Archive for March, 2010

Update: Don’t Worry, Bee Happy

Posted in Bees & Hummingbirds with tags , , , on March 31, 2010 by PickMeYard

We couldn’t believe our eyes today.   Loring and I were outside having a picnic lunch  in our newly planted butterfly garden when we heard a loud buzzing noise.  We noticed a massive swarm of bees that looked like a black tornado swirling around over the top of our empty bee box.  The bees that were  in this box died suddenly a few weeks ago and the box has been sitting empty. (I never got around to moving it).  The swarm of bees swirled and swirled over the box until every single one of them was in the box.  It was amazing!  I had my camera sitting right next to me but I decided to  grab-up my 3-year-old and watch from a safer distance instead.  However, the swarm probably would have been harmless because the honeybees would be full of honey and looking for a new home.  Usually they won’t sting when they don’t have a home to defend. 

This picture was taken just minutes after a swarm of thousands of bees moved into this empty bee box in our yard.


Within just a couple of minutes, every bee in the massive swarm was in this box.  I believe they have found their new home.  I immediately called a beekeeper friend and he told me this was great news.  He said if they are still around in a week, then they will probably stay for good.  He also said there is a good chance that the new bees are European honeybees   (Apis mellifera) and not Africanized honeybees (Apis mellifera scutellata).   The new bees might have a strong queen that is a survivor.  We’ll leave them alone for about a month and then we will open up the box to find the queen and investigate (to see if she is laying eggs).  

My beekeeper friend told me that beekeepers usually keep an empty bee box in their yard with high hopes that a swarm will move in.  He said it is fairly common for a swarm to do this.  

A great place for information about honeybees and related events for Southwest Florida is the beekeepers association of southwest florida website.    

Most gardeners are seeing less and less bees in their garden due to the huge decrease in the honeybee population. We are so excited about our new colony of honeybees.  We hope they stay. 

Come grow with us! 

Update: The Mariposa Garden

Posted in Butterflies with tags , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by PickMeYard

"After" Picture of Our Butterfly Garden

This is our butterfly garden after all the plants have been planted.  Most of these plants will grow to their full potential after one growing season and the garden will look full.  The trees in the garden will take longer than the vines and shrubs to fill out, however, it is only a short wait.  There are two small mimosa plants that will act as a low groundcover and sprawl quickly.  Actually, will try to take over. It isn’t necessary to plant more than two in this space.  The dune sunflowers, blanket flowers and tickseed will re-seed and spread too.  I have about 16 firecracker plants around one edge that will each grow to about 3 feet high and 3 feet wide and create a nice, soft hedge.  The vines that I set loose on the chain link sides of the tennis court will grow extremely fast.  Our “mariposa garden” will hardly be recognizable as the same garden in about 6 months. 

Grayson and I did tons of research on the plants as we designed our garden together.  We wanted to know the size each of our plants would be when they are mature so that we would plant them in the right spot.  We considered the color of the blooms too. We will just have to be patient and enjoy the different stages of growth.   The butterflies are already visiting.

The Tennis Court will Soon Be Covered in Vines, Fruits, Flowers, and Butterflies

  Come grow with us!

The Mariposa Garden

Posted in Butterflies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by PickMeYard

My three-year-old refers to butterflies as “mariposas”.  “Mariposa” means “butterfly” in spanish.  Yesterday she noticed that our gulf fritillary chyrsalides turned into butterflies in our kitchen butterfly habitat and she gleefully yelled, “Mariposa’s awake!”  We let the butterflies dry their wings and then we let them go into our newly planted “mariposa garden”. 

Mariposa's Awake!



Gulf Fritillary Butterfly


Our butterfly garden is finally finished.  It didn’t happen in one afternoon.  We spread it out over a couple of weeks.  First the sod had to be taken up and then the weed mat was put down.  We used landscaping staples around the edges to keep it in place. We used scissors to cut X’s in the weed mat where we planted our collection of butterfly host and nectar plants.  After we planted everything, we put down the mulch.  Gulf Coast Palm and Tree Landscape Nursery was a huge help to us.   

"Before" Butterfly Garden


"After" Butterfly Garden


We’ve planted lots of host and nectar plants for many types of butterflies that are found in Southwest Florida.  The “after” picture looks a little sparse, but these plants will grow big quickly.  The tree is a macadamia nut tree that the bees love.  It gives us more macadamia nuts than we can eat.  We are able to store them for the entire year.  

Powderpuff Tree in the Butterfly Garden


Most butterfly plants prefer full sun.  However, the zebra longwing, prefers shade.  The zebra longwing is the Florida state butterfly. We planted several passionfruit vines, which is their host plant.  We put some of the passionfruit vines in  full sun and a couple in the shade.  The gulf fritillary also uses the passionfruit vine as their host plant, but they like it in full sun.  A host plant is a type of plant that a butterfly will search out to deposit their eggs.  Each butterfly species will have their own host plant.  A nectar plant will be the plant that attracts, feeds and provides energy to the butterfly.  Our butterfly garden borders our tennis court.  We planted many, many vines on the court’s fencing to protect the butterflies from rain and wind.  Hopefully the vines will provide some shade for the tennis court too.  


