- [Narrator] "Volunteer Gardener" is made possible in part by Tennessee Environmental Council, helping people care for the environment and offering instructions and seed kits for pollinator gardens that bloom into year round habitats. More information at tectn.org. - [Announcer] Monarch butterflies have experienced a dramatic population decline of late. Marty DeHart visits with Rita Venable, author of "Butterflies of Tennessee" to showcase plants that provide nectar to support the monarch's fall migration. Julie Berbiglia finds there's an evolution toward more sustainable land management on a visit to the campus of Vanderbilt University. And Jeff Poppen shares some essential tips for a beginning vegetable grower. Join us. A look at some of the champion pollinator plants that provide necessary nectar in the fall. - We're in Field One at the Giving Garden at Franklin First United Methodist Church. And it's late-ish September and we're gonna be talking about butterfly migration. And Rita Venable, butterfly maven extraordinaire is gonna tell us all about it. Rita, I'm looking at just amazing flowers here. - Well in my book, goldenrods are the name of the game. - Yeah. - In Tennessee. We have over 12, 13, 14 species and you can plan your garden so that you start in late August and you just keep going all the way through some will last until a hard frost. And even after that, they turn. If the snow falls on 'em or whatever, they have these cottony heads, they're gorgeous. This one right here it's- - [Marty] Rigida? - [Rita] Rigida, yeah. Yeah, it does spread and it springles too, so we had to stake it. But it was worth it because it's covered with bees that have pollen on their legs and this indicates a female okay? - [Marty] Okay, is that right? - [Rita] Yes it's always a female . - [Marty] So if a bee has pollen it's a female. - [Rita] Yes. - [Marty] Gotcha. - [Rita] Always. - [Marty] And butterflies love this too. - [Rita] Butterflies love this. I've got so many pictures of monarchs on this. I've Gulf fritillaries on this, everything. And also these little soldier beetles that are on here, and these are mating right here too. - [Marty] I can see they're- - [Rita] They are so beneficial. Their larva will eat things that are bad for the garden. And it's just, they're wonderful. - Oh that's wonderful. - So we like soldier beetles. - So soldier beetles are a gardener's friend. - Yes and we want the bumblebees up here in particular because we grow a lot of tomatoes and they pollinate. - [Marty] They do. - [Rita] A lot of tomatoes. - [Marty] So to being late-ish September, this is really blooming at exactly the right time for monarchs isn't it? - [Rita] It it, it's perfect for monarch. If you keep the goldenrods going, you'll cover not only early migrators, but the big migration in the middle and then the trailing off. At any rate, all of them are gearing up to leave. And so they're storing fats. They're trying to get and the bees are too. - [Marty] Yeah. - [Rita] They're- - [Marty] And pollen so rich for that. - Yes the pollen on this is wonderful. It's big and it's sticky and it's very nutritious. - So it's giving them a ton of food, right now? - Giving 'em a ton of food and we like that. This is another goldenrod. - Yeah I see this. - And as you can tell, it's already peaked. This is Rugosa. - [Marty] Rugosa. - [Rita] And it came on about three or four weeks ago. - [Marty] But as you can, it's still just finishing up. - Yes and see, this is what I'm talking about, a succession of goldenrods. So as one's fading the other one's coming on. And it's right in front of this mountain mint. - Oh, one of my favorite plants. - Yes, I also recommend heartedly, they keep. They have a long blooming period also, and they appeal to a lot of different beneficial insects. And it's edible, you can take these leaves right off. It's a native and you can put 'em in your iced tea or whatever, it's a great plant. - And it is a mint family member. And one of the things, the flowers are actually really tea tiny. They're right around these sort of little mini cauliflower looking heads. But the bracs of them are these kind of frosted glaucous things and it gives a lot of impact in the garden. I grow these because I think they're great looking. Not only that because of that long flowering time, I get everything from tiger swallowtails in July, through migrating monarchs on these in September, because it's such a great plant. - They're great, they do spread. - Yeah. - So you need to- - They do. - I like any mint, I like to kind of, either watch it really closely or give it a pot. - Grow it in a pot. - Grow it in a pot or keep it within a little brick border so I know, okay you're spreading too far. - [Marty] Yeah, yeah they do- - [Rita] I've got it in my house beside my driveway. - [Marty] Yeah. - [Rita] And it works great. - [Marty] Yeah, it's a really rugged plant. No care. - [Rita] Very rugged, yes. - Well here's a goldenrod that's just about to start blooming here. - Yes, this one's coming on. What we call coming on. And you can see the rugosa and then the rigida there, and now the seaside. - This is seaside goldenrod? - Seaside goldenrod. We started last year and it came back. And it's been a