How I Got Started

I started Butterfly gardening many years ago. My yard has been a progression over the years, and has made many transformations. Twenty years ago I experienced Hurricane Andrew. My yard and house were destroyed. We decided not to replace the pool screening and open up the backyard and put in some landscaping. That was the official beginning of my love for gardening in South Florida. I added a beautiful water garden years ago, and have been adding host and larvae plants for pollinators, mostly for the butterfly, for as many years as I can remember. I had my yard certified as a Natural Habitat, through the National Wildlife Foundation. To have a natural habitat you need to provide and meet certain requirements: 1. Provide a food source, 2. Provide a water source, 3. Cover, 4. A place to raise young. I try not to use any pesticides in my yard. I vermicompost and recycle as many of my food scraps as possible. If I had more land I would have a huge compost bin to recycle all my yard cuttings. Basically, I try to lessen my carbon footprint on this earth. In my own little world or backyard I try to provide an ecosystem in my water garden, provide birdbaths, birdfeeders, hummingbird nectar sources, feeders, puddling areas, host plants and nectar plants for butterflies and other pollinators. I am hoping to raise everyone’s awareness of the importance of saving our Butterflies, Blooms & Bees. Without them our world and food source will be in trouble. I hope you all enjoy my journey. I am not a Master Gardener, or Master Beekeeper, an Entomologist, or Journalists. I am simply a Backyard Gardener who is trying to lessen her Carbon Footprint of this Earth.

I hope you enjoy my blogs.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Preparing My Vegetable Garden

I have wanted to put in a real vegetable garden for the many years. I have grown a few tomatoes, and herbs from time to time but never an official vegetable garden. I think it is finally going to come to fruition. I grew up in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and some of my earliest childhood memories were of helping my dad prepare a vegetable garden. It seemed like we always had some land to farm. I have mentioned before that my dad, Charlie Schoolcraft, grew up a farmer in Indiana. His family had approximately 250 acres of land in Madison, Indiana. I remember long car trips to Indiana to visit my grandmother Bertha Schoolcraft. Her house was made of fieldstone; it didn’t really have running water, or bathrooms. My mom used to freak out because of this. She was also concerned because there were farm rats and mice in the house. The house had a distinct odor about it. I have memories of fetching water from the well in a bucket, bacon frying and being chased by a huge Tom Turkey. My grandmother was a strong woman with beautiful red hair. I believe the farm grew mostly tobacco. At some point I believe there was livestock but my memories only recall turkeys. My dad was the youngest of several children. His dad died when he was quite young, I was told he died from a head injury after being kicked by a bull. If you Google my maiden name, Schoolcraft, my ancestor Henry Rowe Schoolcraft was a pioneer of this country. My dad left Indiana as a young man to join the Marines. I guess this was his way a getting far away from the farm! In reality he could only run so far physically, but the farm never really left him, because he taught his love of the land to all of his children, hence my childhood memories of farming. I remember we lived several years in Linglestown, PA. This was right outside Hershey, PA. This housing development was right at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We had about a ½ acre of land to farm right next to our property. I have many fond memories playing in those fields, catching red salamanders, swinging from vines, bringing home all kinds of great finds. As the oldest of 4 children I was responsible for helping in the garden, and helping my mom can and preserve the fruits and vegetables. There have always been two sides to my personality, the prissy side and the tomboy side. I am telling you this because my mom always had me in a dress with a crinoline, and patent leather shoes. I didn’t own a pair of jeans or pants until junior year of high school. That is just the way it was back then. For those of you that know me well, I have a very prissy side to me, but I also have no trouble rolling up my sleeves and playing in the dirt. I thank my parents for instilling in me the love of gardening. Let’s hope that some of those memories will still be present as I start to prepare my garden.

So far I have cleared the Cat Palms that were on the west side of the property. As I stated in my last blog the wall to the house is exposed and really isn’t very attractive. I have plans to plant some Sunflowers to hide the wall and make it look a little prettier to the eye. It is also a good idea to plant some flowers in the vegetable garden as they will invite pollinators to visit. Right now things are at a standstill because I called 811 to find out what lines run under the ground in that area. I know there are several lines on that side of the house and the gas meter is on the wall. They have 48 hours to respond and mark the lines. I tried to dig down into the dirt in that area, but it is very difficult. The houses in my neighborhood were built on Coral Rock. The dirt is very difficult to work. Over the years I have worked many of my flower beds and added compost and organic material to enhance the soil. I have bought earthworms in years past and compost in hopes of improving the soil nutrients. Some of my flower beds aren’t too bad because of all the working through the years, but this area on the Westside of the house has been ignored. The Cat Palms have been there for many years and they were root bound. There are still many roots and a lot of coral rock in this area. If I find out there are gas line etc in this area, it might be easier to put in a Raised Bed garden. A raised bed garden is actually recommended in Florida, because the soil is so poor, and there are many pests (nematodes) in the soil. It may be a better idea to get some really good soil and raise the area up by about 2 feet. I took several classes earlier in the year around permaculture and preparing the soil for a vegetable garden.

Many months ago I ordered some seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. I wanted nothing to do with GMO crops or seeds in my garden. Many famous companies sell hybrid seeds but I wanted pure seeds passed down through generations in my garden. I had read about BBB Seeds in several gardening blogs that I follow and felt comfortable with selecting my vegetables from them. I started planting some seeds that I don’t want to directly sow into the ground, so that in a few weeks after I have enhanced the soil and the weather becomes a little cooler I will be able to plant the vegetables directly into the ground. So far I have planted some tomatoes and orange peppers. Ideally you shouldn’t plant tomatoes in south Florida until it gets a little cooler. Waiting just a little bit will increase the amount of fruit the plant produces. I bought several different packages of seeds from Baker Creek; several varieties of tomatoes, one called Floradade, which is right from Dade County Florida, and a beefsteak variety. I also purchased something called Riesentraube Red tomato, along with some kale, spinach, beets, lettuce mix, atomic carrots, cucumber, zucchini squash, rainbow Swiss chard, radishes, okra, tomatillos, snap peas, and eggplant. That sounds like a bunch of stuff! I need to plot out where I want to place everything in the garden. The area that I am going to be planting is approximately 25’x 4’ wide. I also need to watch the sun patterns so I can plant those plants that need the most sun in the sunniest spots, and most importantly I need to work on my soil. Hopefully I will be planting in about 2 weeks. I bought some seed pods by Jiffy to start my tomatoes, and some of my sunflowers at Home Depot. They are super easy to use and the plants are already sprouting. Here are some pictures.

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