We’ve planted a dutchman’s pipevine, several different types of passionvines, scarlet milkweeds , tropical salviasnecklace pods, a white and pink powderpuff tree, dune sunflowers, lots of firecrackers, firespikes, a Bahama cassia tree, a wild lime tree, several lion’s tails, a sweet almond bush, native wild petunias, a golden dewdrop tree, a sky vine, a Mexican flamevine, several Florida flamevines, coonties, blue-eyed grassmimosasgreen-eyed susans, tall red pentas (dwarfs don’t have nectar), tickseeds, and two coral honeysuckles.  Whew…that’s a list.  The butterfly garden won’t look sparse for long.  We purchased all our butterfly plants from a local nursery called “Riverland Nursery“.  They are extremely knowledgeable about butterfly plants for our area and specialize in providing them.  They also hold free classes on the weekends for just about everything garden related.  

A Tiny Monarch Caterpillar on Our Scarlet Milkweed


I believe this baby caterpillar is a direct result of the monarch butterflies we released into the garden last week.  It’s important to never use herbicides or insecticides on a butterfly garden.  This caterpillar will eat the leaves of the scarlet milkweed which is its host plant.  Scarlet milkweeds get red aphids on them.  Their purpose is to control the milkweed population.  I just squish them because I don’t want them around.  Another solution would be to bring some ladybugs into your garden.  Make sure you get baby ladybugs because adult ladybug’s will just fly away.  They tickle when you release them.  When the monarch caterpillars eat all the leaves off the scarlet milkweed it can be trimmed way back.  It will sprout new leaves right away and get bushy just in time for the caterpillars to devour it again.  The young caterpillars need the young, tender leaves to eat. 

Grayson & Loring Releasing Thousands of Ladybugs into the Garden Last Summer

We are looking forward to watching our butterfly garden turn into a mature, full landscape.  We plan on labeling our plants with our aluminum tags tomorrow.  We’re going to add a few stepping-stones, a few Adirondack chairs and a picnic table to complete our project.  Our plan is to spend the summer having a daily tea party and a picnic in our “mariposa garden” while we wait for our flying visitors. 

Come grow with us!

Dangling the Golden Carrot

Posted in Edible Roots with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2010 by PickMeYard

Our Yummy Garden Carrots

Carrots are originally from Central Asia and the Near East.  They were introduced to the American colonies in the 17th century and they were purple.  The Dutch developed the orange carrot.  Thomas Jefferson grew several varieties of carrot in his Monticello garden.

Cinderella Picking Carrots from Our Garden

I have yet to meet a kid that won’t eat a  fresh carrot they picked with their own hands.  My kids won’t touch them after they’ve been cooked though.  My favorite way to cook them is with honey, ginger, butter and kumquat rind.  There are many varieties of carrots.  They come in different sizes and colors.  We’re growing short and long ones.  Did you know the baby carrots in the bag at the grocery store are not really baby carrots?  I just recently learned they are full-sized carrots that are cut to look like baby carrots.  Apparently, the public demand is greater for the baby carrots.

Carrot Plants, Orange Roots are Underground

California grows 80 % of the carrots in the U.S.  They are an excellent source of beta-carotene and fiber. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A and this helps to reduce certain types of cancers. 

Carrots Ready for Slaughter

Carrots are usually ready to be picked at 65-75 days.  Heat and humidity makes them turn bitter. They can be stored for 30 days in the refrigerator when fresh, but it is best to eat them as soon as you can to get the most vitamins.  We grew lots of carrots last year.  I would harvest a few and put them in the refrigerator.  The next day I would find them limp and yucky.  I wondered how the supermarkets keep carrots fresh in the bag for such long periods of time.  The key is to cut the green tops off them.  The tops draw the water out of the carrot and they wilt.  This year I cut all the tops off immediately after I harvested them.  It’s sufficient to just cut the green part off and not the entire top of the carrot for storage.

The Result From Not Thinning the Seedlings

Carrots seedlings are supposed to be thinned out after they have grown about an inch of leafy green.  If you don’t thin them out , you will end up with a bunch of tiny carrots that didn’t grow because they were all trying to grow in the same space.  Thinning them allows the carrots roots to develop properly.  I know I am supposed to thin them out and I still have trouble doing it.  The picture above shows what can happen when they are not thinned out.  One little carrot is growing around the other.

Today's Harvest

Today's Harvest with the Tops Cut Off

Most backyard gardeners don’t harvest all their carrots at the same time like I did today. I decided to pull them and blanch them for storage.  I’ll save some for eating fresh.  Carrots can store up to 9 months in a regular freezer. They will store up to 14 months if kept in deep freeze.  However, if you’re going to freeze them you must blanche them first.  To blanche them you will need a pot of boiling water and a bowl filled with ice water.  Cut the carrots up or leave them whole (if they’re small).  Boil them for 2-5 minutes, drain them and then put them in the bowl of ice water to hastily stop the cooking process.  Now they’re ready to be stored in the freezer in a ziplock freezer bag.

My family adores carrot juice.  The pile of carrots in the picture above won’t last long around here.  I usually make carrot juice the Jamaican way.  I juice the carrots with a juicer and I give the pulp to the chickens, worms and bunnies.  I add a little water, condensed milk, vanilla and nutmeg to the carrot juice.  There is a recipe at for the specifics.  I don’t measure ingredients. I just add a little of this and that.  Jamaicans usually make this juice with a blender, not a juicer.  They use a strainer to separate the pulp from the juice. 

