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 3, 2012

Preparing a Square Foot Garden Part 2

I am still in the preparation mode for my square foot garden. Last weekend I decided that I needed one more 4x4 raised bed to house my tomato plants. I think I got a little overzealous with the heirloom tomatoes. I have 11 different varieties: Floridade, Beefsteak, Riesentraube, which I found out, is Margaret Roach’s, “A Way to Garden” favorite tomato. I got this variety for free from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company and had no idea what type of tomato it was. Riesentraube actually means giant grape. I also have Black Plum, Hawaiian Currant, Yellow Pear, Super Snow White, God Love, Coyote, Isis Candy Cherry, and Grandpa’s Minnesota, which are all heirloom cherry tomatoes. That is a lot of tomatoes. I have watched a lot of videos about planting tomatoes and I was concerned that planting a tomato plant in 1 square foot would really be crowding them. So I have decided to give them more space and therefore built an extra box.

I have recently started exercising again and have been watching my diet very closely. I think they call that a life-style modification, as opposed to diet. Well Cherry tomatoes have become my new best friend. They are so sweet that they actually satisfy my sweet tooth. Crazy right!

I put together the carrot box that will sit on top of my grid. This will make the depth of my soil deeper for the carrots. I also put together my grids that will sit on top of each 4x4 garden. My husband Dave was a huge help as he helped me with the boxes, mixing the dirt and putting together the grids. I couldn’t have done this project without him!

I have been mixing the soil (Mel’s Mix) which isn’t difficult but time consuming. The soil is probably the most important aspect to any garden. It really will make or break how well your plants thrive. I also mulched around the boxes and planted some Sunflower seeds to add some color to the garden, distract from the ugly wall of my house, and hopefully attract some pollinators to my vegetable garden. I wish I was an artist because I would paint some beautiful Sunflowers on the wall of the house.

Here is a video I think really explains Square Foot Gardening (SFG). It is very concise, but says it all!

I found an awesome website while I was watching videos on You Tube about Square Foot Gardening. It can be found at It is a great program to actually plan your garden; they even have an “app“for your iphone. There are tutorial videos so you can figure out how to work the website. It really is very user friendly. Here is my plan below. The nice thing about the website is that you are able to go back into your plan and make adjustments, which I have done several times. You are able to plot where you want each plant; you can even keep notes on each plant as far as variety, and specific growing instructions.

So how did I decide where to plant each plant? Well first of all I considered spacing, which is what Square Foot Gardening is all about. I wanted to give the taller plants and vineing plants more room. It says to plant tall plants on the North side of your garden as to not shade your smaller plants. I actually tried to keep most of my taller plants in the back of the garden. I plan to build trellises to support these taller plants on the back of each box. Another important consideration in plant placement is Companion Planting. Companion Planting is planting plants together that may compliment or help each other. For example have you ever heard of the “Three Sisters?” The Three Sisters is a Native American tradition. After all the American Indians were our first gardeners. The Native Americans believed that corn, beans, and squash are the three inseparable sisters who can thrive only when raised together. Corn provides a natural pole for the beans vines to climb, while the bean vines help shore up the corn stalks and leave behind nitrogen for the soil. Spreading squash shades the bed from weeds and keeps the soil moist, and all three plants create rich compost after the harvest. Corn, beans, and squash not only complement one another in the soil, they also complement one another nutritionally. Corn provides carbohydrates; beans are rich in protein, and squash offer vitamins from the fruit and nutrient-rich oil from the seeds. Native Americans shared their Three Sisters planting system with early European settlers and taught them to recognize the signs that it is time to plant. Speaking of the Indians I received several Seminole squash seeds from Richard Campbell the curator of Fairchild Botanical Gardens. These seeds are actually from the Seminole Indians. The Indians used to girdle the Oak trees which would kill them and allow the squash to utilize the tree as a trellis and allow the squash to grow up the oak tree. There is an excellent article in the magazine “Edible Miami” written by Richard Campbell about the history of the Seminole Squash. I was very pleased to receive these seeds, and planted them next to my fence line so they could use the fence as a trellis.

So in planning my plant placement I will be planting my corn next to my squash. I didn’t choose to grow beans but I am sure that the corn and squash will be good together. I tried to plant aromatic plants in the same bed as the tomatoes to deter pests. There is a great book by Louise Riotte “Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening.” Information about Companion Planting is also on the garden planner

I finally have all the dirt in all four boxes and the grids in place. I am waiting for my drip irrigation system to arrive. This will make watering so much easier and hopefully make my plants thrive and keep them free from pests. I look forward to planting in the next week or so, as soon as I have the drip irrigation system in place.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Harvesting Honey!

It is amazing that so much can change in two weeks within the hives. Last time I was in the hives they were looking great! On Sunday when I went into the hives they were all Queen Right, but the populations were definitely smaller than they were two weeks ago. I think the bees know that winter is approaching, or at least what winter we have here in Miami. We are going to experience out first cool front of the season this week! Hallelujah!! A few of the hives still had some small hive beetles, but they are mostly corralled towards the back of the hives. The bees seem to be doing a good job keeping them in check. My main concern happened when I went into hive #3. There were hundreds of ants crawling up the cinder blocks, up the hive, and into the entrance. The population looked dismal and I thought for sure the hive had absconded from the ant infestation. The queen was present and the population actually improved as we got closer to the brood nest. The queen was just a little further back in the hive than normal. I found myself having to condense many of the hives, since the populations seemed much smaller than two week ago. I took several bars of capped honey to harvest. The bars in hive #3 that had ants I took because first of all there was no brood present, and also the queen had moved back into the hive to lay. It is amazing that they instinctively know that the ants are not a welcomed visitor. I need to watch this hive very closely because it is much weaker than it was two weeks ago. I did give it two bars of capped brood from hive #5, which is my brood box. Hopefully that will boost the population within hive #3, and give it enough resources to recover. Consolidating the hives and taking comb that isn’t necessary, will allow the bees not to have to protect empty comb against unwanted pests like ants, and small hive beetles. If you give your bees too much area to protect it sets them up for failure. Most of the hives are about 12-18 bars right now. With the cooler weather about to approach consolidation prepares them for winter.

As always, whenever I consolidate my hives I end up being able to harvest several bars of beautiful honey. Today I actually harvested about 12 pounds of honey. I put most of it in quart jars and have plans to make my first ever Cyser. My Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead is still fermenting on the kitchen counter; I look forward to tasting it during the holidays. No matter how often I harvest my honey it still is a precious gift given to me from my bees. Every drop is liquid gold!!

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