The best teacher around our home has been our garden. It is a constant source of curiosity, beauty and wonder in the ways of the world and the gist of it revolves around a 4×4 foot bed. Some corners act as a sandbox, while others have served as roly poly playgrounds. It’s a tasting garden with regular sampling of all leaves within.
Our tiny bed of paradise began when, after hearing my laments concerning small garden space and constrictions set by the neighborhood HOA, a friend tipped us off on the idea of square foot gardening. We quickly built the first bed and accompanying side boxes in our one accessible sunny spot and started visiting the local farmers markets for plants (not necessarily on the lookout for natives – just anything fun for our very young tots to interact with).
The bed began with locally grown chard and strawberries (still going strong after almost 6 seasons), a blackberry bush, herbs, and other random vegetables. Then by perfect chance, another friend in a mom’s social circle advertised she was sharing excess black swallowtail caterpillars to raise from her over-consumed parsley plants. We enthusiastically took some home in a mason jar and began our saga of the pollinator garden. Learn all about how to raise a black swallowtail caterpillar from this Texas Butterfly Ranch article! We await a visit from these beauties every spring on our potted fennel and plant carrot family varieties every chance we get. The kids really enjoy inspecting for tiny caterpillars feasting away and delight in finding their unusual chrysalises (varying green to brown) hidden among the tree branches or along the garden wall, all the while looking for any bugs they can find like tiny treasures in that box of ours.
Now we are on the hunt for native bees. We’ve established a bed of Gregg’s mistflower which has experienced it’s first transplanting to other corners of the yard. It brought in hoards of queen and monarch butterflies late last summer, which also brought the neighbor kids after seeing them flutter through our alleyway. And after a second year since planting from seed, we have a beautiful and very tall variety of lance leaf coreopsis.
And our most ambitious attempt! …to grow native milkweed which is pretty difficult to buy from garden centers and even plant sales due to the establishment of tap roots from initial growth. I’ll write more on that in a later post. But I have a feeling most posts will return to the garden where the soil, plants, and bugs (from roly polies to insects to spiders and more!) all have a great lesson to teach my littles and myself on so many levels.
So on the title photo – my kids and I found this fascinating insect relaxing this sunny spring afternoon. Fly or bee? I posted it to iNaturalist.org and we anxiously await the results.