Last standing Amaranth in the Garland Community Garden Medicine Wheel (October 26, 2015)

If you like the taste of radicchio (a bitter and spicy taste) then you’ll love the young tender leaves of the amaranth.  It has lots of protein, vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.  Amaranth also produces a grain that is similar to quinoa or couscous.  Amaranth seed grains contain approximately 12 to 16% protein.

The Aztecs believed that Amaranth gave them supernatural powers.  Aztec farmers in annual tribute to Montezuma delivered tons of seed to him.   Amaranth was mixed with human blood and then made into cakes shaped like replicas of Aztec gods.  These cakes were fed to the faithful.  Hernan Cortes ended this practice by condemning to death anyone found growing or possessing amaranth.  [Source; accessed October 26, 2015]

Amaranths provide many benefits.

  • They are beautiful in your garden.  Two of the Amaranths in my garden grew to be ten feet tall.  With their beautiful magenta tassels and lovely leaves, they are definitely a showstopper and conversation piece in any garden.

  • They provide fresh greens from June up to the first killing frost.

  • In the fall you can harvest the seeds (grain) from their tassels and heap a tablespoon of it into your morning cereal for extra nutrition.

All three of the tallest Amaranths in my yard have toppled with the recent rains - October 26, 2015 

Planting and Caring for the Amaranth is easy.

Once the soil temperature has reached around 70 degrees F, it’s time to direct sow amaranth seeds.  One gram of seed will sow a 50-foot row.  An acre requires one pound of seed.  Amaranth seeds are tiny round seeds—similar to black poppy seeds if the plant is from a wild variety.

Seeds from wild varieties are black, and seeds from the cultivated varieties are lighter in color.  The plants growing in my yard and down at the Garland Community Garden are from a wild variety and thus these seeds are black.  The tiny Amaranth seed are 16 percent protein as compared to 12 to 14 percent for wheat.

Once established, amaranth is drought tolerant and does well in the full sun.  The seeds are usually ready to harvest in mid to late September.  To harvest the seeds, cut the tassel and place in in pillowcase.  Shake the bag to free the seeds.  You will also need to use a sieve to separate the little bits of the dry flower from the seeds.


One of the several fallen Amaranths at the Garland Community Garden October 26, 2015

How do you cook the seeds?


Toss a tablespoon of amaranth seeds at a time into a hot, dry skillet. Continually shake or stir until the seeds pop. Put them as a finishing touch and added nutrition for soup, or salad.  Make sure the skillet is scorching hot before you toss the seed in.  The seeds remind me of celery seeds, round and tiny.  Even when popped they are still tiny.  Processing the grain from the Amaranth requires more time and patience than I have, but it may be just the thing for some folks.  For me, I like the beauty this plant provides the garden.  Its history is also interesting to consider.

Use one and a half cups liquid (water or apple juice) to ½ cup of Amaranth seeds.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer uncovered until all the liquid is absorbed.  Serve immediately as it will become gummy if you allow it to sit.


A tablespoon of seeds is all you will need.


These past seven seasons of stewarding the Garland Community Garden have been a learning period for me.  Based on this experience I can make a few plant recommendations for residents of Garland that I will stand by.  I don’t like to fuss over plants too much.  Thus to make my list, the plants need to be low maintenance and high yield.  At the top of my list are greens, blackberries, loofah, and sweet potatoes.


Kale and Swiss chard growing in one of my garden beds - Oct 24, 2015 [Swiss chard does need to be covered if there is to be a heavy freeze with icy rain.]

You can have greens from your garden year-round in the DFW area.

Greens such as Swiss chard, Kale, Mustard greens, and Malabar spinach grow well in our area.  In fact, it is possible to have kale from your yard year round. 

Most greens, kale being an exception, will grow only in our cooler seasons of late fall through early spring.  However, Malabar spinach is one green that loves the heat and shrinks away when temperatures go below 50 degrees F.  Its leaves, although smaller than common spinach, are tastier.


Keyhole Garden Container at Garland Community Garden.  On the left we have broccoli and Indian Mustard.  The right half of this container contains Malabar Spinach. October 24, 2015


Malabar Spinach--Garland Community Garden October 24, 2015.

MALABAR SPINACH Basella alba –also known as Ceylon spinach and Indian spinach

If you hurry, you can see it growing in the green keyhole garden down at the Garland Community Garden.  Many people in our area are not familiar with tasty Malabar spinach.  Unlike Spinacia oleracea  (the type of spinach that most of us know which is cold-hardy) Malabar Spinach loves the heat.  

Plant Malabar spinach in the full sun. Part shade will increase the leaf size, but the plant prefers sun.

In our area, direct seed Malabar spinach two to three weeks after last frost date. You can also propagate with cuttings.  Germination time is 14 to 21 days.  If you scarify the seeds (scrape with sandpaper) you can speed up the germination time.  Flowering is said to increase bitterness in the leaves but I have not noticed that.

Since Malabar spinach is a vine, it will do better and be easier to harvest if you support it with a trellis.

