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Gardener successfully attracts monarchs with milkweed

West Fargo resident BeAnn Canton sent in this photo to show the success she's had in attracting monarch caterpillars after planting milkweed two years ago. Special to Forum News Service

Q: I just had to report that after planting milkweed two years ago, it has successfully attracted at least three monarch caterpillars this summer. Just doing my part to help the monarch butterfly! — BeAnn Canton, West Fargo.

A: Thanks for sending the wonderful photo, and congratulations on attracting the caterpillars. BeAnn goes on to say, "I bought the milkweed from a local garden center after looking specifically for that plant after reading about the plight of the monarch. There's a tree in our backyard that has been filled with monarchs in past years as they begin their migration. As the years have passed, the numbers have become smaller."

The sole food source of monarch butterfly caterpillars is milkweed, which is a group of plants belonging to the Asclepias genus. Many garden centers carry several types of Asclepias, which are nice additions to the perennial flower garden, and are less invasive than the common milkweed. Asclepias is sometimes sold under the name butterfly flower or butterfly weed.

Q: I have a beautiful sugar maple tree that has chlorosis. It's about 20 years old, so it's very mature. What is the best way to treat the tree? — Amy Weigel, Moorhead.

A: In iron chlorosis, the veins of the leaves remain green and the areas between veins become yellow. Eventually, the entire leaf may yellow and develop brown crisp edges and spots.

Garden centers sell "chelated" iron products that are more readily available to plants than naturally occurring soil iron. Label directions will tell if it can be applied to both foliage and soil. Foliage absorption is quicker, but not as long-lasting. Soil application is slower-acting, but longer-lasting. Applying to both is recommended. Hose-end spray attachments are sold that can spray into taller trees.

The feeder roots that best absorb the material are around the outer "drip line" of the tree's leafy canopy, so concentrate on that region, rather than close to the tree trunk. Directions usually indicate to pound or drill holes through the turf for better penetration of material.

Q: What time of year works best for grass seeding, and what grass seed should I use? — Kevin Riley, Fargo.

A: The most successful season for lawn seeding, better than spring, is Sept. 1-15. Grass seed germinates quickly in the warm soil, weeds are less competitive and it's usually easier to maintain necessary surface soil moisture. Grass will establish well before winter sets in.

Kentucky bluegrass is our region's best-adapted lawn grass. Most grass seed is sold in mixtures. Examine the ingredient label and choose a mix that has at least 30 to 40 percent Kentucky bluegrass, or its named cultivars. For lawn areas in dense shade, creeping red fescue is the most shade-tolerant grass, so select mixes that contain 30 to 40 percent fescue for those areas.

If you miss the Sept. 1-15 window, grass can be dormant-seeded just before soil freezes solid. Dormant seeding is usually done in late October or early November, and seed will be in place for early growth next spring.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.