Our Easter Bunnies Enjoying A Carrot Top

Come grow with us!

The Water Chestnut

Posted in Edible Rhizomes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2010 by PickMeYard

Freshly Harvested Water Chestnuts

Most people in the U.S. have only tried water chestnuts from a can. I never thought much of them until I tried a fresh one.   They are a common Chinese vegetable that keep their crunchy texture and sweet flavor when cooked.  They’re fat-free and have lots of potassium and fiber. We are lucky in Florida to be able to grow them and enjoy them fresh.  The water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) is quite easy for the backyard gardener to grow , but they need seven months of frost-free weather for their growing  season.

Water Chestnuts Growing in a "Concrete Mixer" Container

The water chestnut is an aquatic vegetable.  I always keep an inch or two of water in the containers I grow them in.  My chestnuts are growing in inexpensive concrete mixing containers I purchased at Home Depot.  I dug the ground out a little so the containers would sit in the ground.  I let duckweed grow around the plants which makes the containers look pretty.  It does splash out of the container when it rains, but then it seems to grow back overnight.  Did you know that duckweed is edible too?  I would have to be really hungry to try it. Maybe that is a culinary experience that should be left to the domestic animals and fish. 

Water Chestnuts at the Start of the Growing Season

The water chestnut plants spread easily.  It is only necessary to start with a small plant in each of these containers.  The one plant will produce many more and give you a large harvest of fresh water chestnuts.  The plants are mature after six weeks of planting them.  The green tops will turn brown and die off.  They are to be left in the water with the brown tops for two to three weeks and then harvested.  To harvest the corms (tubers), you have to dig your hands in the muck and feel around for the round corms (water chestnuts).  We actually had a really fun time doing this.  It’s a good idea to leave one or two of the corms in the muck for the next growing season.  I found my water chestnut starts from a place called TaDeGe in Ft. Lauderdale. We have visited this place several times and ordered stuff from the website.  The guy that runs this business has introduced us to so many cool plants and fish.  We’ve bought monster snails, wakin, gorgeous lotus, tiny shrimp, water lilies, and water chestnuts from him.  His website is educational, full of humor and just plain fun to look at.

In the late 1980’s, Florida researched the possibility of making the water chestnut into a viable Florida industry.  It didn’t work out because the corms are hand-harvested which made the cost of labor too high.  The water chestnut was introduced into the U.S. in the 1930’s.  In 1988, the U.S. imported 25,000,000 of them.

To prepare the fresh water chestnuts, the paper-like brown skin has to be peeled like a potato.  There are many recipes for them, but the most common way to eat them is in stir-fry.  We just peel them and devour.  They haven’t made it to the frying pan in our household yet.  They are sweet, crispy, and fresh with a fruity flavor. I think they taste like a coconut.  My kids love them too.

With all the freezing weather we had in our zone 9b this year, I wasn’t sure what to expect of our water chestnuts.  I never let the containers dry out through the winter and I found lots of sprouts today. I did a little happy dance.  They made it. 

Come grow with us!

Buckets of Love

Posted in Inspiration with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 25, 2010 by PickMeYard

There’s no doubt that Disney has glorious gardens.  I am so inspired by their containers. I want my containers to look like these.  Buckets of love.

Kumquat Tree

Fig Tree

Edible Nasturtiums

I have collected quite a few plastic nursery pots that I use for my containers.  They are large and the black color keeps them warmer in the winter, but they aren’t very attractive.  I’ve decided to spray paint my pots a natural moss color.  I believe they will blend in nicely with our garden. I’ll let the kids paint some of their designs on them too. I thought about wrapping them in burlap, but it would get soggy outside in the weather.  I love creative containers that are used for planting, but I also love the look of classic pots.

The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival has breathtaking displays this year.  They have a booth called “Ask the Experts” with Master Gardeners from Orange County that are waiting to answer questions.  Grayson had several questions and Master Gardener Katherine spent lots of time with him.  We wanted to stay and talk to her all day, but a line was forming.  We will definitely look for her next year. 

Succulent Garden in a Hanging File Holder for Office Paper

Sugarcane and Nasturtiums

Mediterranean Container Garden

 Can you almost smell the flowers? 

Flowers are beautiful when planted with a fruit tree, vegetable plant, herbs, legumes… or just about anything.  We used to have our minds set on edibles. If we couldn’t eat it then we didn’t want to waste the fertilizer on it.  Our minds have changed.  We love our edible landscaping, but flowers make us happy.  We’re going to plant more of them.

Come grow with us!

I’m Gonna Go Eat Worms

Posted in Worms with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2010 by PickMeYard



This container houses our worms.  Red Wigglers (Eisenia fetida) to be exact.  The worms eat our garbage and turn it into black gold.  I used to buy the worm castings (for compost) in bags and I paid a pretty penny for them.  When I realized I could easily keep my own worms and have my own castings, I ordered a Can-O-Worms.  I couldn’t get it fast enough, even though I had no idea what  to expect from keeping my own worms.  