I just recently learned the berries of the Malabar spinach are also edible, but of course, save some of them back for seeds next spring.  There are several you-tube recipes for Malabar spinach berry jam and jelly on the Internet.  There is even one video that shows how to make pasta out of Malabar spinach berries.  Later this morning when/if the rain subsides, I plan to go down to the Garland Community Garden and harvest the Malabar spinach berries.  They will become the seeds for plants next year.



The leaves on the blackberry bushes in my yard have begun to turn.  Since ancient times the leaves of the blackberry have been used for medicinal purposes.  Native Americans chewed on the leaves to heal canker sores and inflamed gums.  Other uses of the leaves include applications to relieve rashes and inflamations of the skin.

BLACKBERRIES--Don't get me started!

I am a champion for planting blackberries here in Garland.   You stick them in the ground, provide them a trellis, water now and then and you will have blackberries.  

At the Garland Community Garden we have sixteen blackberry bushes planted.  Next spring as most of them come into their third year of maturity, I anticipate that we will have well over 100 pounds of blackberries from these plants.  In my own yard I have four bushes that have consistently produced over 50 pounds a year for the past two years.  A hundred pounds of blackberries at an average price of $5 per 12 ounces will yield $665.  Blackberries freeze well and are extremely nutritious—packed with antioxidants.  An easy plant to grow, take care of and harvest.



The loofah is a great vine plant to grow for many reasons:  It loves the heat.  Plant transplants in mid-May when the soil is warm (from seeds you started indoors in April).  If you don’t have a fence for them make a trellis for them to climb on.  They can create an ideal shade spot for backyards with no trees.  Put four posts in the ground and cover with a wire roof.  Put wire trellis on one side.  Plant the loofah seeds and by the first week of July (when it really starts to getting hot) the roof will be covered in vines.  Your kiddos will have a shady place to play.  Furthermore, when the loofahs are small, you can eat them.  They are very tasty, crunchy, when eaten raw in salads.  Then you can save a few of the mature ones to make loofah sponges from to give to your friends on special occasions.



Charlie's Sweet Potato bed at his home - October 24, 2015

SWEET POTATOES – --Another green that thrives in the summer!

Sweet potatoes are tough!   And organic sweet potatoes are expensive.  Even if you only have a patio, I recommend growing some in a pretty pot.  They will make a beautiful vine with large deep green leaves.  Unlike white potatoes, sweet potatoes are not a member of the nightshade family.   You can eat the leaves of the sweet potatoes and they taste good!  Better than spinach.

The leaves can be stir fried with garlic and soy sauce and served over rice, or mixed into soups.  Sweet potato leaves may also be eaten fresh in salads.  Cook them quickly by stir frying or steaming, so to not lose essential nutrients.   Boiling the greens loses extra vitamins in the water.   Better yet, eat them fresh in a salad.  One or two slips of sweet potatoes planted in a large pot on your patio will supply a family of four with greens all summer long.  Then in late October or early November you can turn the pot upside down and harvest a few potatoes—perhaps enough for two meals. 

I never tried to grow a sweet potato until this year.  I am very pleased with my successes thus far.  I grew about 7 in an eight gallon pot and 15 more in the amended clay soil down at the Garland Community Garden.  I dug down about 10 inches and amended the soil with hydroton (kiln heated expanded clay balls a little smaller than marbles).  If you don't add some inert substances to the heavy clay soil to aerate it by creating air spaces, I doubt the potatoes will have much of a chance to grow.  I grew several large sweet potatoes and more small ones.  But as you can see from the larger potatoes, they are all bumpy--no doubt from their adaptation around the little balls of expanded clay.  The potato in the foreground weighs two pounds.

Sweet potatoes from the Garland Community Garden - October 2015



Next spring invest in two 10-gallon pots.  Put trellises in each pot.  Plant two sweet potato slips in one pot and plant Malabar spinach seed in the other pot.  You will have edible leaves for a salad for a family of four every day from June through mid-November.  You will save at least $120 on salad greens, and you will have two lovely plants for your patio or deck that require little care.  What fun to walk out onto your patio and pick some fresh greens for your salad!

If you want to give a great holiday present:  Find containers that are about 10 gallons, build a wire trellis for each of them, get instructions for growing from the Internet and VOILA! There is one holiday gift.  



Members from the North Garland High School Key Club receive a Special Recognition award from the Office of the Mayor - October 20, 2015

Last night (October 20, 2015) Garland Mayor Doug Athas issued two Special Recognition certificates from the Office of the Mayor.  One award went to the North Garland High School Key Club for their joint effort with Loving Garland Green in the successful installation of a butterfly garden at North Garland High School.  The other award was made to Loving Garland Green, a local 401 (c) 3 nonprofit organization for their work as stewards of the Garland Community Garden at 4022 Naaman School Road as well as for our other community work--particularly with the youth of our community.  Members of Loving Garland Green in attendance included Chris Savage, Vice President of the Board; Anita Opel Treasurer and Officer of the Board; Charles Bevilacqua, Member of the Board; Elizabeth Berry, President; and members Kevin Keeling and Nancy Seaberg.

