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.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

First Hummingbird Sighting 2012

I hung my hummingbird feeders several weeks ago when we got our first cool front. My friend Inese said that she has seen several hummingbirds on her property several weeks ago, and she only lives a few blocks from me. I however did not see my first hummingbird until today. Hummingbirds have a very distinctive song and once you have heard it you will not ever mistake it. As soon as I heard the familiar sound I was able to locate my first sighting of 2012.

Hummingbirds live only in the Americas. Of the 338 species known, 16 are found in the United States and 3 occur in Florida. Black-chinned and rufous hummingbirds occasionally can be seen in Florida during the winter. The ruby-throated hummingbird is by far the most common hummer in the state. This feathered jewel is about 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) long and weighs as little as a penny (¼ ounce). Its name describes the most brilliant part of the mature male's plumage. The throat feathers contain air bubbles that give off an iridescent red tone in full light. Their backs are metallic green and they have two sets of tail feathers: two green ones in the center that cover eight outer black ones when they're folded. In females and juveniles, the black feathers have white tips; males lose the white tips as they mature.



Most Ruby Throated Hummingbirds arrive in South Florida in October and stay until May. I am surprised it has taken so long to notice one this year. I am always busy doing something in the garden, so I thought I would have seen one sooner. Today was so enjoyable because the whole time I was putting in the drip irrigation system several hummingbirds were fluttering over my head enjoying the different sources of nectar plants that I have in the yard. Just like my butterfly garden I have been planting for hummingbirds for many years. I have so many different nectar sources for them to choose from. Red is by far their favorite color. They are most attracted to red. Today the hummingbirds were flying from the oak tree in the front yard over to the clerodendruim, and dwarf poinscianna. It was a constant path where I am putting the raised bed vegetable gardens, and drip irrigation. It was almost like they were saying, “Here we are, we are back for you to enjoy!” It is truly amazing to watch how quickly their little wings flutter. One year I was able to watch a hummer every evening roost way up in one of my neighbor’s trees. He was always there and a constant source of enjoyment in my yard.



Whether or not you see any hummers anytime during the year in Florida depends on if you have food and shelter to offer them, and how long it takes for them to find you. I am a firm believer that if you plant it, they will come! Well-kept feeders are another very enticing way to attract them. Having both feeders and nectar plants as well as large trees for shelter are some of the necessities they will be looking for. If you have a good habitat, you may very well host one or more winter hummers that will hang around your area and frequent your yard for a season or two.

Hummingbird feeders are a great way to attract the birds to your yard. I make a solution 4:1, 4 parts water to 1 part sugar. It is important to make sure you change the solution every 3-5 days, which is sometimes difficult to do. I noticed that my bees have discovered my hummingbird feeders. The hummingbirds will continue to feed despite the bees, unless there are too many. Most hummingbirds are very territorial and usually you won’t see several feeding from one feeder at a time. I don’t like that my bees are drinking from the feeders. Sugar water, although they are very attracted to it, is not the best thing to feed your bees. As an organic gardener and beekeeper I never feed my bee’s sugar water. If I had to feed them I would feed them honey. Thank goodness that in South Florida there is usually a nectar source for the bees year round. There may be some times of dearth but it is usually very short and in the heat of the summer. I digress, but bees have a memory like an elephant. They never forget. Once they discover a nectar source, whether it be a plant or sugar water, they will return until you move it. I am thinking the next time I change the sugar water I need to change the location of the feeders to confuse the bees for a day or so until they discover where I move them too.

Some of the plants that I have to attract the hummingbirds are: Fire Bush, Fire Spike, Native Coral Plant, Lantana, Justicia, Powder Puff Plant( red and pink), Dwarf Poincianna, Shrimp plant, Butterfly bush, Clerodendrum, pentas; I could go on and on. I just planted this year’s Cardinal Vine. I read about it from Margaret Roach, “A Way to Garden” . The plant originates in Mexico, so I decided I would try planting it in my garden. It had a beautiful red flower on it this morning. I am hoping that as it grows it will attract lots of hummers.