Red wigglers are kept in a bin because they need soil that is extremely high in organic matter, unlike most gardens and lawns.  It is not likely that the worms would survive unless your garden is very rich in organic matter.  There are hundreds of different species of earthworm, but the Eisenia is an excellent choice for vermicomposting

I’ve had my worm bin filled with worms for two years now.  I haven’t had a single problem and  I’ve found them to be extremely easy to take care of.   I take our kitchen scraps such as  paper,coffee grounds, tea bags, old rice, pasta, melon rinds, pizza crusts, crushed eggshells, old bread and feed it to the worms. I place the scraps under a thin cover of newspaper under the top lid on the bin.  Sometimes I don’t feed them for 2-3 weeks, but they always have something in there to eat.  They take longer to consume some scraps that I put in the bin.  It is recommended that you chop up the scraps.  I admit that I rarely do that.  They have no trouble eating their way through the larger stuff.  They absolutely adore watermelon rind.  I just set the whole rind flesh side down and every worm in the bin will hastily go right to it.  They won’t leave that rind until it is gone. 

Inside the Worm Bin


I ordered the Can-O-Worms because it was the easiest for me at the time and I really like the design, especially the spigot at the bottom.  I keep the spigot open and I get worm tea daily.  However, any container can be turned into a worm bin. It must conserve moisture and provide total darkness for the worms.  Some people even keep their worm bins inside their homes.  My husband politely asked me to put ours outside. 

5 Gallon Bucket Worm Bin


Plastic Bin Used as a Worm Bin


A Concrete Worm Bin with Cover


Trash Can Worm Bin (no drainage, is kept outdoors & sealed)


Worm castings  are considered “black gold” because it’s superior over ordinary compost.  The nutrients in the castings have a time-release quality that is stable and available to plants for over five years when added to the soil. It will not burn your plants so it can be added to the soil any way you choose.   The castings can act as a hormone to give your plants a boost. 

Our Worm Bin Today


If you were to get really hungry, earthworms are nutritious.  I have a book that has quite a few recipes for cooking with earthworms.  This book, called “The Worm Book” by Loren Nancarrow and Janet Hogan Taylor is the best book I have found for all the information needed to set up and keep worms.   The book also goes in-depth about worm biology, the different types of worms, starting and maintaining a bin, troubleshooting problems, cool facts, and of course…the recipes.  Another good book is “Worms Eat My Garbage” by Mary Appelhof.  There is a great blog on worms called “Monster Worms“. 

We enjoy our worms and we’re always proud to show them off.  They have been a very educational experience for my children.  They are safe for the children to handle and have no smell.  We love that the worms recycle our garbage into wonderful, nutrient dense compost.  Recycle…garbage…landfills.  I believe these worms are going to play a huge part in our planet’s future. 

Come grow with us!

Bonkers for Bonsai

Posted in Inspiration with tags , , , , , , , on March 23, 2010 by PickMeYard


We know an 11-year-old boy who has developed a lofty interest in growing bonsai.  This post was kindled by him. 

Bald Cypress Bonsai


Bonsai is actually pronounced (bone-sigh).  Bonsai is an art form that can provide a lifetime of studying and understanding trees.  It is the art form of growing miniature trees to look like full-size mature trees from the inspiration of nature.  However, the plant is not dwarfed genetically.  The plant,(from regular root-stock), is kept small by growing it in a pot and using several techniques to keep it miniature.  The tree can grow very old as a bonsai and often becomes a prized possession.  Some of these trees outlive their owners and are passed down through the generations.  


A good quality bonsai tree can be purchased from a bonsai nursery.  It is worth seeking one out because you can ask a million questions and they love to share their knowledge.  Be sure to get some guidance on maintenance such as fertilizer, pruning, water needs, and re-potting.  The tree should feel firm in its pot.  


There are many books written about growing bonsai.  A well written book should give a lot of information about technique, tools, re-potting instructions, different styles, plant directory for indoor and outdoor, how to display it, soil types, working with the wire, propagating, and collecting plants from the garden.  I looked through quite a few books when I was seeking information for growing bonsai and the best I found was “Growing Bonsai, A Practical Encyclopedia“, by Ken Norman.  This book provides step-by-step instructions with pictures.  This book, with its fabulous pictures and instructions, will turn anyone into a bonsai enthusiast.  It makes me feel like I could create one of these works of art too.  One day I will. I would like to collect some bald cypress and start a small forest with bonsai ferns growing underneath.  I would also like to bonsai a kumquat tree.  How sweet would it be to see miniature kumquats growing? 



My Fukien Tea Bonsai Tree

I bought several bonsai trees at the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival last year.  The vendor was  informative about pruning technique and sold me three breathtaking trees.  Unfortunately I didn’t ask the right questions. One of the trees was completely unable to survive in my climate and the other tree (hibiscus) died overnight from lack of water.  I think it needed to be watered twice a day, not just once.  That was an expensive mistake.  The final surviving tree, a Fukien tea, has become my treasure. It is approximately fifteen years old and blooms lilliputian white flowers.  It requires care, but not too much.  I move it inside quite often to display it and then move it back out to it’s  “spot” after a few days. This year I will put my “blinders” on when I walk past his booth.  His beautiful display opened my eyes to the beauty of bonsai and made me notice them when I never did before.  However, this year I am going to try my hand at creating my own. 

