A Budget-Friendly Butterfly Garden

We have a garden area on the south side of our house that was in need of a major overhaul. After losing a small tree on one end, and cutting down a cedar shrub (to allow for better airflow under our deck) on the other end, things went from bad to worse. Weeds completely took over and the two lonely Hostas we had left were stressed and straggly-looking.

I should say up front that this won’t be a blow-your-socks-off kind of before and after. I’m done planting (for this year) but, as with all newly-planted gardens, this space won’t really look great for a year, or even two. But during this process I have picked up a few tips and tricks that I think are worth sharing.

Starting from Scratch

Let’s just breeze past the really dirty, sweaty work, shall we? Here’s what I did to de-weed and create our blank slate.

Starting a garden from scratch.

  • Divide and dig up Hostas
  • Cut down and remove as many weeds as possible
  • Rototill soil
  • At this point I should have added some compost … but I didn’t. :/
  • Remove scalloped cement edging and replace with rock pavers (a gift from my parents’ stash)
  • Lay down landscape fabric and mulch

This railroad-tie edging has seen better days and will be removed and/or replaced at some point.

Starting a garden from scratch.

Plants for a Butterfly Garden

Disclaimer: Different plants attract and host different butterflies, and not all plants will thrive in every climate. You’ll want to research what’s best for your hardiness zone. Also keep in mind the sun and soil conditions in your garden space.

My main goal was to use mostly native plants while also keeping the budget in check. Specifically, I wanted sun-loving, medium to tall prairie plants. Here’s my planting list:

Plants for a Midwest butterfly garden.Plant list 2

1.) New England Aster, 2.) Feather Reed Grass, 3.) Butterfly Weed, 4.) Swamp Milkweed, 5.) Annuals (for instant color), 6.) Black-eyed Susan, 7.) Purple Coneflower.

How to Save Money

1. Plan Ahead

Do some research, measure your space and make a plan before heading to the garden center to buy your plants. All those beautiful greenhouse plants can be very distracting and the choices overwhelming. I highly recommend knowing what you want before you get there so you don’t end up buying the wrong plants, or more than you need.

2. Plant in Phases

Perennials (plants that come back year after year) are more expensive, so I planned to install this garden in phases. Here’s a garden “mood board” of what I planted this spring:

Budget-friendly butterfly garden with native plants

Next year I plan to fill in the front with more perennials.

Budget-friendly butterfly garden with Midwest native plants

3. Fill the Gaps with Less Expensive Plants

Butterfly Garden Phase 1

Because I basically left a row of space open across the front of this garden, I wanted to fill it with annuals. Why annuals? Because they are cheaper, of course. Also, they bloom all summer, while perennials such as the butterfly weed (shown below) don’t.

Butterfly Weed in late May

I wanted to limit the number of holes in my newly purchased landscape fabric, so I decided to keep my annuals in containers. It may look a tad weird at this point, but I’m trying to keep my weeding time down and every cut in that landscape fabric is an invitation for weeds.

2016-05-29 17.29.06

To get Jacob involved, we added his own DIY bird and butterfly houses. He was very happy to help put them out in the garden.

4. Start Some Seeds

For the Asters that will be the backdrop of this space, I planted seeds that a co-worker harvested from her garden and gave to me. Hopefully they will grow and we’ll enjoy some beautiful purple flowers in the fall. But, if they don’t, at least there was no money lost. Even if they weren’t free, seeds are cheap, so it’s a low-risk investment.

So now we wait (water) and watch. Hopefully I’ll have a pretty prairie garden to share with you at some point down the road. Cross your fingers that we attract some butterflies. 🙂

Container of annuals.
Plant list and mood board photo credits: 1.) New England Aster, 2.) Feather Reed Grass, 3.) Butterfly Weed, 4.) Swamp Milkweed, 5.) Annuals, 6.) Black-eyed Susan, 7.) Purple coneflower. Photo credit for Monarch on Milkweed.

Linking up to: The Creative Corner, The Creative Gallery, DIY Sunday Showcase, Home Stories A to Z

2 comments on “A Budget-Friendly Butterfly Garden

  1. I think you did a great job and once every thing grows they will look amazing.
    I note down the phases you planted but I want to point out what caught my eye the most: how you kept everything away from the house walls.

    Sincere applaud! I put a barrier too in the bed I did last year but yours is awesome. I see only problems and nothing pretty when people go and plant too near their foundations and their walls.

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