Good to Grow: Butterfly garden a shared experience to treasure forever

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A monarch butterfly caterpillar crawls on a native milkweed species (Asclepias syriaca).

Sharing my garden knowledge with my son has been a top priority for me since finding out that I would be a father.

With his third birthday not too far off, his interests in the outside world really took off this spring. What I didn’t expect was how enthralled he would become with my yearly vegetable and flower gardens.

I know within two years, I will have a full-fledged bean picker, if there ever was one! Which would work out great for Dad, too: love growing beans, hate to pick them.

Nonetheless, showing him and demonstrating cultivation practices in the garden this summer has been a humbling experience. I try hard each spring to plan ahead with his beginning garden education in mind.

Three autumns ago — about a month before our son was born — the wife and I decided to take a spur-of-the-moment day trip to the annual Bob Evans Farm Festival in Rio Grande, Ohio. As we walked around looking at each vendor’s goods we came across a local seed company called Circa Plants and Heirloom Seeds.

To our delight, they had tons of native plants and many heirloom vegetable seeds. Best of all, each pack was only two dollars, and after so many packs that price went down. After leaving the seed vendor, I was down a Ulysses S. Grant, but up one paper bag full of seed packs.

As my wife and I walked back to the car, she asked me, “Where are you going to plant all of those?” My answer, “I’ll find a place.”

That place was the freezer door. I grew all the vegetable seeds the next spring and summer. However, the flower seeds remained in the freezer door, until this spring.

As I started planning this year’s garden, I pulled out the paper bag containing the semi-forgotten flower seeds. A garden light bulb went off: “Butterfly garden!”

I can honestly say that I never intentionally planned for a butterfly garden until this spring. Sure, I grow lots of flowers that attract butterflies, but I never planted a flower with that sole intention. It’s always been a color or growing feature kind of thing for me when choosing what to grow where. But this spring, I had a ton of native milkweed seed and a son’s blooming garden interests in mind.

I knew if I germinated and planted the milkweed, that would bring the butterflies and encourage them to stay and complete their summer life cycle in our yard. This turned out to be a great garden activity for my son and both of his parents.

We have always admired the bees and butterflies on the flowers from our sun porch each year. Planting the milkweed gave us the grand pleasure of watching the butterflies lay their eggs. Then watching the larva eat away at the milkweed’s waxy green leaves and grow into an impressive caterpillar within days. At last, the caterpillar spun its chrysalis on the underside of uneaten milkweed leaves.

We hope we are lucky enough to watch one hatch out. We have been making daily visits to our small milkweed patch each day since the larva showed up. My son just loves to look at them along with picking beans in the garden. Planning ahead to get my son interested in gardening really paid off, making this dad’s summer full of pride and enjoyment.

Chris Postalwait is the agricultural and environmental research station and greenhouse manager for West Virginia State University Research & Development Corporation. He is also the former owner of Orange Vine LLC., a wholesale commercial pumpkin and vegetable farm in Mason County. Contact Chris at postalcm@wvstateu.edu.

Funerals for Thursday, November 21, 2019

Bias, Kenneth - 7 p.m., Evans Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Chapmanville.

Carrow, Mildred - 1 p.m., Marmet Memorial Gardens, Marmet.

Coleman, Aaron - 1 p.m., Cooke Funeral Home Chapel, Cedar Grove.

Fore, George - 7 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Midkiff, Cleo - 2 p.m., Bartlett-Nichols Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Outman, Roxine -  2 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Shamblin, Cathy - 7 p.m., Christ Community Church, Scott Depot.