wonderful, bright, beautiful spot in the garden in this insectory for late September through October. - These are the flower buds, these little chartreuse parts. - Yes and they're starting to turn. - Yes, they are. - And very soon the insects will start gathering on 'em even before the flowers fully open. - I see soldier beetles already. Jumping the gun. - It's like they're deciding this is where I'm gonna be next. - Yeah. - So. - Checking it out. - What we do on this is when it dies back and it does, you can see here's one right here that kind of did we just kinda cut it back and we lay those right in there. Cause we would love for that seed to just keep making new seasides. - Sure. In the garden goldenrods, we think of them as weeds in America, in Europe they don't. But they often have a kind of a big, boisterous, wild kind of habit, which doesn't lend itself to a formal garden setting. So when I put these in, in gardens for my clients, I often will use them like at the back of a border so that they can be contained. You can even use peony hoops or rings around them. If you want to compact the growth habit a little bit more and then hide the bottom. - They like spraddle. - They do like, they tend to like to spraddle and that's simply because allows more air and light and they do better that way. There are varieties of goldenrod that are very garden worthy. - [Rita] Yes. - Yeah so these big guys you can use, but there are plenty available that are great for nectaring and pollinators. - Yes. - That are also good garden subjects. - It all depends on your situation. Anywhere from anywhere from formal to okay, with a little informal to totally out in the big field. - Yeah, wild. - I mean, yeah wild. We've got four acres and we can do whatever we want to. - Sure. - That's a big difference. - Right, sure. - So there's a goldenrod just about suit every purpose. - That's great. - You just have to really look at them. - Yeah. - And- - Do a little homework. - Yeah, do little homework. Yes that's right. - Well Rita, one of the great things I know about zinnias is that they are such popular plants with butterflies, that they not only attract the local guys, but they also attract the ones that are migrating through. - [Rita] That's right and they have such a long bloom period but the great thing in the fall is that they're still full of nectar and not just monarchs use them. They come through in mid-September usually give or take a few weeks based on the weather, but also cloudless sulfurs migrate. - [Marty] Like those big yellow ones were seeing. - [Rita] Those big yellow ones right there that's nectaring on the zinnia right now. They come through and we're starting to see more of those right through now. Also common buckeye also migrate through sometimes as late as November. - [Marty] Wow. - [Rita] And we'll see 'em some of the skippers migrate. We really don't know the total migratory paths of all of these but we do know for sure that things show up. - [Marty] Right. - [Rita] And in Tennessee, they show up because I have the records, all the way through December. - [Marty] Wow. - [Rita] We are getting warmer to the point where if we can keep the flowers going and the restaurant open, the butterflies will have a place to go. And that's a great thing. - [Marty] One of the glories of the autumn in Eastern US, which is the New England Aster. - [Rita] Oh yes, yes. Love that plant in all its many forms. There's a bee on there right now. - [Rita] Yep, they love them. - [Marty] The butterflies love it. It's got lots of pollen. It's good for beneficial insects. There's a little solider beetle on there now - [Rita] I've taken pictures of migrating monarchs on these and that orange on the purple is a pretty spectacular photo op. - The Larry's as well. - Yes. - And the cloudless sulfurs, the big yellow on the purple- - [Marty] They're beautiful. - [Rita] It is, yes. - And this is a really great garden plant. And there are dwarfer forms. This is the sort of the wild form. It gets three to four feet tall but there are dwarf forms that you can buy that bloom still have the same kind of flower form and are shorter and little tighter in the garden. But if you wanna grow the tall kind, which is certainly spectacular, you can plant things around the base of it cause they can get a little leggy at the bottom but if you have lower plants around the bottom, it looks great. So Rita, I wanna tell you how much I love your book. - [Rita] Oh thank you, thank you. Glad you like it. - [Marty] "Butterflies of Tennessee." - [Rita] Yes, yes. Labor of love it. - [Marty] Well it shows and it's really a beautiful, wonderful handbook and I find it useful. I use it all the time. - [Rita] So do I. - [Marty] Yeah. - [Rita] I have to look things up in it sometimes. Flight periods in particular. - [Marty] Yeah. - [Rita] It just really was the purpose is to give people a tool. - [Marty] Yeah. - [Rita] To find things on their own. - And it does but it not only tells you what they look like but it also tells you what they like to eat and how they behave and how to find them. And which is I find so useful. It's a really great resource. - Good, thank you. Thank you so much. - No, my pleasure. And I wanna talk about