Archive for the ‘Sustainable Gardening’ Category

Good-bye January!

Hello February, where did January go!?!

The garden has been keeping my busy since we returned from our travels.

The warm weather is splitting the cabbage and burning the strawberries, but the tomatoes are doing good. Tomatoes?! LOL Feels so funny to have tomato plants producing in January!

Here’s the garden at the beginning of January…

gardenJAN1Lovely Strawberries

gardenJAN8Wild Cherry Tomatoes




gardenJAN5We’re still getting a few handfuls of collard greens. I’ve been adding them to our soups.

gardenJAN7Parsley by the front door.

carrots2Carrots ready for harvest.

And at the end of the month…

imageBurnt Strawberries… too much sun, heat, and not enough water.

I wanted to show several shots of the cabbage…  After much investigation, it seems to have split from the heat and a busted water hose.  We ate it right away and it was still delicious though.




On a positive note, we planted spring seeds and the verbena is starting to bloom.


Happy Gardening!

Thanksgiving Recipe: Fresh Rosemary Butter

Happy Thanksgiving Friends!

This is an article that I wrote, which was published on EcoEtsy in November.  I thought I would share this yummy recipe here as well!  Enjoy your Thanksgiving week and count your blessings. I am thankful for my garden and for my gardening community this year!

Post image for Decorative Pumpkins & Rosemary Butter Recipe

I love decorating with pumpkins during the fall holidays.  Years ago while purchasing some, a stranger stopped me at the local produce market to tell me how much she loved to eat sweet dumpling pumpkins. She wanted to know if I had ever tasted one? I thought to myself those pumpkins can’t taste good?

Sweet Dumpling pumpkin is on the far left.

Well, I have tried all of those pumpkins after talking to that stranger and they are delicious. I love buying them in the fall to have out in the house for months, and then eating them when Thanksgiving and Christmas come. How much easier can it get? Pumpkins are un-refrigerated, beautiful to look at, and good to eat! I can’t imagine fall without them.

Carnival Heirloom Pumpkins

This month I thought I would share our favorite way to prepare our favorite pumpkin, Carnival Heirloom!  This colorful squash has a surprisingly creamy texture and a flavor similar to a sweet potato. It makes a great substitute for mashed potatoes.  Just bake or steam, then mash with butter and herbs for a side dish.  My family likes it mashed with some rosemary butter.

Fresh Rosemary Butter

While the pumpkins are cooking (it generally takes about 35-45 minutes depending on your temperature), we make our herb butter.  We have a large rosemary bush outside and my daughter loves cutting herbs for me. When possible, I try to make cooking in our house a family affair.

Fresh Rosemary Butter:

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon orange juice

1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

 Mix all the ingredients together.

You can also use lemons instead of oranges. I like to double the recipe when I make it so I have some for another recipe later in the week.  During the holidays, you can save the butter in ice cube trays for a special touch.

 Be sure to be thankful for those pumpkins this Thanksgiving!

Thanks, Bee

Creating a Wildlife Habitat

This is a great series on creating a wildlife habitat from one of the Florida blog’s that I love to follow…

Creating a Wildlife Habitat – Step #1: Food Sources

Creating a Wildlife Habitat – Step #2: Providing Water Sources

Creating a Wildlife Habitat – Step #3: Places for Cover

Creating a Wildlife Habitat – Step #4: Provide Places for Raising Young


Remember to garden for the wildlife that help all our gardens grow!

Fall in the Backyard Garden

Fall is here and the garden is growing!

The little gardeners asked to grow purple green beans this year. They are growing fast…

And the first beans are showing…

The radishes are always the fastest crop of Fall. The little gardeners selected purple radishes this year as well. These were harvested a little early by my overzealous munchkins.

Hurricane Sandy bought us heavy wind and rain for a few days.  The garage roof was damaged and is leaking but I will not complain.  It was nothing like the NE! Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected.

The dog sure did enjoy the wind and debris…


The little gardeners found eggs under some of the bean leaves.

Looks like we have long tail skipper butterfly larvae in the garden now. The little caterpillars are hiding under the curled up leaves.

We have lettuce, onion, collard and carrot sprouts in a few of the beds!

October is my birthday month so my sweet husband built me another garden box. We used reclaimed lumber from old docks for the side boards.

It has since been completed and is awaiting another batch of soil.

Happy Gardening!

Fall Garden Update

Vegetable gardening offers many benefits, including sun, fresh air, exercise, mental therapy, nutritious fresh vegetables, and economic savings. Vegetables can be grown year-round in Florida if you pay attention to the appropriate planting dates.”  Check out UF’s IFAS Extension for more gardening info.

Here’s what we’ve been doing in our garden for the last month…

 In September we started seeds for the vegetable beds… beans, collards, radishes, carrots, onions, and lettuce.

 My oldest wanted to start the seeds in the playhouse and pretend it was her greenhouse. I think the protection of the playhouse was great for the seedlings.

We have been getting lot of rain here in the past month. The preserve behind our home is turning into a swamp and the mosquitos have been fierce.  However, there are beautiful mushrooms everywhere.


Monarch butterflies are back in the garden.


The aphids are back too…

Our pineapple crop survived the transplant and is looking healthy!

Our avocado tree we started from a seed, survived the fungus it got and is looking good and healthy again!


Fall is a great time for bulking up your compost.  We’re feature on EcoEtsy discussing tips for fall composting! Check it out.

Happy Gardening, Bee


Surprise Swallowtails

Last year we started milkweed from seeds hoping they would be ready for the monarchs this summer. We were thrilled when the six plants attracted tons of beautiful monarchs throughout the summer months.  However, we were pleasantly surprised to have swallowtail butterflies join in the fun!