One of the best reasons to plant a hummingbird garden is that once you attract them, many of the birds will return the following seasons. I look forward every year to that first sighting, and enjoy having hummers in my garden throughout the winter.

Putting In a Drip Irrigation System

I decided to put in a drip irrigation system for my raised bed vegetable garden. It will make life easier for many reasons. Drip Irrigation is a watering method which delivers water to plants slowly and right where they need it... at the roots. Where typical pop-up sprinklers spray water into the air and onto plants, drip irrigation systems combine flexible poly drip tubing and drip emitters or "drippers" to both conserve water and save money. Drip irrigation is a great way to conserve water and only delivers water right to the roots where the plant needs it. Drip irrigation systems are not affected by wind and will greatly reduce evaporation and runoff common with traditional irrigation systems. Drip irrigation is the perfect solution for raised vegetable garden beds, hanging baskets, and potted plants. Drip irrigation is the most efficient method of irrigating. While sprinkler systems are around 75-85% efficient, drip systems typically are 90% or higher. What that means is much less wasted water! For this reason drip is the preferred method of irrigation in the desert regions of the United States. But drip irrigation has other benefits which make it useful almost anywhere. It is easy to install, easy to design, can be very inexpensive, and can reduce disease problems associated with high levels of moisture on some plants. When I visited Albuquerque NM, earlier in the year, most gardens were watered by drip irrigation. Obviously in Florida where water is abundant, drip irrigation may not be totally necessary, but for raised bed gardening, it will make my life so much easier and also reduce the disease associated with high levels of moisture that we always have here in Florida. As a sustainable organic gardener I am constantly aware of my use of resources. Water like I said, although abundant in Miami, should not be wasted. Drip irrigation is one way of conserving water.

I ordered my irrigation system from http://www.dripworks.com. After searching the web I decided to go with this company because I have been watching “The Garden Girl TV” videos, which is how I found the “Square Foot Gardening Method”. My husband and I sat one evening and planned out the whole system for our vegetable garden. The Drip Works website was very helpful and there were many videos and resources available to plan your drip irrigation system. They even showed you suggestions of different systems so you could best fit an example to your garden. I meticulously planned out each part and connection and placed the order. I was nervous that I might not have ordered enough connectors and parts, but knew that we did a thorough job making sure we ordered appropriately. Here is a video from the Garden Girl on installing a drip irrigation system. I watched this video several times and printed out my plan as a guide. It helped tremendously.



I wasn’t able to put the system in last weekend, and I have been concerned that I am a little late in planting some of my vegetables. I had to go up to Boston, as my son Drew had meniscus surgery. He did fine, really didn’t want to leave him but I needed to return to work and life. I didn’t want to rush putting in the drip irrigation last Saturday, so I waited until today. I really couldn’t start planting because I didn’t want to disturb the seedlings putting in the system. I stopped by my local nursery yesterday and they have gotten in all their garden vegetable plants. According to them this is the perfect time to start planting, and I have read that it is important to wait just a little bit in Florida to have had at least 2 cool fronts, which we have had. In fact, the weather has gotten much cooler with most nights in the 60’s.

Putting in the system really wasn’t difficult at all. The hardest part was inserting the transfer barbs from the ½” tubing to the ¼” soaker hose. My fingers are really sore from connecting all the different parts. I still have one more box to add the soaker hose but my fingers needed a break. Tomorrow is another day. Here are a few pictures from today, really not as bad as I anticipated, in fact very easy. I haven’t really talked about cost but putting in a drip irrigation system is very economical. This is a picture from the web. My emitters are actually 6” apart.





So finally tomorrow is the day I start planting!! I can’t wait! I’ve chosen all my seeds carefully each being Heirloom, (not GMO or Hybrid) and I’ve reviewed the instructions for each plant. I am soaking a few seeds. That will help with germination. I think I have revised my garden plan numerous times, with many considerations for sun, water, companion planting etc. Tomorrow I am going to my local nursery to pick up a few of the herbs, like parsley, rosemary, oregano, arugula, mint and basil.

Let the planting begin!!
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