One of the best ways to tempt children into a healthy and fun relationship with the outside world this summer is watching wildlife – and one of the simplest ways to attract wildlife to your garden is by planting a butterfly garden patch. Read on to find out how:
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Spending time with your children in the great outdoors this summer is one of the best ways to encourage fun and good health. Sunshine builds vitamin D for strong bones, running around burns off calories, fresh air means they sleep better, and there’s even evidence that time spent outside improves eyesight and helps improve concentration.
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How to Make a Butterfly Garden
#1. Find the Perfect Sunny Spot
Firstly, choose a warm spot for your butterfly garden, and dig it over. If you don’t have much lawn, find some planters and drill base holes so that water can drain freely. Planters look good on a patio, on a balcony and by your front door.
The chosen spot needs sunshine, because butterflies can’t survive without warmth. Their wings soak up sun rays and without it they’ll simply die. The sun will also encourage your flowers to blossom and grow new fresh heads.
#2. Choose Native Plants
Butterflies eat nectar from flowering plants from March to November, so if you can have something in flower during this extended period, some of our 59 varieties of butterflies will visit you.
Here are a few good butterfly-friendly choices:
- Red valerian
- Wild marjoram
- Common knapweed
- Field scabious
- Some overripe plums and pears in late summer will attract butterflies too.
In hot spells, you’ll need to water these plants and cut off the flower heads as they die to encourage new ones. This mix of native plants will attract our most common butterflies to your butterfly garden, including the Red Admiral, Peacock, Brimstone, Painted Lady, Comma, and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies.
Let the kids get stuck into digging and planting – don’t mind the mess, they’ll have a ball! Soil is healthy and the more contact they have with the earth, the better.
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#3. Butterflies Need More Than Food
…they need water too! The best way to offer water is in a shallow, pebble-filled dish. Butterflies, moths and hoverflies land on the pebbles to take a drink from the shallows in safety. Fill it daily as they do tend to dry out quickly.
If you leave out a ground-level water supply, you may find hedgehogs take advantage and eat those snails for you. It’s a real treat for kids (and adults) to see a hedgehog snuffling around their garden.
#4. Make Your Butterfly Garden A Pesticide-Free Zone
Your plants will probably attract lots of creatures alongside the butterflies. Bees, moths, hoverflies and ladybirds are usually welcome, but you may not be as keen on spiders, snails and aphids. These additional creatures are all part of the natural food chain – don’t be tempted to use pesticides, as you will kill the butterflies and pollinators too.
#5. Add Some Fun Extras!
Why not decorate your little butterfly garden? Get the kids to enhance it with painted and varnished stones, fairy doors and the occasional superhero. If you have a big enough space, you could also add a small seat so your child can sit amid the action.
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Learning Through Your Butterfly Garden
Your butterfly garden isn’t just beautiful, it’s an educational opportunity. Your children may be interested in learning more about the butterfly lifecycle, which includes eggs, caterpillars and the chrysalis. Even younger children will enjoy the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Butterflies are notoriously picky about where they lay eggs. Nettles are by far the most favoured place for the Comma, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies to lay. You could plant some nettles in the butterfly patch, but put them in a buried container to prevent spread. While this seems to be an odd choice in a kid-friendly garden, nettles are in gact a very good way to teach children respect for the environment.
Watching the butterfly’s lifecycle is fascinating, and no doubt you’ll find yourself out there looking for a chrysalis too!
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