Come grow with us!

Get Your Ducks in a Row

Posted in Ducks with tags , , , , , , , on March 22, 2010 by PickMeYard

We had to have ducks…had to.  When we visit Disney World we spend  a ton of time watching and interacting with their ducks.  After several visits, we decided to get our own ducks.  We picked out three baby ducks from a local feed store.  They had a huge mixture of  “domestic ducks“, so we’re not sure what we have.  Since there are only about 14 domestic duck breeds to choose from, we should be able to figure it out soon.  We’ve had them for about six weeks now… I think.  I’ve lost track of time.  We are enjoying them immensely.

They grow a noticeable amount every night.  Every morning we look at them and wonder if they are the same ducks.  They poop a lot.  That was to be expected.  They’ve moved from the tub in the above picture to the shower (which is a large one).  It’s too cold to keep them outside and the spare bathroom has been working out well.  We do have their accommodations ready for them outside when the weather warms up. 

They are named Linny, Tuck, and Ming-ming.  Our daughter took one look at them and they had their names.  These names are from her favorite pre-school show on television called “The Wonder Pets“.   My husband loves these ducks and has made claim to them.  They are his ducks. 

Depending on what type of ducks they turn out to be, we can expect between 100 – 300 eggs per year.  Duck eggs are much larger than chicken eggs and I hear they are very good for baking.  Although, their flavor is less familiar than chicken eggs (and stronger).

We will keep their flight feathers clipped.  It doesn’t hurt the birds at all, it’s like clipping your fingernails.  This will help to  keep them safe from predators and in our yard.   I’ve been told that Dave Holderread’s book, Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks, is a must-read for anyone raising ducks.

Ducks going into the pond for the first time

We do plan on collecting their eggs, but other than that, they are pets for us to enjoy.  They are lively, vivacious, and vocal.  Grayson is planning to show one of them in 4-H next year if we get lucky enough to have one that is show quality.  We are looking forward to the fun and the life they are going to bring to our yard.

Come grow with us!

Inspiration from Miami

Posted in Inspiration with tags , , , , on March 19, 2010 by PickMeYard


This isn’t our yard.  It’s a private island in Miami Beach called Fisher Island. The history and amenities on this island are incredible.  The grass tennis courts and golf course are stunning, not to mention their incredible beaches.  However, what we notice are the plants.  The gardens take my breath away.  I always find inspiration and great ideas to take home for our own garden.  


I want to plant a hedge of bamboo in my yard.  I’ve been researching the different types and have decided to use a clumping type such as “slender weaver bamboo“.  It is non-invasive and will never take over.  I can expect a mature hedge within a couple  years. Young bamboo shoots are one of my favorite ingredients in Thai cuisine, although I doubt I’ll ever be harvesting it from my own yard.  We’ll use the bamboo cuttings to make stakes and supports for our vegetable garden.  This beautiful hedge of bamboo on Fisher Island is planted in a natural wave pattern with foxtail fern to tie  it together.  This is a clever and more natural alternative to just planting the bamboo in a straight line.   



I found a lovely kumquat tree peeking over the balcony of this condo.  The adjacent condo has a small butterfly garden on their patio.   

Pink and white Impatiens planted around the base of a palm tree

Bougainvillea growing in a pot

Creeping fig vine around "The Beach House" sign

Centerpiece at the entrance to the Vanderbilt mansion

Vanderbilt Mansion Courtyard

The ultimate symbol of a lush, tropical garden

The ultimate symbol eating the lush, tropical garden

Miami skyline

I prefer a more edible landscape in my yard, but I love all gardens.  It is hard work maintaining a garden, but it is soulful and rewarding work.  Our garden is a work in progress.  It changes every day and will never be finished because that isn’t our goal.  Our goal is to enjoy the journey while we create, learn, and slow down a little.    

Come grow with us!

Ginger ‘n’ Spice and Everything Nice

Posted in Edible Rhizomes with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2010 by PickMeYard

Greater Galangal

I love Thai cuisine and I love to cook it. Greater galangal is a basic ingredient in Thai food and is sometimes referred to as “Thai ginger”. I always see the gnarly galangal rhizomes in the freezer in Thai markets.  I’m so thrilled that I am able to grow it in my own yard.  The plant in the picture above is about two years old and is about six feet high.  I expected the worst for this tropical ginger with the freezing temperatures we experienced this winter in zone 9b.  I didn’t expect this beautiful plant to survive, but I haven’t even had to cut it back .  It has some browning around the edges of the leaves and that’s it.   It did have some protection from frost with the overhang of the house, but it’s planted in a spot that gets really cold.   I am in love with this plant.

Greater galangal (Alpinia galanga)  is in the ginger family and is an edible ginger.  Galangal has been popular since the middle ages.  It is especially wonderful for indigestion.  It is also used to alleviate nausea, colds, flu, fever, bad breath, diarrhea, and poor blood circulation.  I have also heard that it removes toxins from the body.  In Southeast Asia, a tonic is made from a mixture of galangal and lime juice.  Russia uses it to make liqueurs and India uses it to perfume deodorant.  I like to slice mine into big chunks and make “galangal limeade”.  A little goes a long way.  I harvest mine the same way I harvest my other edible gingers.  I dig my knife into the soil and cut off chunks so as not to harm the growth of the plant. 

