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.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Importance of Saving Seeds from Your Garden

As humans I think we take for granted that our food supply will always be there for us. This may not necessarily be true. Most Americans have never planted a garden; many children have never experienced nor have an understanding where our food supply comes from. I recently saw a beautiful quote on the internet as I was exploring Heirloom Seed Companies. This is from BBB Heirloom Seed and Wildflowers, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” Here is another quote: “Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” ~Robert Brault

Well, to start with, I just need to say it, I will not use genetically modified seeds in my garden; I use only heirloom seeds. Humans have survived and flourished for thousands of years planting heirloom seeds, and why we decided to start messing with seeds 40 or 50 years ago is beyond me. If we are ever thrown into a world where we need to grow our own food to survive, trust me, you want plants that are grown naturally and contain the most nutrients. Hybrid seeds, and the plants they produce, have been shown to contain much less nutrition than organically grown plants, and often, they require much more maintenance to grow successfully.

As an organic gardener it is very important to save seeds from your plants in the garden. First of all you want to choose seeds from the plants that have proven to do well in your garden. Not every plant is worth keeping. You only want to choose seeds from plants that are worth keeping. Never choose seeds from hybrids. Hybrids are beautiful plants, but the seeds are often sterile or do not produce true to the parent plant. Open pollinated or heirloom, self-pollinated plants are the only varieties that will grow true from seed, meaning the seedlings will be exactly like the parents. These are the seeds worth saving. Open pollinated, which are most of my garden are pollinated by insects, wind and people; these plants cross with others in their family. The only way to maintain the original would be to isolate, which would be very difficult as a backyard gardener.

I have a very large zip lock bag full of different seeds from my garden. I have completely seeded an entire flower bed with the seeds from a few salvia plants. Now I have a garden full of salvia which is very easy to grow and pollinators of all sorts love this plant. Any opportunity I have in my garden I try to save seeds. Throughout the season I save seeds from my sunflowers, Mexican sunflowers, water hibiscus, milkweed, Biden Alba etc. Sometimes it is a slow process separating the seeds, especially from the Mexican Sunflower, but the process is well worth it. Now I always have seeds from some of my favorite plants. I make sure that I dry the flower and seeds completely. I store them in a clean dry envelope. Below are some pictures. Look at the huge sunflower and the end result is a bag full of sunflower seeds to plant for next year.

Always choose seeds from the best plants and make sure they are free from disease. Seeds are mature or ripe when flowers are faded and dry or have puffy tops. Plants with pods, like beans, are ready when the pods are brown and dry. When seeds are ripe they usually turn from white to cream colored or light brown to dark brown. Collect the seed or fruits when most of the seed is ripe. Do not wait for everything to mature because you may lose most of the seed to birds or animals.

Harvesting seeds is important for maintaining unusual or heritage flowers or vegetables. It is a great way to propagate many native plants.

Storing Saved Seed
• Make sure the seed is completely dry, or it will rot or mold in storage • Remove as much of the chaff as possible • Store in a paper envelope, labeled with the variety and year • Place the envelopes into an air tight container, such as a canning jar • Store in a cool, dark, dry place • Stored seed is best used the following year

I am getting ready to prepare an area on the West side of the house for gardening. Right now I have some palms planted. I have bought only heirloom seeds. As I said earlier I refuse to use GMO seeds in my garden. Growing up in the Northeast, a daughter of a farmer from Indiana, I have many fond memories of helping my parents grow, maintain and harvest our family garden. I have never really planted my own vegetable garden in Miami. I have planted herbs and tomatoes but never a full garden. This year will be my first year planting a real vegetable garden. I look forward to experiencing this in Miami. Hopefully I will be able to save some of the seeds from my heirloom plants.

As far as my flower garden I continue to save as many seeds as possible. There are numerous seed saver exchanges, clubs, and listings in magazines like Organic Gardening. Although you shouldn’t base your entire garden on saved seed you may want to give seed saving a try.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Desensitization Process

I started my desensitization for honeybees at the allergist this week. I am slightly nervous about doing this only because I don’t know how I will react. Actually I am really nervous!! I opted to do a rapid desensitization so that I can get back into my hives as quickly as possible. I asked the nurse on Friday the process. She explained to me that they give a series of 4 shots each day over the next couple of days. On Wednesday I should be up to maintenance dose. Then I will go to the allergist once a month over the next several years until my immunoglobulin’s levels show no reactivity. I hope my bees know what I am going through to keep them.

The first day went well with no reaction at all, except for a little itching. Today is day #2 and I hope it goes as well as yesterday. I believe the doctor told me that these shots are the equivalent of 2 bee stings. I think they need to up the dose quickly because I counted about 11 stings when I had my reaction. Two stings is nothing!! Day #2 is going well with no problems at all, just a little localized itching. The Doctor feels I will do very well through the process. He even gave me an extra shot today. I will repeat the process again tomorrow and next Monday. The doctor wants to be present and he is off on Thursday. Then I will be at maintenance, and will go to the allergist for several years for immunotherapy.

So far so good! I just want this process to go quickly so I never have an anaphylactic reaction again. Of course I will be very well protected and always carry my epi pen in the hives and garden.

Today is day #3 with the rapid desensitization. All is going well with just a little local reaction with some itching. Although after the third shot my B/P did drop significantly. Because of that the doctor wants to be conservative and back off a little bit. I am almost at maintenance so I can come in several times a week until I get up to maintenance. He doesn’t want to take a chance that anything will happen. I agree but want to get to a good level as quickly as possible.

I was talking to a friend about what happened to me, his response was what most people would suggest. “Wouldn’t it just be easier to get rid of the bees?” Yes but ….. There is no way I am doing that right now.
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