Moving Garland Deeper into the Green Zone

 Elizabeth Berry, president of Loving Garland Green, presented each of the City Council members and the Mayor with a basket of products made from plant-based materials along with a document containing preliminary thoughts for creating a Green Makerspace right here in Garland.  The Garland Green Makerspace is envisioned as a cooperative focused on creating products that will support the growth of urban agriculture in our local community.  Makerspaces are vortexes of energy--places for people to come together and brainstorm ideas for new commercial innovations, while sharing resources and tools to improve their own economic status and that of their local community.  A recent USDA report stated that plant-based manufacturing contributed $369 billion to the nation's economy in 2013 and created four million jobs.  As a result of these findings, in June of 2015, the USDA said it is expanding a program to develop use of plant-based materials.

Contents of the natural product package given to members of the Garland City Council, Mayor and City Manager:  a pinecone bird feeder; loofah sponges made from loofahs grown at the Garland Community Garden; Two Seed Packets from plants grown at the Garland Community Garden (loofah and milkweed).


Mayor Athas also issued a formal proclamation of October as Monarch Month.  Indeed it is!  We have many residents all over Garland who are rescuing and then releasing Monarchs.  Members of Loving Garland Green have rescued and released two Monarchs and two Mexican Fritillaries thus far this fall.  In addition, Jane Stroud has rescued 9 Monarch caterpillars and one egg over the past week.  This morning Charlie and I delivered three Monarch condos destined for the three kindergarten class rooms at Walnut Glen Academy here in Garland.  As evidence of the growing interest in urban agriculture here in Garland, Ms. Dickinson said there school would like to install a vegetable garden in the spring.  Of course, Loving Garland Green will be happy to assist them.



Charlie Bevilacqua (Loving Garland Green Board member) and Shyla Dickinson (kindergarten teacher at Walnut Glen Academy for Excellence here in Garland) pose with the three Monarch condos that Loving Garland Green delivered to the classrooms this morning (October 21, 2015).


Four Monarch Caterpillar Condos await relocation in a Garland ISD classroom- October 19, 2015

Each of these baskets holds a future fourth generation Monarch--the ones that migrate to the Mexican highlands and live for several months instead of only several weeks.  Jane Stroud, officer of the board of directors for Loving Garland Green brought them to our meeting tonight.  Charlie and I already had the four "condos" waiting for them.  The cloths on the top are there to prevent the caterpillars from crawling out.  Each mesh laundry basket has one large Monarch caterpillar and one milkweed.  These caterpillars are ultimately destined for four different groups of school children here in the Garland ISD tomorrow.

Jane also mentioned that she has nine more Monarch caterpillars.  We may also obtain a few of those and distribute to a local school as well.

Why rescue Monarchs?  Why not leave them in the wild?

It is estimated that less than 5% of Monarchs complete their life cycle.  Usually they fall prey to one of their many predators.  In some cases, the eggs are never deposited because the female Monarch is not able to find a milkweed host plant--an essential requirement as the Monarch will not deposit eggs on any plant other than a milkweed.  

Twenty years ago more than one billion Eastern monarch butterflies migrated to Mexico.  In the winter of 2014, only 60 million made the trip.  Someone drew an interesting parallel to that loss saying that it is comparable to losing all the population of the USA except for Ohio and Florida.

The good news is that when monarch eggs and caterpillars are placed in a protected environment, 95% of them become adult butterflies.  

Help Texas save the Monarchs.  Plant some milkweed in your garden!




Yes, we still have Monarchs in our area.  I took the photo above on Sunday when I saw five Monarchs down at the Garland Community Garden, along with numerous other types of butterflies and bees, our most important pollinator of all.  Plant-based local economies offer many benefits for us all.

Plant-Based Local Economies Offer Residents Many Opportunities for Health, Wealth and Security

The mission of Loving Garland Green is to increase the number of people in our community who grow at least some of the food they eat. When people grow some of the food they eat, the entire community and its local economy are lifted up—in health and wealth, and perhaps even more important— they have a firmer truer grasp on the unlimited potential of their own human achievement.

This weekend (October 17, 2015) members of Loving Garland Green did our part to exemplify the expanded profitability offered by a plant-based economy.  We held a seed and plant sale that also included bird feeders we made from pinecones.  The seeds we sold were saved from plants that we had grown ourselves, and of course the plants were those that we had grown ourselves from seeds that we had previously saved.  Like Nature, plant-based economies follow the natural cycle of life itself.

Our sale netted $100 profit.  We were at the Garland Community Garden for five hours.  On an hourly basis, we reaped $20 an hour for the products we created from plants that we grew.  The pinecones for the bird feeders came from a member’s yard.  Yes, one could argue there was the time spent creating the bird feeders, but really that was a party—not work.  There were no bosses.  There was no time clock, no dress code.  Instead of an eight-hour day, it was a two hour and thirty minute evening of laughter and fun.  One family could have done what we did this weekend and with the same results or better.


