Home Green Choice Upcycling an Abandoned Boat into a Monarch Butterfly Garden

Upcycling an Abandoned Boat into a Monarch Butterfly Garden

Project saves rotting eyesore from death in landfill; gives life to threatened butterflies

by Christopher Lancette

Green Case Study 1: Upcycling an Abandoned Boat into a Monarch Butterfly Garden

Abandoned boats are becoming an increasing problem in Virginia, Washington D.C., Maryland and the greater Chesapeake Bay region – often leaving states here and across the country in the lurch about how to stop the proliferation of floating and land-docked junkyards. Properly disposing of fiberglass boats is a particular challenge. Orion’s Attic encountered one such watercraft and used it as a chance to practice upcycling an abandoned boat into something beautiful – a raised bed monarch butterfly garden.

The repurposing project tackled two problems at once – removing the eyesore of a rotting fiberglass boat from a client’s back yard, and giving the now-vulnerable species new habitat. Monarchs have declined by more than 80 percent in the eastern U.S., and 90 percent in western states, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. (Some organizations call monarchs “vulnerable” while others use the term “threatened.” Either way, it’s bad news for the butterflies.)

Love at first sight

We took one look at the boat and knew immediately what we were going to do. With no easy, inexpensive way to dispose of the abandoned vessel, we decided to bring the boat back to our own house and upcycle it into a Monarch waystation. We cut out parts of the bottom of the boat, placed it atop a mound of soil, filled the boat with more soil, then planted milkweed plants – the plants monarchs use to reproduce and feed. We added repurposed watering stations, too – taking other deteriorating objects from Orion’s Attic jobs and filling them with water every day. For the final touch, we repainted the boat and hand-stenciled its new name, The Magic Monarch, on the side.

The end result of our boat upcycling project?

We spared our client the costly expense of trying to properly dispose of the abandoned boat by taking it back to our house for free. We kept the boat from continuing to deteriorate on site. And, to our childlike delight, we attracted our first monarchs as they made their jaw-dropping migration from Canada to Mexico!

Upcycling an abandoned boat was just the latest step in our larger effort to rewild our front and side yards. We’ve now replaced 100 percent of our lawn grass with wildlife habitat – and food for humans, too. The Magic Monarch isn’t the only upcycled or repurposed object in our yard that we rescued from a client’s home. We’ve converted wood shipping crates and hard cardboard shipping barrels into flower gardens. We also upcycled an abandoned kayak into a petunia garden. We’ve built other raised bed gardens using miscellaneous wood boards from delipidating fences – wood that was heading to a landfill.

Learn more about disposing of abandoned boats and rewilding:

  1. Clean Virginia Waterways Virginia Abandoned and Derelict Vessels Group
  2. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Abandoned and Derelict Vessels Info Hub
  3. 6 Tips To Rewilding at Home

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Looking for more inspiration to try a green upcycling project or even a rewilding effort of your own? 

You can’t miss our house when you turn onto Orebaugh Avenue to enter Wheaton Regional Park in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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