless as in when cutting drinking glasses.

bottle cutter
I’ve included a picture of the bottle cutter that we own. We like the bottle cutter that we got but apparently they aren’t available anymore. (It was called BottleCutter) However, if you Google bottle cutter you will find other brands for sale.

How To Make A Bird Nester: Like A Bird Feeder But Contains Nesting Materials

home-style bird nester

I call this a bird nester because it is like a bird feeder but with nesting materials instead of bird seeds. I designed it out of recycled materials and made it look like a charming cottage complete with a chimney that has a wisp of smoke coming out.
How to:

You will need to save a plastic berry basket, a box type milk carton, scrap yarn or salvaged twist ties, and nesting material (see below).

milk carton roof for bird nester

Use a box type milk container to make the roof: cut out two adjoining sides as shown in image.

chimney for home-style bird nester

If you want to make a chimney, print out the chimney stencil I provided. Use the stencil to make a chimney out of the left over piece of milk carton or another scrap piece of cardboard. Add a small piece of white stuffing extending out of the chimney to simulate smoke rising. The chimney stencil makes a nicer chimney than the experimental one in the photo. Use the bottom tabs to glue the chimney to the roof or make two slits (with an exacto knife) in the roof and insert the tabs through.

Fill your bird nester with left-over odds and ends.
Suggestions: bits of left-over yarn, sheep’s wool , wool roving (ask a spinner), dryer lint (especially when you are drying a wool blanket or are felting a wool sweater ; but I wouldn’t recommend using fabric softeners, because the birds don’t need the added chemicals.) You can also use: fur, human hair, horse hair, snake skins(sure why not), leaves, feathers, plant fluff from a cattail plant or from a milkweed pod, straw, tree bark, pine needles, moss… For fun add: small colorful pieces of scrap yarn (4 inches more or less), strips of cloth, shredded paper… Experiment and see what happens.
Use a hole punch to make a few holes in the roof along the edge. Attach roof with a bit of scrap yarn or twist ties (salvaged from toy packaging etc. or from produce).
You may also be interested in checking out a similar post at FunInTheMaking : Bag Of Nest Building Material, Great Gift For Birds Or Bird Lovers
The following is a note I received:
“I’m not sure if you know or not, but dryer lint is not a suitable product for bird nests.
If it becomes wet it is dense and takes a really long time to dry out thus keeping fragile babies cold and wet.
If conditions are not fixed in time, they will perish.
My vet has confirmed and if you search long and hard on the Internet you may also find a stray post or two.
Better materials would be soft WHITE feathers, human, cat, dog or better yet horse hair, thread only 2″ long at most, 100% cotton 3″ long by 1/4″ wide etc..
.”
-Debra
(Thank you for your input Debra.)

Bag Of Nest Building Material, Great Gift For Birds Or Bird Lovers

Help make a bird’s job of nest building a little easier by providing it with wonderful nest building materials. After you make it, hang outside in early spring for the birds to discover. Then keep your eyes out for nearby bird’s nests: you might spot some of your offerings.

How to: Save a plastic mesh produce bag: they are the bags that oranges and onions usually come in at the grocery store. Loosely stuff your mesh produce bag with any of the following:
bits of left-over yarn, sheep’s wool , wool roving (ask a spinner), dryer lint (especially when you are drying a wool blanket or are felting a wool sweater ; but I wouldn’t recommend using fabric softeners, because the birds don’t need the added chemicals.) You can also use: fur, human hair, horse hair, snake skins(sure why not), leaves, feathers, plant fluff from a cattail plant or from a milkweed pod, straw, tree bark, pine needles, moss… For fun add: small colorful pieces of scrap yarn (5 inches more or less), strips of cloth, shredded paper… Experiment and see what happens.
Quick gift for nature lovers of all ages.