Many people don’t realize that until World War II, plants provided the primary raw materials used to produce chemicals, paints, construction materials, clothing and other household materials.  The first plastic produced was a cotton-derived product designed to replace ivory.  Unfortunately the chemical industry hijacked the plastics market with its low-cost toxic plastics made from oil.

Today, however, the market has changed due to the rising price of oil and the growing concern regarding health and environmental impacts of plastic.  Today, plant-based plastics (also called bio-plastics) are being developed from renewable, plant-based materials. 

To move toward a local plant-based economy is to move with the wave of economic change for the future that has already begun.  A USDA report written by professors at Duke University and North Carolina State University stated that plant-based manufacturing contributed $369 billion to the nation’s economy in 2013 and created four million jobs.  As a result of these finding, in June of 2015 the USDA said it’s expanding a program to develop the use of plant-based plastic, rubber and fiber used in manufacturing. Europe is already far ahead of us in these areas.


So, what is the basic formula for an individual to follow for helping to create a local plant-based economy?

1. Find out what plant(s) grow well in your area.

2.  If you think of yourself as a non-gardener, choose plants that require little attention and will yield food that you like to eat.  Most often these plants will be native to your area and will also be perennial.

3.  Start small and build out from there each year.  A little success goes a long way to fuel future endeavors.

4.  Join a group such as Loving Garland Green who are devoted to increasing the number of locally grown edibles in your community.

5.  Inspire your local community leaders and elected officials to get involved in promoting urban agriculture for your community.



If you want to think more about how you and your community might further urban agriculture, read this report from Richmond, California.

You can also join Loving Garland Green as we have several community initiatives in the works that could be just waiting for you to lead:

  • Fallen Fruit Cooperative –a group of citizens identify all the areas in our city where fruit is falling to the ground and rotting.  The next step in this program would be to contact owners of these trees and contract to either gather on the halves, or to gather all for free in some cases.  This fruit would then be taken to a central location where it would be sorted and then distributed to food banks and sold to local restaurants and residents.

  • Uncooked Veggie Harvesters – a group of citizens coordinate pick up of spoiled uncooked vegetables from grocery stores and deposit them in the compost area at the Garland Community Garden.  This program could grow into a moneymaking enterprise as tons of such recyclable waste currently go to landfills.  If the group obtained space for storing and turning the organic waste, they could make compost for the community and also sell commercially to nonresidents.

  • Blackberry Madness --The only edible that grows better than okra in the Garland area are blackberries.  Loving Garland Green encourages residents to plant the thornless varieties in their yards.  My own four blackberry bushes, which are only two and a half years old, have consistently produced over 50 pounds of berries each year for the past two years.  Blackberries freeze easily and unlike some berries, are not mushy when thawed.   I looked at the price of 12 ounces of blackberries last night and saw they are at $4.94.  My freezer is stocked with bags of the ones that I grew myself.  If we could find several unused lots in our community we could start a blackberry farm—right here in Garland.  Merchants could also grow them in pots in front of their stores down on the square.  Currently we have about 20 blackberry bushes growing at the Garland Community Garden.  Blackberries are not only used for food, they are also the basic material for several kinds of cosmetic products such as body lotion.  Apparently the antioxidant qualities of blackberries make them excellent skin conditioning material.


Speaking of Green, just this morning I released the second Monarch I rescued.  The first one was a male and this one a female.  I took her out into the sunshine in my garden so she could finish drying her wings before taking off. (Her former homes--the laundry basket and pupa are nearby.  Now she is ready for a vacation in the Mexican Highlands.)   Many folks in Garland rescue Monarchs and have butterfly gardens.  We understand the importance of pollinators because many of us have never strayed too far from our agrarian origins.  In fact, some of our schools such as Beaver Technology Center were built on farm land donated by the farmer owners.  Education, Agriculture and Nature all go hand-in-hand.  Although today in Garland, it's urban agriculture that we practice and teach our children.


Just look at this schedule for tomorrow, October 17, 2015!  And this is just an example from one day in our community.


Visit the Garland Community Garden on Saturday October 17 from 10 to 3 PM.  The garden is located at 4022 Naaman School Road. Even though our garden, like all gardens in our area is in the throes of shutting down, there are are still many interesting plants and things to see.

  • Seeds for sale—from tropical milkweed to Okra.  All seeds packets are 2 for $1.00
  • A few plants (about 50) while they last.  Kale and Blackberry plants.
  • Lovely bird feeders for $2.00 each.    These bird feeders are handmade by members of Loving Garland Green from pinecones.  Buy several and hang them from the trees in your yard.  The birds will love you.
  • An opportunity to explore the garden with a member of Loving Garland Green

Find out if it’s possible to grow sweet potatoes from a pot at the Sweet Potato Demonstration at 11 AM
We will harvest a pot of sweet potatoes.  No one knows what we will find.  Since this is the first pot I have ever tried to grow sweet potatoes from, you can see first hand how well they have or have not done.  One of our board members, Jane Stroud, has been very successful at growing sweet potatoes from plastic storage bins.
You'll also learn a few of the important steps to harvesting sweet potatoes.