As far as flavor goes, it has its own unique flavor.  It is spicy like ginger, but it is sweeter and more aromatic in my opinion.  The rhizome is very firm and white on the inside.  I have been harvesting mine while they are still young and I like them that way.  I have heard that some people harvest the rhizomes when they are mature at about 4-5 years of age.  The plants can be started from a fresh rhizome the same way as the other edible gingers and thrives in the shade.  I’ve seen the fresh rhizomes in a few Asian markets.  Greater galangal is a lovely plant and produces sweet, orchid-like flowers. 

Greater galangal's orchid-like flowers

I have another type of galangal growing in my yard as well. It’s called lesser galangal (Alpinia officinarum).  I will write a separate post on that one and include pictures of the harvested rhizomes from both of my galangal plants.  The harvested rhizomes from all the edible gingers freeze well.  The whole rhizome can be kept in the freezer for up to a year in a ziplock bag.  There is no need to slice it up or peel it before you freeze it.  When we need fresh ginger, we just grate off what we need with a grater, peeling and all, then return the rest to the freezer.

Come grow with us!

Ginger, My Love

Posted in Edible Rhizomes with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2010 by PickMeYard


Do you often purchase fresh ginger at the grocery store and find it months later in a rotted mess in the bottom of your fridge? Edible ginger (Zingiber officinalis) is so easy to grow at home. If you grow it yourself, you will have a continuous supply.  The taste of ginger that you just harvested is completely different from the taste of the supermarket ginger.  There is nothing as special as fresh ginger.  It is anybody’s guess as to how old the “fresh” ginger in the supermarket is when you buy it.  However, the market ginger is very useful in getting your own ginger started in your garden. 

large edible ginger planted in the ground

My family just adores fresh ginger slices that have been marinating in a jar of water for a few days in the fridge.  It doesn’t even need sugar.  The flavor is usually light. If it turns into a full-bodied ginger flavor, just add a little sugar.  It doesn’t have the bite that ginger beer does.  I bet there are lots of other ingredients that could be added to make it a fun drink.  We like to add kaffir lime leaves, spearmint or vanilla to ours.  The vanilla sugar is outstanding in it.  Ginger is really wonderful when added to rice while cooking.  Just snap off a little chunk and throw it in the pot and then remove it when it’s done cooking.  There’s no chopping involved.  One of my all time favorite ways of using ginger is to add a few large slices to a pot of broccoli and carrots while they’re steaming.  It makes the vegetables taste heavenly.  My kids love it.

edible ginger rhizome before leaves are cut away

The next time you’re at the grocery store and you find a nice piece of ginger root, buy it.  If its got a little green on it or whitish bumps around the edges, then you found a beauty.  If it’s shriveled, leave it and wait until you find a fresher one.  Bring it home and put it in a pot outside in a shady area. (They like deep shade best).  My gingers are growing mostly in full sun and I have heard this affects the flavor.  However, my ginger is so good that I haven’t deemed it necessary to move them. (Use potting soil inside the pot).  Just lay the ginger rhizome on top of the soil in the pot and water it. Don’t worry about which side is up. It will need to be watered frequently so don’t put it in a spot where you will forget about it or have trouble getting water to it.  It will grow really fast and makes a lovely plant.  It looks like a small bamboo. You will have rhizomes to harvest in just a couple of months. 

Whenever I need ginger I just walk outside with a knife and cut off a piece of fresh rhizome.  I stick the knife in the soil and cut because this doesn’t hurt the growth of the plant.  You don’t need a big pot to grow ginger,  a five gallon pot is sufficient.  Ginger likes it warm and needs the temperature to be at least 55 degrees.  Since it was such a cold winter, I dug out all my rhizomes.  I cleaned them off, diced them up small and put them in my dehydrator for 24 hours.  We’re still eating from it and have plenty left.  Last week we collected two more rhizomes at the grocery store and have put them outside in a pot.  One had a sticker that told us it was from Costa Rica and the other said Nicaragua.  We’re  hoping to find some rhizome from Jamaica and Hawaii too.  We’re going to see what the difference in flavor is between the different countries.  The rhizomes do look quite different from each other.  We’re curious if the plants will look different from each other too. 

newly planted ginger in pot

edible ginger with about 5 months growth

Come grow with us!

Seedy Starts

Posted in Seeds with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2010 by PickMeYard

Seed Catalogs

We order our seeds from seed catalogs.  The above picture shows what we receive in the mail every year.  Most seed companies have a yearly catalog they will send you.  We love these catalogs.  My son and I sit for hours and take notes of the new and exciting seeds that we want to order.  We spread them all over the rug and say, “oooh…look at this one!”  Most catalogs will give lengthy descriptions about each seed they offer and it is quite educational.  Some of these catalogs have gorgeous pictures and read more like a book than a catalog.  Our favorite seed companies are Landreths, Baker Creek, Johnny’s,  and Horizon Herbs.

We used to buy our little vegetable plants at the big hardware stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s.  It was easy, but expensive. I learned quickly that it is much better to grow your plants from seed. It definitely makes the extra effort worth it.  Also, there is a ton of controversy over genetically modified food (GMO’s) and growing from seed allows you to control what you grow…and eat.  If you save the seeds from the foods you grow then you have even more control. Saving your own seeds is easy and fun and everybody should do it. 