things butterflies love like this canadensis goldenrod. Canada goldenrod folks and this is just an amazing. It looks like it's vibrating it's got so many bugs. - [Rita] It's dancing with bees and beneficial insects and everything so. - And we've seen a buckeye come cruise and nectar and get pollen on it. Just a fabulous plant. This is another one that is at the height of monarch migration season. It's doing its thing. - [Rita] It's it. - [Marty] Its timing is perfect. - [Rita] It's perfect and in this field where there's milkweed down there and milkweed right beside it, it just tells the monarchs come on in. They said we got food, we got hotel here. Just come on in so yeah. - And speaking of milkweed, we found something really cool. So monarchs favorite larval food. What the caterpillars love to eat. - Oh yes. Any kind of milkweed. - Milkweed. - Yeah. - And even though it's monarch migration time, we found a monarch caterpillar. - Yes. - So even though it's the middle of migration season. - [Rita] Yep. - [Marty] They're still making babies. - They are, we don't know if it's a local population or if they really don't go into reproductive diapause in some areas but here we are. This should be an adult butterfly on its way to Mexico by now. And it's got another, at least another week or two, depending on whether once it goes in the chrysalis. And that little one we found that's only less than a half inch. I mean, it's got a month to go so. - [Marty] Wow. - But it could make it. It could still make- - Sure. - It depends on the frost, on the weather. - Sure. - And amount rain we have, the temperatures, so- - Right. - But that's why you leave the restaurant open. Because you don't know, you know, what's gonna- - For sure. - What's gonna be. - For sure and we need to preserve our monarchs as much as we can. - Yes, yes. - Well I just wanna thank you so much for sharing your butterfly wisdom with us. It's just been terrific and what a happy find that was. - Oh, I know, I love it. Love it. - Well, thank you. - It's always good to see a monarch. - Yeah, it is. - And to see you. - Yeah and you too. Great to be with you, thank you so much. - Thank you. - Well the 300 acres of Vanderbilt University and Peabody campuses in the middle of Nashville are just an incredible site. But I bet you didn't think of them as a place to come to learn about really healthy gardening practices. So James, there has been a change over the years in what's happening on these campuses. - I'd say so. We are blessed to have an incredible maintenance and grounds staff here. I'm a landscape architect myself and when I came here to work at Vanderbilt a couple years ago, I started learning more about maintenance practices myself and what's been going on here and what's been evolving over time. I think there's a general movement and Vanderbilt is participating in that, to be more sustainable. And that includes our maintenance practices. It includes the amount of chemicals that we use for herbicide or insecticide, trying to dial that back and be intentional about that use. And it also includes preventive measures, but measures to increase the health of our soil. In the past, we've developed our own compost tea and redistribute that across our beds and campus. We're working with a local source right now to actually send our dining food waste out and have that composted on a pretty large scale and have that returned as compost in our beds. It's fall right now on campus and so we've got a lot of leaves and instead of bagging all those leaves up and hauling them off somewhere, we either mulch them in place or blow them back into the beds. To help break down and that also of course, encourages growth of a variety of species of insects, microbes. And those all add up to soil health, which at the end of the day supports our Arboretum. - Wow so some neat things going on here. Now I'm very curious about this though is, you must walk a pretty fine line between the campus areas that need to look pretty pristine and gorgeous and formal and trying to get some more sort of natural stuff going on. How are you doing that? - Yeah, that's a great question. I think Vanderbilt has cultivated over time, a look of not being too tidy. Our main lawns, there are areas that I'd say they're more high touch that we do try to keep clipped. But if you look at our shrubs, for example, we're not taking a hedge clipper across them and making meatballs out of our use yews. We really like to let the form of the trees and the shrubs express themselves, kind of goes to the lawns too. You will see a couple weeds in our lawns occasionally. Especially some of ours that are less high touch areas like alumni lawn or Peabody lawn. We're trying to dial back the amount of herbicide in those places and in Nashville, that means, living with a couple of weeds, which sometimes are just plants in the wrong place. There are other places which we are actually actively exploring lawn replacement. Actually behind us right now is a good example. If you can see the growth of the liriope here. This actually used to be lawn in the pine straw areas and we are trying to strip out the lawn under these trees, establish a mix of ground covers here is easier to maintain, it