Walk barefoot on buffalo grass.
This year members of Loving Garland Green have  successfully grown a patch of Buffalo Grass—the only turf grass native to North America.  We invite visitors to take off their shoes and walk across our tiny lawn.  The grass is soft and feels great to the bottom of even a tender foot.

Visit two hugelkulturs and look at a giant one in the process of becoming. 

Taste some Malabar Spinach for free.  If you’ve never eaten Malabar Spinach, you don’t know what you are missing.  A member of Loving Garland Green will take you to a patch of it that is located in our Keyhole Garden. 

Purchase a giant leaf of Indian mustard for 50 cents.  If you are really feeling adventurous, while you are at the keyhole Garden you can purchase a giant leaf of Indian mustard—that’s all you will need to spice up your favorite casserole.

More to see:  Hops, our version of a Native American Medicine Wheel, the Loofah Tunnel, a pawpaw tree, grasses in our Blackland Prairie, and a puddling pool for male Monarch butterflies in our children’s garden.  You may also see a stray Monarch or two.




Mark your calendar for the annual Fall Trash Bash, scheduled from 8:30 to 11 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 17. Keep Garland Beautiful invites residents and groups to help pick up litter from Garland’s streets, waterways, parks, schools and vacant lots. After the cleanup, a Volunteer Appreciation Picnic will be held from 11 a.m. to noon at Granger Recreation Center Annex, 1310 W. Avenue F.

The Fall Trash Bash is sponsored by Keep Garland Beautiful, the Citizens Environmental and Neighborhood Advisory Committee, and the City of Garland’s Environmental Waste Services and Stormwater Management departments. Registration is required to participate, and trash bags and gloves will be provided. Register and find more information by emailing

Loving Garland Green will participate in the event.  Prior to beginning our event, several members will pick up trash in the riparian area between the Spa and the  City property where the Garland Community Garden is located.




Garland’s Gone Camping

Grab your tent and sleeping bag and head to Audubon Park for a night under the stars with family and friends.  Enjoy a night hike, games, s'mores, a campfire, and an outdoor movie.  Dinner and breakfast provided.


Oct 17, 2015 Starts Saturday at 3 p.m.


Audubon Recreation Center Audubon Park 342 W. Oates Rd., Garland, Tx 75040

Main Phone:







Autumn Fest 2015 in Historic Downtown Square Garland Texas, Saturday Oct. 17th, 2015 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  This event will have fun for the whole family with vendors, games, activities for the kids, entertainment and a whole lot more.  For more vendor information please or visit


Monarch Butterfly – Garland Community Garden – Garland Texas – photo by Robert Opel September 26, 2015


Statewide Our Texas Communities Are Ramping Up to Save the Monarch!

And I’m happy to report that my own particular community of Garland Texas is part of this movement in the DFW area.  This morning at a joint press announcement held at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, Collin O’Mara, President and CEO National Wildlife Federation mentioned that Garland is among the cities whose mayors have signed the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayor’s Monarch Pledge to take action and who, in fact, already are taking action to move this worthy initiative forward.

This morning’s joint press announcement of the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan for Texas included moving presentations made by Mrs. Laura Bush, Founder of Texan by Nature; Dan Ashe, Director US Fish and Wildlife Service; Carter Smith, Executive Director Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; and Collin O’Mara, President and CEO National Wildlife Federation.

Four organizations have joined together launch a heroic effort to bring the Monarchs back from the brink of extinction. 

This morning Carter Smith of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department threw down the challenging gauntlet:  225 million Monarchs by 2020. 

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department


U.S. Fish & Wildlife Federation


National Wildlife Federation


Texan by Nature



As I listened to these four great speakers this morning, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between what they were saying what I’ve already observed happening in the City of Garland.   

Garland has much in common with Mrs. Laura Bush’s aspirations for habitat conservation.

For example, Mrs. Laura Bush spoke of landscaping at the Bush library, which she and President George Bush decided should include the plants found in the Blackland Prairie—a great and wonderful tribute to this region.  For those who may not know, the Blackland Prairie is an eco-region that includes the DFW area.  This area begins on the north from the Red River and extends southwesterly down to San Antonio. The Texas Blackland Prairie is the most endangered ecosystem in the USA. Agriculture and urbanization have left less than 1 percent of this once vast prairie that covered almost 20,000 square miles.

 Former First Lady Laura Bush also mentioned that she and the president have talked about turning their ranch into a Monarch conservatory.

The City of Garland feels the same way in regard to preserving the memory of our Blackland Prairie as we have numerous patches where we grow the native grasses that were once found in the Blackland Prairie.  Our two largest areas are Rosehill Park and Springcreek Forest Preserve.

1)Rosehill Park is a 75-acre prairie located north of Country Club Road across from Lyle Middle School in Garland. There is a good diversity of native grasses and forbs, including Indian Grass, Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Eastern Gama, Side-oats Grama, and Threeawn (Aristida purpurea).   