I had harvested more fennel then I could make my family eat, so I decided to let some bolt and seed.  Little did I know the fennel would attract a handful of unique butterflies.

Florida is home to several species of swallowtail. I was never able to get a clear photo of the adults, since it was the larvae that surprised us.  I would have to guess that they were the Palamedes Swallowtail from studying them while they were drinking the zinnia.

Just like the monarchs we found the tiniest swallowtail caterpillars eating the blooms.

Then they would eat and grow, eat and grow.

Then unlike the monarchs, the swallowtail would build their chrysalis on the host plant, or just a few feet away.  This made it easy for the little gardeners to find them and witness their metamorphosis. 

Here’s two hanging in their “J” formation.

They were quick to metaphorize, and we often found the empty chryralises.  One wasp ate a swallowtail that was emerging.

 The little gardeners were amazed with TWO different types of butterflies in our backyard showing us their life cycles.  What a great summer with nature!

It doesn’t take much to excite a Florida gardener about Fall gardening!  Temperature cools off to the lower 90s, a few tiny green acorns on the oaks start to appear, and the raintree blooms yellow in the backyard… AND I have the fall gardening seeds purchased and the fall garden planned. :)   This week we’re sowing seeds and working hard, so our next post I will have photos of all our gardening fun.

May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun
And find your shoulder to light on,
To bring you luck, happiness and riches
Today, tomorrow and beyond.
~Irish Blessing

Have a great weekend!


Our Wings, Worms, and Wonder Book Review!


Our Wings, Worms, and Wonder Book Review is on the front page of EcoEtsy today!

Be sure to check it out and comment on this great Florida gardening tool for children!

Wings, Worms, and Wonder: A guide for creatively integrating gardening and outdoor learning into children’s lives

by Kelly Johnson

Thank you, Bee

Monarch Mania

We were blessed this summer to witness the Monarch Butterfly life cycle. Our East Central Florida backyard filled with milkweed lured in dozens of Monarchs. They drank nectar and laid eggs. The eggs hatched and caterpillars devoured the milkweed…several times!

Monarch Egg, under side of leaf

First they are very small and like to eat the milkweed blooms.

Then they start eating…

and eating…until all the milkweed leaves were gone.

After getting about two inches in length they crawl away and build a chrysalis. 

Monarchs never build them on their host plants, and the chrysalis changes colors as the butterfly matures inside.

We watched wasp eat a lot of our monarch caterpillars.

We moved many caterpillars away from the vegetable garden to the other side of the house. For whatever reason the wasps never bothered the caterpillars eating milkweed on the northside of our home. On the south of the house, near the established garden, the wasp ruled.  

We watched monarchs die from starvation as well. My six milkweed plants couldn’t sustain the demand. 

When they do make it…it is such a beautiful sight to see a butterfly emerge in the early morning hours with wet wings! They would hang around and drink some nectar before flying away.

Our summer butterfly experiences taught us that the Monarchs butterflies are in trouble. They don’t have enough food!  Milkweed is the ONLY food the larvae will eat.  Humans have destroyed the milkweeds populations for their mass production agriculture, roadways, etc. For years milkweed has been sprayed as if it was a weed. 



If you live in the Monarchs migration path, you should plant some milkweed!

Please check out MonarchWatch.Org!

Happy (Wildlife) Gardening!



We have a ton of blooms in the garden, but I had to dedicate a post just to my beautiful elderberry!

Anyone know some ideas for using elderberries? I found a good recipe for jelly.

July Gardening Update

Hello! July is always our slowest vegetable gardening month.  If the humidity and heat won’t keep you out of the garden, the mosquitos and thunderstorms will.   Other than my herbs, fennel, sweet potatoes, and a few peppers, we don’t have much in the garden foodwise.

However, we have flowers! It seems like everything is in bloom right now. 


Even our Elephant Ear Taro is blooming…

At my oldest daughter’s request, we have been gardening for insects this summer. This month we turned our largest garden box into a flower garden.  The little gardeners have been watching butterflies lay eggs, wasps eat caterpillars and lady beetles eat aphids. Here’s what one wasp left of a Monarch caterpillar… 

Our little robin nest is no more.  After Mama robin feverishly built her nest, sat on her eggs, and starting feeding her three little babies… they disappeared.  It happened one night.  The nest was undisturbed. The babies were barely old enough to hold their heads up, so we know they didn’t fly away.  My best guess would be a snake. She had built the nest in an old tire  I was using as a hanging garden, and it was only a few feet off the ground.  We have seen several large snakes in the area this month.  We have since moved the hanging tire garden to higher ground, and are hoping she tries again next year.  On the left below is Mama sitting on her eggs.  On the right below is the babies.


The most exciting thing in garden this month is the Monarch butterflies & caterpillars.  The Monarch caterpillars, who only eat milkweed are starving!  With milkweed populations depleted across the states, Monarch butterflies swarm milkweed plants to lay their eggs.  We started milkweed seeds back in the spring and have six plants. They have been eaten to the ground twice. There isn’t enough food for all the eggs that are laid on our plants. The positive note, the little gardeners have had a fabulous nature lesson the Monarchs and their life cycle this summer. We have seen eggs hatch before our eyes, caterpillars grow to two inches in size, and then disappear to make their chrysalis. We have found some of the chrysalis and are now patiently waiting to see Monarch butterflies emerge.  I will write a detailed post on our Monarch adventures soon! 

We were also published on EcoEtsy this month discussing Gardening for Insects.  Check it out for helpful info on growing gardens for bees and butterflies!

At the beginning of the summer we added solar lights in the front yard.  I can’t believe we waited so long.  We always come home to a light on!  I want more for the backyard now. 

Keep cool and enjoy the rest of your July!



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