means we're not running vehicles over the roots and is better ultimately for these trees. And finally, we do actually have some areas around campus kind of out of the way places where we're experimenting with lawn replacements, like native meadow seeds. So native grasses and forbs. And those do look a little messy. So one thing that we've been really trying to figure out is how do you include signage to tell people, no, this is not just an un-mown patch over here. This is actually a beneficial ecological experiment. So there's areas like that as well. - [Julie] Wow well, and I imagine a lot of these practices are things that are going to be water wise practices as well. So how are you incorporating that idea here on the grounds? - We're moving to drip irrigation, a lot of our perennial beds. I'd say, we are using new systems that are smarter as far as irrigation control. We wanna be able to water on a mass scale when we need to, right? If we hit a big drought, we don't wanna lose trees. We don't wanna lose our plantings that we've invested in but we also don't want that running after it's been raining for a week solid. We've really invested in smart irrigation controllers. Our grounds crew were showing me the other day, they can just pull it up on their phone and review water windows and tables like that. So that's part of it, right? Is having the infrastructure but only using it when we need it. And often that's really just for the first three years of establishment in a lot of these. And then we're pretty much turning it off unless we have a drought. And we also try to collect water where we can to reuse it on campus for things like irrigation. We have several cistern on campus that are sometimes used for irrigation. They're also sometimes used for things like flushing toilets, or even being redistributed back to our power plant, to help be used at our chiller. Another fun fact that not a lot of people know is we have a place called the mole hole, which is actually a really deep utility tunnel over by our athletic fields. And because we're in a limestone area, we get a lot of ground water coming into that hole that we have to pump somewhere. And so we actually use some of that water, we filter it a little bit, right? So it doesn't plug the lines but we use it to irrigate our athletic fields to even cool off some of our artificial turf areas. And so that's just water we're getting and we just pay to pump it and otherwise it would just be going right into the storm sewers and out to the Cumberland. I really love examples like that, that keep water in place. We're moving towards a more native perennial and woody palette and all of those being of course smart about planting a shade plant work in the shade and not in the full sun. So I see that as part of my role is helping work with our maintenance staff who are of course incredibly knowledgeable about right plant, right place. - Well James, thank you so much for spending time with us on this fall day out here at Vanderbilt, it's really inspirational to hear about the practices you're doing and thinking about things that we can do at our own homes and on behalf of the neighborhood and everybody that lives in Nashville, we are so pleased what Vanderbilt is doing because you're right in the middle of so much concrete otherwise. It's just an Oasis and now a wonderful place we know we could all come and learn. - That's great, thank you for your time. And someone who grew up in the neighborhood myself, I just feel so lucky to work here with an amazing team that is learning and evolving our campus landscape. Thank you. - I get a lot of questions about gardening. And the first thing I recommend is the organic gardening method. Because when we build up the soil humus, we can prevent problems later on with diseases, bugs, and soil compaction. We wanna build up the soil humus. Organic gardening means building up the organic matter in the soil. This garden was a pasture last winter. I like to flip the soil over in the fall and leave it rough plow. The freezing and thawing over the winter, breaks up those clods and loosens and mellows the soil. It's often too wet to plow in early spring and the grass loves to grow in the spring. So it's better to take care of that in the fall. Otherwise, it's harder to get rid of. A black spot on the blossom end of a tomato is called blossom end rot. And this is an indicator that your ground needs lime. We have to use lime because calcium leaches out of the soil with the rains and is also removed when we take off the crops. Farmers spread lime at the rate of one to two tons per acre. This works out to be about 50 to a hundred pounds for a thousand square feet, which is a garden 20 feet wide by 50 feet long. Another good source of calcium and also potassium are wood ashes. Plus they have trace elements. Wood ashes are sprinkled on rather thinly because they're very alkaline. Plan your garden before you plant it. Seed catalogs and seed packets have lots of useful information on 'em about how far apart to space your plants and also the times to plant them. But even at eight foot centers, you may not wanna plant pumpkins next to your watermelons. All the rows in this garden were set at four feet