2) Springcreek Forest Preserve – perhaps the greatest natural treasure of Garland.  John White of The Nature Conservatory believes that it is very unlikely that any other forest like the one along Spring Creek exists in the nation. Over 650 species of plants & animals have been observed. This does not include dragonflies, spiders, mites, beetles, ants and a host of other organisms. Scientists, conservationists, and nature buffs alike agree this place must be preserved as a biological museum to be used for study and enjoyment.  In a cooperative effort, The City of Garland and The Preservation Society for Spring Creek Forest has been established to ensure that it is.

The Garland Community Garden, stewarded by Loving Garland Green, also has two small plots to honor our once great ecosystem:  a patch of various grasses and wildflowers that once populated the Blackland Prairie and also a patch of Buffalo Grass lawn.  Buffalo Grass is the only native turf grass in North America.  Many of our citizens have butterfly gardens with habitats to support our pollinators.  For example, Kala King has thus far this year released nine monarchs and will soon release three more.  Several members of Loving Garland Green have butterfly gardens.  The entire Garland Community Garden can be considered as on giant pollinator habitat--just as the bees in our hive.



Texas Monarch and Native Pollinator Conservation Plan – Executive Summary

A key element regarding this plan is that it also addresses the needs and critical concern for other pollinators designated as “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” (SGCN).  The SGCN and the Monarch are dependent upon similar habitat features.  Thus much of the actions we take to save the glamorous Monarch will also benefit our other pollinators.

Texas will play a critical role in conservation efforts aimed at the monarch conservation because of its strategic position along the Monarch’s migratory pathway.  Monarchs pass through Texas in the spring as they migrate north from the Mexican highlands, and they pass through Texas again in the fall (late September and October) as they migrate back to their winter habitat in the Mexican highlands.

This plan outlines actions in Texas that will contribute to Monarch and overall native pollinator conservation in Texas by highlighting four broad categories of monarch and native pollinator conservation:  habitat conservation, education and outreach, research and monitoring, and partnerships.

The conservation plan details specific actions associated with each of these categories by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and other stakeholders.  TPWD will continue to develop this plan as new stakeholders are identified and become engaged in this collaboration.

Read the entire plan here: 



What can you do as an individual to save the monarchs?

  • Convince your mayor to sign the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge from the National Wildlife Federation.  (Mayor Athas has signed it for Garland.)   Once the leadership of your community is behind such an effort, things begin to happen. The pledge is located at
  • Join an organization such as Loving Garland Green and work with them to assist schools in planting butterfly gardens in their schoolyards.
  • If you are a parent, get members of the PTA involved in creating a butterfly habitat at your child’s school.  A garden is a great backdrop for engaging students in learning many things—from math to art.
  • Plant some milkweed in your yard.
  • Be sure to visit the websites of all four agencies who are participating in launching this great plan.   Many of them offer grants and special support to make it even easier for individuals to save the Monarchs.
  • Create a certified wildlife garden in your own backyard.  More at:



Garland Mayor Doug Athas, Jo Garcia and Colleen Biggerstaff from the Kiwanis, and Kevin Keeling from Loving Garland Green pose with a few members of the North Garland High School Key Club Monday morning at the schoolyard butterfly garden—October 12, 2015.

This morning several visitors--all pollinators of the human variety--converged on the recently installed North Garland High School Butterfly Garden.  It was indeed a lovely event and members from two local nonprofits who work with our youth were present—the Kiwanis and Loving Garland Green.  In addition to them we had interested citizens of Garland, our mayor, members of the North Garland High School Key Club and a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department representative from Austin.

The purpose of this convergence was to show the garden to Grace Barnett, an outreach specialist from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department who is in town for a special press release on the 13th at the Bush Center.  Loving Garland Green members wanted to introduce her to our mayor and to some of the members from the North Garland High School Key Club.  This Key Club, with a little support and assistance from members of Loving Garland Green, has installed a butterfly garden that we hope will grow into a great habitat for pollinators and a great natural learning environment for students.




Kala King brought a special book to share with those at the event.  Sophia Tran (President of North Garland High School Key Club) and two North Garland High School Key Club Members look at a book with drawings of butterflies and expressions of appreciation for Kala King who shared her knowledge, experience and photography with a class of Garland second graders.


Mayor Douglas Athas Takes the Mayors' Monarch Pledge

Mayor Athas - Spring of 2014 - Building a trellis to assist Loving Garland Green in installing an Urban Garden in the backyard of a Garland Family.  Our mayor does a lot more than merely pose for photos--although he can do that too.

As I’ve mentioned more than once previously, Garland is very fortunate to have Mayor Douglas Athas as one of the leaders of our community.  He is extremely supportive of activities undertaken by our youth—from Scouts to Key Club members.  You’ll often see him at their events and this morning was no exception.  Another great thing about the Mayor is that when I invite him to an event, I usually need to spend very little time introducing him to the people there because he already knows most of them and better than I do.  He is definitely hands-on with many projects that are undertaken in our community.

