Tag Archives: parsley

Pests to Pets: Swallowtail Butterfly Farm

It is a widely known (I hope) fact that Monarch Butterflies are in danger due to Milkweed annihilation. Letting Milkweed grow is a wonderful conscious step to remedy this problem. Milkweed makes pretty flowers and usually grows away from the garden in a flower bed or in a field as a weed.

Swallowtail butterfly, on the other hand, unlike the Monarch, feeds on the plants we actually cultivate in the garden: dill, parsley, carrots, rue etc. This is a significant difference, because this makes the Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar a garden pest. And even though most gardeners know that butterflies are beneficial pollinators, as well as pretty to look at, dealing with their caterpillar damage may be frustrating. The problem worsens due to the fact that gardeners often do not identify the caterpillars correctly and simply destroy them.

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Swallowtail butterflies start as little, individually laid pearl-shaped eggs, which turn into little spiky brown-black caterpillars with one white stripe, resembling bird droppings. The caterpillars shed their skin a few times and are most often seen in a green/black striped garb with yellow dots. They have little orange horns that pop out when threatened, which release a very stinky odor. In a few weeks of feeding, the caterpillars make a cocoon and in a few more weeks – butterflies emerge.

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We have been raising Swallowtail butterflies for a few years now and release dozens of them out into the wild. We would like to encourage people to think Pet, not Pest. You can have your dill and let the butterfly caterpillars eat it too!

The easiest solution is to plant some extra dill/parsley away from the garden or on the side and let the caterpillars feed on their own patch. This will protect your main crop, but won’t protect the caterpillars, which often vanish in our garden due to high population of wild birds… So to save both, your garden plants and the caterpillars, a caterpillar farm is the answer. It is so incredibly easy to make and is fun, educational and beneficial to your garden!

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In the garden: June

It’s amazing to realize its been a month since i took you on a visual tour around the garden! I personally survey it every morning and afternoon and am amazed at all the changed that happen on daily basis to all the plants. Nature is truly a marvelous thing.

Peas came in well this year, with the first batch being done and second ripening close behind. And not counting all the wonderful greens (lettuce, kale, spinach, parsley, dill, mustard greens and radishes) the next exciting big thing we are looking forward to are the potatoes, which have been now twice hilled (or in our case, “filled”) and are starting to flower.

We have also been overwhelmed by the chamomile flowers and are having an impossible time keeping up. Our house is filled with drying chamomile!
Its seeded freely from last year and in most placed i left it to grow, because its called “garden’s physician”, making all plants that grow next to it healthy 🙂 And as an added bonus, ladybugs love it – might be because aphids do to! – but ladybugs in the garden means less aphids and less potato bugs. So yes to chamomile all the way!

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Lettuce in the shade of second year carrots getting ready to flower.

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Chamomile!

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In the garden: May

Last week we have passed the date of the last frost here in Eastern PA. This means we are in Week 1 of the post-frost growing season.
Lots have happened over the last few weeks and we cant wait to share it all!
So – what is growing in the garden this week?

Peas look great so far!

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Plants: Parsley

Name: Parsley

Plant Type: Herb/Vegetable

Types: Flat Leaf (Italian), Curly Leaf, Hamburg Root Parsley

Size: 9-18″

Hardiness Zones: 3-9

Family: Apiaceae

Relatives: Angelica, Anise, Caraway, Carrot, Celery, Chevil, Coriander, Cilantro, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Queen Anne’s lace, Lovage, Parsnip, Sea Holly

Native Region: Mediterranean

Growth Cycle: Biennial in temperate climates and annual in tropical climates. Is usually grown as an annual herb.

Rich in: Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Iron, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc

Health Benefits: Parsley is rich in anti-oxidants and has anti-inflamatory, anti-bacterial, immune strengthening, properties.

When consumed as a tea, parsley helps to restore the body’s natural acid/alkaline balance and reduce inflammation.

Parsley herb is found to be diuretic in nature which promotes healthy workings of the kidneys and elimination of gall bladder and kidney stones.

In women, parsley  nourishes and restores the blood of the uterus, as well as helps restore hormonal balance by the presence of apiol which is a constituent of the female sex hormone estrogen.

Inhibits tumor formation, decreases risks of heart disease and is a great digestive tonic, helping with diarrhea, flatulence and digestive problems.

Parsley also relives pain due to joint stiffness, arthritis and rheumatism .

*Parsley can have a few side effects. Pregnant women should avoid parsley juice because it is a uterotonic, which may cause contractions.

Planting Companions: Tomatoes, corn, asparagus, roses. Great companion plant because the flowers attract predatory insects with nectar, which do not reproduce, but prey on pest insects.

Uses:  Raw on salads and sandwiches, garnish on all foods, pesto, soups, sauces, stuffing, soups base, butter and more!

Interesting facts: Parsley is one f the host plants for Swallow Tail Butterfly.  Parsley was thought to symbolize death in ancient Rome.

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Planting: Parsley

It seems strange to think about planting while the scenery outside the window is still quite prevalent with sparkling shimmers of snow, yet there is one plant that needs a very early start on things – parsley. Parsley is notoriously long germinator, even though otherwise is a very hearty plant.

I personally prefer flat leaf (italian) parsley – it is easier to handle and has a richer flavor, but the curly leaf is great for decoration. I also will experiment with root parsley, which is a rarer kind in the USA, but very popular in Easter Europe, where i have my roots.

Germination may take 3-6 weeks and many methods are out there to help speed up the process, usually including pre-soaking the seeds overnight. Personally, last year we had no problems with sprouting, even though the parsley did take a bit longer than other seeds to come up.

The soil temperature ideal for parsley is around 70 degrees and it is quite tolerant of the cold. Seeds should be started indoors 10-12 weeks before the last spring frost, which here is around April 21-30. Seeds need to be kept moist before sprouting and sufficient water after as well. Final spacing of plants: 6-8″ apart and best planted near asparagus, corn and tomatoes in the garden.

So to plant in a container, i sprinkle the seeds on top, cover gently with soil (i mix organic natural soil with peat moss and some sand) and keep moist. The seeds went in a couple of days ago, looking forward to seeing the sprouts!

The image above is from our parsley overwintering in our in-door garden under lights. The flavor of it has gotten stronger as it matures, so i am mainly keeping it to experience the blooms of the second year and try to collect some seeds, planning to plant it back outside in the spring.

Last year we had a lovely experience with our parsley and dill plants, as they are hosts and food for the Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars, many of which we have grown and saw transform into lovely butterflies last year! We still have a few cocoons overwintering in the garage. I am planning to grow extra plants to ensure a sufficient habitat for the the caterpillars and enough for us to eat and dry!

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