A portable garden cage idea for raising cats!

(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

It's been a while since I posted on this forum. I thought I would share an idea that I tried that worked out quite well ...

I did a science project with the students in my class this past school year. (I'm a teacher assistant who teaches science. Life cycle of insects is a favorite topic!)

Instead of attempting an in-ground garden, I decided to do a portable, self-watering garden for our class project this Spring. It turned out to be a huge success ... but unfortunately ... I didn't know the extent of the success until school ended and I brought it home! (sigh) The students did still raise caterpillars/butterflies in cages in the classroom. The students were so amazed and excited, that some of my students started their own butterfly gardens at home! :-)

After getting the portable garden home after school ended, I was shocked at all the cats I found on some of the host plants. I guess we should have created the garden a month earlier so my students could've enjoyed them, too! Oh well ...

Anyway, wasps are a real problem here when raising caterpillars outside. So I built a cage frame for the portable garden to screen it in once the butterfly eggs were laid on the host plants. Very easy and cheap to make. This idea has worked better than any other cage I've used over the years, so thought I'd share the idea here on this forum.

Items I used:

Large hard plastic bin (I used a bin that had wheels on one end so it was easier to roll into place)
1" diameter PVC pipe cut to a length that is at least 2" taller than the bin
Potting mix
Host and nectar plants
Empty 2 1/2 gallon water jugs
Drill - for making drain holes on the side of the bin (Do NOT put holes in the bottom of the bin!!!)

4 - 1/2" PVC cut to the height you want it to be above the bin
2 - 1/2" PVC cut to the length of the bin (approx. length - you might want it shorter than the bin length)
2 - 1/2" PVC cut to the width of the bin (approx. width - you might want it shorter than the bin width)
4 - 3-way PVC corner elbow connectors
10-20 - 1/2" PVC snap clamps http://www.johnnyseeds.com/p-8293-snap-clamps-for-34-emt-or-12-pvc.aspx
Clothes pins (used to pin the screen to the top lip of the bin)

Here is the YouTube video that I copied the self-watering garden bin idea:

The following post shows some photos of my class project.

This message was edited Jun 25, 2012 6:23 PM

Thumbnail by beckygardener
(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

These are some photos of the portable self-watering garden that we made. We planted Milkweed, Parsley, and Passiflora vine as host plants. And added some nectar plants as well, though the host plants literally took over the portable garden. When I brought it to my home, I saw all the caterpillars and covered it with fabric netting. I later replaced the netting (because it kept tearing) with some sheer fabric that acts also as a little shade to the plants and caterpillars. Inside the cage I've been raising Black Swallowtails, Gulf Fritillaries, Zebra Longwings, and Monarch caterpillars. I had so many BSTs that they literally ate the two huge parsley plants to the nubs. If it doesn't grow back, I will replace with new plants. The cats ate much of the passiflora vine, too. But it will hopefully recover as the summer progresses so that I can raise more caterpillars. The Monarchs have not been as abundant lately, so only a few of those cats for raising. And I've got quite a few ZLW caterpillars that are getting ready to turn into chrysalises.

This project has turned out to be far more successful than I ever dreamed and it provides a self-watering container garden that doubles as a cage to raise butterflies in! I don't have to keep taking cuttings of plants to feed to my caterpillars in the smaller cages when they are raised in this type of cage!

This message was edited Jun 25, 2012 6:36 PM

Thumbnail by beckygardener Thumbnail by beckygardener Thumbnail by beckygardener Thumbnail by beckygardener Thumbnail by beckygardener
Belton, TX

Great Class Solution -- thanks!

(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

txaggiegal - Glad you liked our class project! Anyone can create such a garden/cage!

Raising various butterfly species in the portable garden cage has it's challenges though. I guess when two different species of butterflies are competing for the same spot to form their chrysalis, they decided to share! LOL! I will probably have to remove the Gulf Fritillary chrysalis from the Black Swallowtail chrysalis. I couldn't believe that something like this could happen! Too funny!

Thumbnail by beckygardener
Whiteside County, IL(Zone 5a)

pretty cool!!

Edinburg, TX

Great project Becky!!! I like it!

I made the mistake of putting a potted plant that had been out in the back yard for several months into a meshed reptarium. Little did I know it had several spider nests under the rim. Dratted spiders got to some of the caterpillars before I realized it. Note to self: Check under pots and rims!!! UGH!!!

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