I just received an email from him letting me know that he has taken the “Mayor’s Monarch Pledge” which means that Mayor Athas commits to implement at least three of 25 action items designated by the National Wildlife Federation. Mayors taking more than eight actions will receive special recognition as part of the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayor’s Monarch Leadership Circle.  [Note:  I have looked over the list and see that Mayor Athas has already met at least four of these requirements and probably more.]



Grace Barnett – a very special visitor to the garden


Grace Barnett, Outreach Specialist from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Austin talks with some of the visitors at the North Garland High School Butterfly Garden.

Grace is only in her third week on the job as an outreach specialist from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, but she knows quite a bit about pollinators and their habitats—particularly the Monarch butterflies.  Promoting education and the use of these schoolyard butterfly gardens to involve students in meaningful inquiry is definitely one of her priorities.  She left us with lots of valuable information to ensure the North Garland High School Butterfly Garden will grow and expand students' knowledge of nature and the importance of providing habitats for our wildlife within our urban setting.



Kala King--wildlife photographer visited the garden today


(Kala King, Garland resident and wildlife photographer, on the left and Grace Barnett, Outreach Specialist from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on the right in the North Garland High School Butterfly Garden – October 12, 2015.)

Kala King was among the guests who attended.  Kala is a talented professional nature photographer.  But like all of us, Kala is so much more than her profession.  Among other activities, Kala rescues Monarchs.  She is likely the champion individual Monarch rescuer here in Garland for 2015.  Kala has saved them as eggs and caterpillars and then released 9 Monarch butterflies this year. Three more pupas in her habitat are about nine days away from becoming Monarch butterflies.  Thus, that will make at least a total of 12 Monarchs that Kala has rescued this year.  If you know of any individual in Garland who has a better record for rescuing Monarchs this year, please write to me.  

To see Kala's lovely photography, visit her website at and you won’t be disappointed.  It is brilliant and some of her work is for sale.  Perhaps with all this renewed interest in pollinators, Kala will be able to make a series of posters to sell to educators, and in fact to all of us who love nature.  Below is Kala’s photograph of a Monarch emerging (eclosing) from its pupa (chrysalis). 

Photo Credit:  Kala King 



With all the focus on the beautiful Monarch, it's easy to forget that Texas, with its varied eco-regions, has over 400 butterfly species and subspecies--more than any other state.  Not all of them are milkweed butterflies (butterflies who exclusively choose the milkweed for depositing their eggs). Many of them choose other plants such as the passionflower vine, dill plants and even parsley--a favorite among some Swallowtails.  Also these other butterflies overwinter in Texas.  Unlike the Monarch, they do not migrate.  They stay put for the winter in the dead leaves and plants, in evergreen shrubs, and even in the soil. Further south in Texas, where it is warm year-round, they don't even need to hide under cover. 

And butterflies will not be the only important pollinators to visit the Butterfly Garden.  Perhaps the most important pollinating visitor of all will be the honey bee.


Danaus plexippus

October 9, 2015 - Male Monarch Butterfly - Member of the Fourth Generation

Well I guess they have their own time schedule.  I was hoping this one would eclose conveniently on Monday October 12 at approximately 8 AM--in time to have his wings dry for release down at the North Garland High School newly planted butterfly garden where I am scheduled to meet with a representative from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Mayor Athas and other important folks at 10 AM.  

However, as it turns out, he had his own schedule in mind--not mine.  I was all alone when I released him in my front yard.  I was afraid to keep him in the laundry basket any longer than necessary.  He was not like a Mexican fritillary that I released after a Loving Garland Green meeting who stuck around to suck the nectar of my flowers for about 10 minutes.  No, this Monarch was up and away, not stopping for a photo shoot over my flowers.  Thus I  only have this photo of him as he is traversing the sides of the mesh laundry basket in the direction of freedom.

All that remains of him is a former shell of himself--the empty husk of his chrysalis that he left behind in his laundry basket birthing chamber.  It's hard to imagine that something so large and magnificent could have emerged from such a tiny shell.  Nature is fascinating.

 How do I know the Monarch I rescued was a Male?

If you will look at the hind wings of my Monarch butterfly above, you will see that it has two black dots on its hind wings.  Only the males of this species have the black dots on their hind wings. I wasn't sure so I enlarged a section of the hind wings of my photo above and sure enough, there are two black dots.


Update on the Remaining Rescued Monarch to Be

Yesterday morning it was a caterpillar and last night (October 8) it was a pupa.  This one will eclose sometime around the 21st of October.


So how does it feel to release a Monarch Butterfly?

It feels great!  I feel like I have done something important.  It is estimated that only about 5% of Monarchs make it to become butterflies in the wild.  However, the odds are much better if they are rescued and saved in a protected environment such as an old laundry basket.  In protected environments Monarchs have a 95% or better chance of completing their lifecycle.

