With spring less than one week away many people, myself included, are anxious to get back out in their gardens. Gardening for me isn’t just about having an aesthetically pleasing yard, it is about creating habitat for as many species as possible. In the eight years I have been in my current home I have transformed my yard from an area void of trees, shrubs, flowers and wildlife, to a natural area that is now filled with a variety of native flora and consequently visited by several species of bird, insect, and mammal.
Adding Milkweed to my yard last year was an easy decision, as I wanted to do my part to help save the Monarch Butterfly. Monarch numbers have declined so drastically in recent years that they are now listed as a Species at Risk. Milkweed is critical to the survival of the Monarch Butterfly as it is the only plant consumed by Monarch caterpillars. Several Milkweeds are available, all of the genus Asclepias, which are host plants for this fragile butterfly. I chose Common Milkweed because it is native to my area, and has a wonderful fragrance when in bloom.
March is the perfect month to start growing Common Milkweed from seed indoors. By germinating seeds now, the small plants will be ready to plant outdoors in your garden after the threat of frost. For those of us in the London, Ontario area, it is recommended waiting until the Victoria Day weekend in May.
If you wish to obtain Common Milkweed seeds so you can start your own plants indoors, and you wish to help more Species at Risk than just the Monarch Butterfly, a great option exists. Swift Care Ontario, a local, licensed wildlife rehabiltator has put together Common Milkweed seed packages that are available in exchange for a donation to their centre. Detailed instructions for germinating the seeds and transplanting can be found on their website. If you are not familiar with Swift Care Ontario, they specialize in rehabilitating injured and orphaned Species at Risk birds, most notably aerial insectivores, including Chimney Swifts, Common Nighthawks, Bank Swallows, Barn Swallows and Eastern Whip-Poor-Wills. These seed packages are available at local bird feed retailer Hyde Park Feed and Country Store or by contacting Swift Care Ontario. Your donation will help Swift Care Ontario purchase food and other supplies needed in the 2015 season to raise and care for these fragile species. Licensed wildlife rehabilitation centres in Ontario, such as Swift Care Ontario, do not receive funding from the government and rely solely on donations from the public. Not only will your donation help Swift Care Ontario preserve Species at Risk birds, your Milkweed garden will also help preserve Monarch Butterflies in your own backyard. Pick up one of these seed packages today and help save multiple Species at Risk.