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How to create an inviting butterfly garden

With a little planning you can create an area to attract these pollinators

The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable species in North America but the numbers of monarchs have decreased significantly over the last 20 years.

Why is this butterfly so important?

  • Monarch butterflies act as pollinators.
  • They act as natural pest control, playing an important role in their food cycle — acting as prey and predators.
  • Monarchs are indicator species, meaning they can tell us about the current state of our environment and its health.

What can you do?

You can help by planting a pollinator garden. Not only will this help with the declining monarch butterfly population but it is an excellent educational opportunity over the summer months for your children.

You can plant a garden anywhere. It doesn’t have to be complex or fancy, just a simple, native flower garden will attract beautiful butterflies to your yard and help pollinators stay healthy. In addition to nectar from flowers, monarch butterflies need milkweed to survive.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offers seven easy steps to build a butterfly garden:

  • Choose your location — Butterflies enjoy basking in the sun.
  • Take a look at your soil — If you find that your soil type doesn’t match the plants you’d like to plant, consider building a raised bed or using flower pots.
  • Prep your soil — Additional dirt will be helpful no matter the location and is necessary for raised beds and flower pots.
  • Choose your plants — Find a nursery near you that sells native and local plants and milkweed for your area. Native plants are the ideal choice because they require less maintenance and tend to be heartier.
  • Choose plants that have not been treated with pesticides, insecticides or neonicotinoids.
  • Plant perennials to ensure your plants come back each year and don’t require a lot of maintenance.
  • Choose a diversity of plants that bloom throughout the seasons to ensure pollinators benefit in the spring, summer and fall. This will also ensure that your garden is bright and colourful for months!
  • Choosing seeds or small plants — Small plants that have already started growing in a nursery are simple and show instant return on pollinator visits, especially if you are planting in a small space. Seeds are best if you have more time.
  • Plant your flowers and milkweed — For small plants, dig holes just big enough for the root system. Cover the roots with dirt and reinforce with dirt or straw mulch to reduce weed growth. For seeding, spread seeds across your freshly prepared garden and cover them with dirt. Consider adding some flat rocks so butterflies can bask in the sun!
  • Wait, watch, water and weed your garden — It may take some time, but you will eventually see butterflies and other pollinators enjoying your garden. Make sure to weed and water your garden to keep it healthy.

Help track monarch movements, milkweed growth and monarch life stages by reporting your sightings at journeynorth.org/monarch.

For more information on monarch butterflies and other pollinators, visit:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — www.fws.gov

Learn About Nature — www.learnaboutnature.com.

The Red River Basin Commission (RRBC) is a grassroots organization that is a chartered not-for-profit corporation under the provisions of Manitoba, North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota law. Contact the Winnipeg office at 204-982-7254, or you can check out the website at www.redriverbasincommission.org.

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