Even with the unseasonably warm January we’ve had, the farm remains fairly bare; though spring is right around the corner, the perennial plants and trees, thankfully, are still waiting patiently to emerge. This does not, however, mean that there is no work to be done! In fact, over the last few weeks the fifth grade class 5A has already begun preparing the newest addition to the farm- a butterfly walkway!
It is no secret that green spaces are enlivened and beautified by the presence of the butterfly. Each summer, adults and children alike gaze in awe at the incredible beauty and grace of the many different butterflies that make Memphis their home. While the emergence
of the butterflies in the summer may appear quite magical, their presence in a given place is actually quite methodical. Butterflies, like any given insect, need certain plants- or ‘host plants’- to feed on as they grow from caterpillars into their adult form. These host plants vary depending on each specific butterfly, and the presence of these plants can actually draw them to a space. In addition to these ‘hos
t plants’, butterflies are also attracted, as adults, to other flowering plants, on whose nectar they feed. The right combination of the two types of plants- the ‘host plant’ for the caterpillar paired with the nectar plant for the adult butterfly- can create quite a spectacle come summer!
For this reason, the fifth grade classes have taken on the task this winter of creating three distinct butterfly areas in order to make New Hope one of the most attractive places for butterflies to venture. With Mrs. Ramsey’s guidance in the classroom lessons, these students have already begun researching the ideal plants for these areas. The first planting will occur in th
e farm alley, the area that connects the farm to the forest. In previous years, watermelons were planted in mini-raised beds and allowed to ‘run’ over a large area of heavy woodchip mulch. Though the watermelons did produce over the years, the production from these beds was never as plentiful as in other areas of the farm. With five ‘Butterfly Bushes’ already planted alongside these beds for beautification, the idea of a butterfly walk that
would weave around the bushes and be lined with other butterfly host plants developed.
The ‘butterfly walkway’ formation has already begun, thanks to the hard work of 5A. From the removal of the many layers of woodchip
mulch (not to mention the many roots of the dreaded bermuda grass!) and the layering of fresh cardboard to keep the weeds out, to the incorporation of fresh compost into the new planting areas, the 5A team has put in hours of work to prepare this area for the summer. Starting next week, the students- who have all researched certain plants to go in these beds- will get to begin planting some of the perennials that can be planted this early in the season. Additional annual flowers will be added as the winter cold subsides, and when summer comes the walk should be teeming with all kinds of butterflies!