Master Gardeners’ New Monarch Garden Takes Flight
Kaufman County Master Gardeners, directed by Master Gardener Tamara Stahlman, are working on the installation of a new Monarch garden. This new garden is partially supported by a $200 grant from the Native Plant Society of Texas. According to scientists quoted in National Geographic magazine, the Monarch population has declined to its lowest level in over 20 years. The Native Plant Society sponsors a “Bring Back Monarchs to Texas” grant program to raise awareness of the critical need to provide habitat for migrating Monarchs. The grant supports building demonstration gardens containing milkweed, the primary food plant for Monarch larvae, and butterfly nectar plants.
Stahlman began working on the grant in February, researching both the grant requirements and the needs of migrating Monarchs. After analyzing the existing Butterfly Garden, Stahlman proposed a complete renovation that included replacing all the existing plants with new plants that specifically appeal to Monarchs. Her grant application included a plant list and a diagram of plant placement.
The first step was the removal of existing plant material. The well-established Turk’s Cap, which according to Aggie Horticulture, “is exceedingly difficult to dig up due to its very tough, dense and deep roots” in North Central Texas’ black clay was cut back but left in place. It is a nectar plant for Monarchs. Master Gardeners removed the landscape fabric buried under six years of decomposing mulch. Landscape fabric, which is promoted to act as a weed barrier, was initially installed in some of the gardens, but it has not noticeably decreased the number of weeds where it was installed.
The soil was tilled to incorporate the composted mulch that’s been used to dress the beds twice a year since their installation. Expanded shale and compost were added to a 3-foot test strip. Plants in the test strip can be compared to the same plants in other areas of the garden to see the effect of the added shale.
After the soil was leveled, new plant installation began.