I have loved being out in the garden since I was a little girl. It is something that both sets of grandparents, my own parents, and now my children were/ and are passionate about. The purpose, to be as self sufficient as possible; for aesthetic reasons, for the environment and everything that goes with it, and of course the joy of being outdoors. There aren't too many downsides to gardening; depending on your approach I guess.
There is something very satisfying from being able to go through the whole, or even part of the process of growing your own. From collecting the seed, to sprouting, taking it through the seedling phase, and then to the planting out stages and beyond.
It is even more satisfying to be able to share- knowledge, plants, produce etc. With the release of the children's book Blaze - Guardian of the Monarchs, I saw a number of opportunities. In the book itself I had already shared a lot of my knowledge about the Monarch, and then to the New Zealand audience I was able to share Swan Plant (milkweed) seeds from my own garden as a bonus free gift (still available with online purchases). Over the last two months these seeds have been distributed from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island.
The feedback has been amazing, and people that have never before planted seeds are excited to do so! I included information on the ideal location on the seed packet, but for those that want to know how to get it to this stage, please continue reading!
To plant your swan plant seeds
1. When planting seeds, the depth you generally aim for is twice the seeds length, so about 3-4mm for swan plant seeds.
2. Swan plants don't seem to be super fussy but a seed raising mix will increase your chances of a good strike rate. Your seed tray needs to be warm and kept damp (a spray mist bottle works well for this!) For warmth: a sunny window, a greenhouse big, or small (like one of those clear plastic containers that you might get strawberries and the like in) all work well. This year I am going to try a heat mat that we bought for home brew purposes. See how I get on with it - Ngahinapouri Swan Plants.
3. Be patient, but don't forget to keep watering! Swan plant seeds can take 14 - 21 days to germinate. As soon as the seeds have sprouted and they are visible they will need sunlight and then a slight breeze so they do not become leggy. Be aware slugs and snails love seedlings, and swan plant seedlings are no exception!
4. Keep the seedlings covered until they are about 30cm high and able to withstand the onslaught from the seemingly insatiable caterpillars. Be aware, even though they are covered the Monarch will still try and lay eggs on them!
5. If you are going to transplant (best about 10cm high) you need to be aware the plants have a tap root system. This means that it has a primary root that grows vertically downward and gives off small lateral roots. Any damage to the root system will conclude the life of the plant.
6. The Monarch needs the swan plant to lay their eggs on but they also need nectar flowers to feed on, and a water source that they can 'puddle' in. Why not consider planting some other seeds at the same time!!
Note: If you want to wait a little longer (until any chance of frost has past) you can sow the seed directly into the garden.
Have fun and share your success! Email through photos and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Swan plants are toxic if ingested, and the milky sap can also cause harm.
2. Take care to handle your seed / potting mix in open air, and follow instructions on the bag.
What we know in New Zealand as a swan plant, is also known around the world as 'milkweed', 'balloon plant' and even 'hairy balls'. (Check out the image on the Jun 16 blog: Add detail for the reason why).
Please visit my website here to find out more, and also please sign up to the newsletter below, to follow the journey and keep up to date with latest news.
Comment below and let me know what you have grown from seed recently. Will you be growing swan plants this year?