I highly recommend the documentary Food Inc. .  Our future depends on these issues and how they’re handled.  For someone who is new to gardening and just trying to get something started, I do recommend buying the small plants from Home Depot or Lowe’s.  If you keep them in full sun and water them, you will be bitten by the gardening bug.  It won’t be long before you are ordering and saving your own seeds too.

A great way to store your seeds is in an air tight container.  Ideally, they should be in an environment that has 50% humidity and at 50 degrees.  That can be tough to accomplish.  It’s important that they be kept dry and in a place where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too much.  The cooler it is, the better.  Most seeds are viable for up to 3 years and some up to 10 years if stored correctly. 

One of my favorite authors, Steve Solomon, has a great idea for keeping his seeds stored.  He bought a pound of silica gel desiccant crystals (inexpensive) from a craft store and keeps them in a cloth sachet in the seed storage container.  The crystals are dark blue when they are dry and pink when they have soaked up all the moisture they can hold.

They can be reactivated by heating them in an oven at 212 degrees on a cookie sheet.  Don’t heat them any hotter than this.  They must be put into an airtight container after they have cooled for a little while. This is an important step so they don’t soak up moisture while they’re cooling off completely. You can do this reactivation as many times as necessary.  I bet these silica sachets would be great in the back of a humid closet as well.

Empty eggshells for planting seeds with labels

When I cook eggs I use a knife and lightly tap the top off the egg. After I cook the egg, I always rinse the inside out and I poke a hole in the bottom of the shell.  I let them dry in a bowl with a paper towel underneath to soak up the extra moisture.  When we plant the seeds in the eggshells we put the empty shells back into an egg carton.  When it’s time to put the seedling in the ground, we gently break off the bottom of the shell.  It helps to lightly crush the edges of the shell too.  It stays intact long enough to get it into the ground without disturbing our seedling and provides calcium to the young plant.

This week we planted some pumpkin seeds from Jamaica, pigeon peas from Echo, Hawaiian sunrise papaya, melocoton  cassabanana, garden berry naranjillo, Pandora striped rose eggplant,  jelly melon kiwano,  strawberry husk ground cherry, extra long dancer snake melon,  two types of bitter melon,  several unique eggplant varieties, Malabar spinach,  jicama (yam bean), New Zealand spinach, winged bean and two types of tomatillos. 

Summer in Southwest Florida can be extremely hot and humid.  Most vegetables and herbs the rest of the country are growing in the summer won’t grow in  south Florida during this time.  So, during the summer we grow lots of tropicals.

Seed packets

Come grow with us! 


A Clever Garden Tag

Posted in Butterflies with tags , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2010 by PickMeYard

My husband left a sweet little present on the counter for us.  He knew that we have been pondering over what to use in our butterfly garden as tags to remind us what plants we are seeing. We had envisioned lovely Disney-esque signs in front of all our butterfly plants.  The reality of this was proving to be rather expensive and time-consuming.  We needed a lot

He  found these double face “write-on” aluminum tags that come with 6″ aluminum wires.  You just write on them with a ball point pen and they’re good forever.  Both sides can be written upon.  Our tags are small, but they can be ordered in several larger sizes. If you are interested in trying them too, I would recommend ordering from a company named  USA BlueBook .  You can buy a box of 100 aluminum tags for $17.78.  We order from USA BlueBook  frequently for industrial stuff.  They ship fast and always include lollipops with the order.  My kids love this company. 

We’re going to have a good time writing all of our plant descriptions on these tags.  Grayson can’t wait. We’ll let three-year old Loring help too.  Since we have plenty to work with, we’ll probably label everything in sight… until we run out of tags. 

We’re working hard on finishing our butterfly garden.  Even the neighbors are helping.  I’ll post some pictures when it is planted, mulched, and tagged.  Actually, we’ll continue to add to it. It will never be finished.

The caterpillars came out of their chyrsalides today in their butterfly habitat (soda bottle) that we made for them last week.  Beautiful monarch butterflies emerged.  We watched them come out and we were so excited.  It was a sight to behold!  We took them outside and let them go on some scarlet milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) that we have growing right outside our windows.  The butterflies flew around the garden all day and never left.  They jumped from flower to flower.  Loring refers to them as mariposa’s (spanish for butterfly). 

Monarch butterfly chrysalis after the butterfly emerges

Monarch letting his wings dry on Grayson's hand

Monarch flying around its new home.

Butterflies are territorial and each species will have their own host and nectar plant that is necessary for survival.  The host plant is where they find a mate and  lay their eggs as caterpillars.  The nectar plant is where they fuel up on nectar after they have completed metamorphosis and have become a butterfly.  They can fly great distances.  The monarch is a year-round resident in south Florida, but is migratory in the rest of the continent.  The monarch in the picture above stayed around all day.  The scarlet milkweed (pictured above) serves as both the host and nectar plant for the monarch butterfly.  There is a good chance this one will complete its life cycle in our garden.  We have scarlet milkweed growing all over our yard.  The University of Florida  has a website that lists the regions of Florida and which butterflies and plants are best for each region.  Butterflies visit cities too and would be attracted to a butterfly garden in containers.

