Alice Whitehead is a third generation allotmenteer that likes to grow, eat and get muddy – then write about it! With two urban allotment plots, an award-winning school garden club and an enthusiastic nine year old son to help. In this new blog series Alice shows us how to get children outdoors and into the garden this summer.
Part 2 – Make a butterfly cafe
by Alice Whitehead
Even if you only have a small backyard or balcony, it’s easy to attract more butterflies. Get the children to set up their own butterfly ‘takeaway’, with these easy ideas…As always, these tasks require adult supervision.
1. Welly wildlife patch
Butterflies (and moths) love highly scented flowers and vegetables but you don’t need a big border or a massive veg patch to attract them. Easy plants to pop into pots include marigolds, lavender, wallflowers and herbs such as catmint, chives and thyme. You could even try planting in wellies! You don’t need matching wellies, any old boot will do, and you can pep up plain wellingtons with brightly coloured waterproof paints. Adult butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink and purple. Let them dry and add some drainage holes in the base with a skewer or a sharp knife (a job for mum and dad!) Fill the bottom third with gravel to aid drainage and help weigh them down, and fill up with compost to just above half way. Tap the boot on the ground so you get rid of air pockets, and pop your plant in the top. It’s best to stick to one plant per boot to give them maximum space. Add a handful or two of soil to cover the plant roots and firm in with your fingers, tapping again, and watering in well.
2. Butterfly sun lounger
Butterflies like to sunbathe as much as we do, so add some large flat stones to sunny parts of the garden to allow them places to come to rest and bathe in the sunlight.
3. All you can eat butterfly buffet
The summer heat can often make fruit go bad but instead of throwing it away, recycle it in a special butterfly feeder. Punch holes in a plastic plate and attach string or cord to each hole, tying securely. String colourful beads onto your strands (these colours help to attract the butterflies) and hang up near your scented flowers. Slice up orange, apricot, peaches, strawberries and bananas – the riper the better – and add them to your plate, and wait a few days to watch the butterflies come to feed. Keep the slices moist by adding fruit juice, but if mould appears discard it and add more. You might also attract hoverflies and wasps (so keep your dish away from open windows!)
4. Flutterby filling stations
Another easy way to feed butterflies is to dip strips of fabric (the brighter the better) into homemade nectar. Make your nectar by mixing 1 part sugar to 4 parts water and boil for a few minutes until the sugar dissolves (another job for mum and dad). Let it cool completely before soaking your lengths of fabric, and tie these to canes dotted in sunny locations around the garden, or inserted into pots.
5. Winged watering hole
Mud pies aren’t just fun to make; they’re great for butterflies too! Butterflies like to quench their thirst but find it hard to drink from open water, so you need to provide them with some wet mud where they can land safely and slurp. A bog garden is ideal but out of the reach of most urban gardens, so instead, dig a hole and line it with polythene (a plastic bag will do) and push the soil back in, adding water to make a muddy soup. Guaranteed fun for the kids! Keep topping it up with water during the summer to ensure it is moist but not waterlogged.
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