The Monarch I released today is a member of the fourth generation of Monarch this year.  This means, that it is destined to migrate several thousand miles to the Mexican highlands where it will exist in a semi-state of hibernation until spring of 2016. Then it will awaken and begin the journey north--mating and then dying somewhere along the way.

In March and April the first generation of Monarchs are born.  They live from 2 to 6 weeks.  During May and June the second generation of Monarchs appear and they too live from 2 to 6 weeks after becoming a butterfly. In July and August the third generation live out the same story--a lifespan as adult butterflies from 2 to six weeks.  The fourth and last generation has a different lifeline. This generation lives for 180-240 days (six to eight months) as adult butterflies.  The fourth generation is born (eclose) in September and October.  Shortly after they begin their journey to the Mexican highlands.


North Garland High School Key Club and members from Loving Garland Green after plant installation—October 8, 2015

Stage Three: Plant Installation completed!

It took approximately 10 hours of work after school for the North Garland High School Key Club, with the assistance of Loving Garland Green members, to prepare the soil and install over 70 plants in five beds in front of their school. 

These plants include a mixture of host and nectar plants to attract all pollinators—and especially butterflies.  We were very fortunate to obtain all these plants.  Had we paid full price for them, they would have cost approximately $800.  As it turned out, these plants cost Loving Garland Green about 44 cents each. One of our local nurseries had a sale about a month ago on plants—all you can carry away in your truck for $50.  (We did not plant all the plants we obtained at North Garland High School—some are now in the Garland Community Garden and others still waiting for a home.)


 So Easy, a small child can do it!  Friday Morning—the day after plant installation:  Charles Bevilacqua (Loving Garland Green board member) and grandson Brett water the new transplants at the North Garland High School Butterfly habitat.  These plants will be watered every day for the first two weeks as we are expecting 90-degree days. After that watering no more than once a week will be necessary until they go dormant.

Garden Constructed for Minimal Maintenance Effort

Any garden is an ongoing affair. One never really completes a garden after it has begun unless it is abandoned.  A garden is a collection of many living organisms—billions if you count the microbes in its soil.  Loving Garland Green will continue to construct all urban gardens that we build—whether butterfly habitats or vegetable gardens—in ways to minimize human labor and to conserve resources.

These initial five beds at North Garland High School were constructed following a design we call “modified hugelkultur.”  We dug out the beds; put some large logs already in the process of decay down; covered the logs with organic matter; and then amended the original soil with Azomite, molasses, expanded shale and Perlite. This amended soil was placed back in the bed on top of the organic matter. 

We are also adding small wire compost baskets to each bed.  These baskets will be fed vegetable scraps and watered.  They are a form of in-bed composting.  The decaying vegetables, like the decaying logs on the bottom will provide water and nutrients for the plants.

Also, to further minimize work, most of these plants are native perennials.  Since we got these plants from a nursery and at such a good price, there are a few exotic varieties mixed among our Texas natives.  A couple of these plants were $40 each.  We’ll see how/if they survive.  All of them are supposed to be suited for our Plant Zone 8. 


Stage Four to Come:  Milkweed Hugelkultur Build

For this project, which we hope to complete by the end of October, we would like to construct a proper hugelkultur bed.  We will use logs already in stages of decay and will soak them in water prior placing them on top of the bed.  By spring this bed may not need to be watered.  Most report the hugelkultur does not need to be watered after the first year.  

The hugelkultur will be about three feet high when completed.

We still need to work out the details regarding our sources for obtaining and delivering the necessary materials to the site:

  • Rotting logs
  • Brown organic matter  (about four leaf bags full)
  • Green organic matter (two leaf bags full)
  • Cow, Chicken or Goat Manure (five 5-gallon buckets of it)
  • Mulch that is almost compost (about ¼ cubic yard)
  • Compost (about ¼ cubic yard)
  • Garden soil (about 1/8 cubic yard)
  • Texas native milkweed seeds and plants.
  • Texas wildflower seeds

Our reasoning for constructing this bed is twofold:  1) We want to ensure that we have enough milkweed (host plant for the Monarch and those from 300 other species of butterflies called the “milkweed butterflies” who choose to visit our habitat and 2) We want to introduce our community to the possibilities of hugelkultur gardening in our area which is often under drought alert.  The hugelkultur is particularly appropriate for urban gardens and small truck farms whereas it might be more problematic for large-scale farming.


Texans, in particular, need to take a leadership role in conserving and enhancing habitats for Monarchs because Monarchs travel across Texas in the fall when migrating to the Mexican highlands and then back again across Texas in the spring when they migrate north as far as Canada.  We need to make sure they have a habitat that will assist them in completing their lifecycle process and thus in continuing their existence as an important species who support human life by pollinating many of our food sources.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has produced a statewide conservation plan for the monarchs that will help guide their efforts.  Texan by Nature is bringing private landowners, businesses and faith based groups to plant Monarch habitat as part of their Monarch Wrangler initiative. (Texan by nature was founded by former First Lady Laura Bush.  This organization promotes the mutual benefits of economics and conservation by building relationships between people who use natural resources and the people who know how to plan and implement realistic conservation practices.)