Howdy! This week on the Howdy Farm was so much fun! Four of my six hours that I completed this week were spent planting seeds in trays so they can begin to grow in the greenhouse. Yes, FOUR HOURS with seeds! But, I loved it! I spent so much time on this one thing because it was so crucial to my project and hopefully just as important to some butterflies in the area. In other words, I spent a good long while working on my particular Howdy Farm Project!
Not only are butterflies positively beautiful but they have many other important values too. For starters, when we were all in elementary school we all studied the butterfly life cycle. We learned the wonder of how something that it practically a worm can turn into one of the most beautiful things on the planet. They also have scientific value as well. Butterflies are an obvious indicator of a healthy ecosystem. They are a food source for other important animals in the food chain, and scientists have been studying them for years for biological research. Researchers have studied butterflies in complex fields such as navigation, pest control, embryology, mimicry, evolution, genetics, population dynamics, and biodiversity conservation.
So, since these butterflies are so essential to the environment, I wanted to do my part and give them a place to stop on their travels. I also wanted to create a space for the butterflies in the area to lay their eggs. There are specific plants that eat species of butterfly will use as a host plant for their eggs. Monarch butterflies only use milkweed as a host plant. Some other common host plants are fennel, dill, clover, and even carrots. These plants contain everything the caterpillars will need to grow. Then near these host plants will be pollinator plants. For example sunflowers, hyssop, and lantana all attract butterflies. Putting all of these different types of plants near each other creates a great space for the butterflies.
Some of these seeds required some extra attention. Specifically the nasturtium seeds. These seeds need to be scarified before planting. Scarified means that the seed had a hard outer coat that needed removing before it would grow in soil. The best example of a seed that needs scarifying is Texas Bluebonnet seeds. Bluebonnets have a hard seed coat but after they are eaten by an animal, usually birds, that hard coat is worn off by the animal's stomach juices. Once the seed passes through the bird and lands on the ground, then it can germinate. Some flowers produce seeds this way to keep them safe, to keep them from growing too soon, and even so they will grow in other places. If you think about it, most animals don't 'go' in the same spot they ate...usually. Anyway, a simpler way to scarify the seeds I needed to plant was just to scrape it against the concrete a few times. Once I saw white part under the seed coat I knew I was ready to go!
Some plants I'll be using for my butterfly garden are already planted there ready to go. These flowers were from last years rain garden which is what I am converting into a butterfly garden. Some of these remarkable plants are milkweed and toad flower which are two host plants for butterflies. I couldn't have planned that better myself! Then we also have a hibiscus flower and Turk's caps growing from the old rain garden.
Even more exciting than the hibiscus flower is the Turk caps! It's a tall bush of small red flowers that are native to Texas, and they grow everywhere. They've grown on the Howdy farm, they've grown in my backyard at home, they even grow on campus off military walk! Little did I know that these little flowers are delicious! Well not the whole flower, just the bottom where the flower connects to the stem. If you pull off a flower and flip it over you will see a small white circle where all the petals meet. This area kind of makes a tiny bowl of sugar. Bite that little part, and you get a little bit of sweetness sort of like honeysuckle. On occasion when I crave something sweet I'll swing by for a taste of sugar.
Other fun things that happened on the farm this week involved our Howdy Farm Mascot; Nepeta! She usually hates all humans like any feral cat. However this week in a change of heart she let two interns, myself being one of them, pet her for a good 5 minutes or so. It was incredible. Then she let Corey pick her up and hold her. She's come so far! Well, she likes Corey because he feeds her. Colette and I just got lucky I guess. Oh well, see ya next week!