apart and they look like they were way too far apart at first, but you can see how they've all grown together. It's easier to change the row on a piece of paper than it is once it's planted in the garden. Don't plant your garden all at once. Successive planting is when you plant every three weeks, the same crop so that when the first crop peters out, you have a new crop coming in. For example, these beans and squash were the first plantings and they're about gone. They they're in their full production right now, but they're about gone. Over here we have a new planting of beans and a new planting of squash that will start producing about the times the old ones peter out. In gardening, there's no substitute for good compost. Gardens need farms around. Find a farmer and get some manure, some hay, go to the forest and get some leaves or find the bag leaves that people give away on the roadsides. Layer this all together and keep it damp. Don't forget to put soil in it. Either garden refuse or just shovel fulls of soil. We wanna make a real good compost. We have to keep it damp and let it set for several months. When it turns black and crumbly and smells earthy, it's ready to apply. We put it on at the rate of about a ton for a thousand square foot of garden area. The places where farmers feed out these rolls of hay eventually make a real nice black humus compost. that oftentimes they'll let you have. Soil structure is extremely important, which is why I don't like rototillers. The constant rotating of the times beats the soil up too much and when it rains the ground compacts. I much prefer the implements that run through the soil lengthwise. When we're working our ground, we can just run the re-breakers and implements like that this way and maybe crossways and take a few days. Don't be in a hurry. We have plenty of time to get the ground ready for planting. Another way to improve soil structure is by growing cover crops. For example, buckwheat is a great summer cover crop. Over winter we use creams and clover or maybe winter wheat with hairy vetch for winter cover crops. The buckwheat and other things like cowpeas or soybeans are used for cover crops during the summer. They're killed by the frost. We want to work the ground when the moisture is right. If you can pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it when you drop it, it should shatter. Then you know, the ground is dry enough to work. If we work the ground too wet, it forms clods and it's not good. We ho the ground, after every rain to break up the crust, this creates a dust mulch on top of the soil and keeps the soil underneath nice and moist. If the ground gets hard and weedy bugs will come to the rescue to make humus. Unfortunately they do this by eating our plants. We can rub these squash bug egg clusters off of the squash leaves while we're working. It's important to be in your garden and be observant. Mulching helps by smothering the weeds, conserving the soil moisture, and it eventually turns into humus and organic matter. Farms oftentimes have old hay. We like to put it on real thick. Please don't feed the animals. Deer, raccoons, and groundhogs love gardens. So put up an eight foot fence, keep the deer out. You can also grow gourds and climbing beans along it. Raccoons can be taken care of with an electric fence close to the ground. And ground hogs can be trapped using vegetables for bait. We wanna keep the produce picked. Once a plant makes mature seed. The life force wanes. We wanna keep the summer squash picked young and the plants will produce for much longer. Extra produce is a good way to meet your neighbors. And church groups and other community organizations are helpful in distributing food to people around that need it. And everyone loves a bouquet of flowers. Tennesseans can grow all their own food. They have in the past and they certainly will in the future. Preserving farmland near cities makes a lot of sense because the farms can provide gardeners with manures and hay and other farm resources that the home gardener needs. Besides the health benefits of fresh garden produce gardening is great exercise. It's peaceful to be in the fresh air out in the garden. We're improving the soil and appreciating the wonders of nature. And a beautiful garden like a beautiful piece of artwork is pleasing to the soul. - [Narrator] For inspiring garden tours, growing tips and garden projects. Visit our website at volunteergardener.org or on YouTube at the Volunteer Gardner channel. And Like us on Facebook. - [Announcer] "Volunteer Gardener" is made possible in part by Tennessee Environmental Council, helping people care for the environment and offering instructions and seed kits for pollinator gardens that bloom into year round habitats. More information at tectn.org.
April 07, 2022
Season 30 | Episode 14
Monarch butterflies have experienced a dramatic population decline of late. Marty DeHart visits with Rita Venable to showcase plants that provide nectar that supports the Monarch's fall migration. Julie Berbiglia finds there's an evolution toward more sustainable land management on a visit to the campus of Vanderbilt University. Jeff Poppen shares essential tips for a beginning vegetable grower.