There are so many interesting plants growing in our yard and many of them need attention, but we’re really grooving on our butterflies.  We did plant some really awesome and unusual fruit and vegetable seeds today though.  We can’t wait to tell you what we’re planting now.

Come grow with us!

It’s a Miracle

Posted in Trees with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2010 by PickMeYard

Moringa is the miracle.  It’s called “the miracle tree”.   The scientific name is Moringa oleifera.

It’s not called the miracle tree because it is easy to grow, although it is easy to grow.  It’s drought resistant and grows in poor soils.  Moringa is a miracle tree because it’s being used to fight hunger.  The leaves are edible and extremely nutritious.  It is used to feed starving children and infants in undeveloped nations.  Moringa is also used as a medicine to treat AIDS/HIV (in Africa), diabetes, high blood pressure, stomach pains, the common cold, skin infections, cuts, wounds, rheumatism, and insect bites.  (Pharmaceuticals are not readily available in undeveloped nations.)

In agriculture, it is used to feed livestock and provide fertilizer.  It’s also used as a hedge.  The seeds can be used to purify water.  An oil extracted from Moringa can be used for cooking that is  as nutritious as olive oil.  The  roots and flowers can be eaten as well. Do you see why it’s called the miracle tree? No other word  better describes this tree. Truly a miracle of nature. Amazing.

This is  a small moringa tree growing in our yard.  Moringa is mainly grown for its leaves.  The more a moringa tree is trimmed and cut back, the more leaves it produces.  It will grow into a large tree, but it is best kept trimmed as a small hedge so the leaves can be easily harvested. The leaves contain 7 times the vitamin C of oranges, 4 times the calcium of milk, 3 times the potassium of bananas, 2 times the protein of yogurt, 4 times the vitamin A of carrots and 3/4 the iron of spinach

When the moringa leaves are dried and powdered, they contain 1/2 the vitamin C of oranges, 17 times the calcium of milk, 15 times the potassium of bananas, 9 times the protein of yogurt and 25 times the vitamin A of carrots.  It has almost the same amount of protein as an egg.  I read  this information on a website called Trees for life where there is a ton of information about moringa.

This picture is the  same tree in our yard as the picture above it. This is after 8 months of growth and several hard freezes in our zone 9b.  It looks taller in the picture than it really is.  I need to cut it back down to size which is easy to do.  It has sprouts up and down the tree.  The four other moringa trees that we planted froze to the ground.  However, it looks like the stumps are trying to sprout and might survive after all.  The tree produces seed pods that contain about 10-20 seeds.  They can be dried and stored or cooked fresh, like peas.

The leaves are mostly used when they are dried and powdered, but they can be eaten fresh.  I wouldn’t describe them as delicious or more-ish (you know, when you want more and more of whatever you are eating), but I would eat them if it became necessary.  I feel the same way about our chickens, ducks and pigeons. 

In southern Ethiopia, many families have a Moringa stenopetala  tree in their garden.  They cook the leaves the same way they cook a vegetable.   It is considered a status symbol there to have one of these trees.  The Moringa oleifera has smaller leaves than the latter, but they are both highly nutritious.

This is definitely my favorite way to eat moringa…as a jelly.  The taste is delicious.  I usually make a tea with the powdered moringa leaves that I purchased from Echo’s bookstore.   They also sell the nutritious powder in a convenient spice container so it can easily be sprinkled on your food for an extra vitamin and amino acid boost.  It is supposed to help memory and concentration too.  The dried powder can be ordered at, as well as many other moringa products.  The literature says it is really good for children, but my kids crinkle their noses and run.  The powder has an earthy, green flavor.  It’s hard to describe. 

When the tree is about 8 months old, it begins to flower and flowers year-round.  The bees love it.  The flowers are edible and can be fried or used for tea.  In Haitian folk medicine, the flowers are used to treat the common cold.  They boil the flowers and steep them for five minutes and drink with sugar.  Many other countries, including India, have tons of folk remedies for the moringa, especially the bark of the tree.  However, the bark is toxic and should be avoided. 

To top it all off, the trees are beautiful. We love that we are able to grow them in our yard.  For more background reading on moringa, try “The Moringa News Network“.  They constantly revise and add to their site.  Another interesting site is anamed, a charitable organization dedicated to saving lives in the poorest of nations. 

Come grow with us!

The Elegant Vanilla Orchid

Posted in Edible Orchids with tags , , , , , , , on March 12, 2010 by PickMeYard

The delicious vanilla flavor that we all love so much comes from an orchid.  This is the sensational and noble vanilla orchid.

The vanilla orchid grows in warmer, tropical climates.  I have quite a few of them growing around my house in zone 9b.  However, we had several nights of low 20 degrees fahrenheit temperatures this year and my vanilla orchids are unscathed.  They have protection from the overhang of the house because they are growing on the house, so that must have helped.  I didn’t try to cover them or put lights on them.  I figured they would survive, or they wouldn’t.

This is a vanilla orchid growing on my house.  It is not invasive and is slow-growing.  I wouldn’t mind if it was invasive.  This particular plant was growing beautifully on this section of wall but I had to remove it to paint the house.  I started it again with a small cutting and it’s growing again. 

The vanilla orchid grows a beautiful flower that turns into a fruit.  Some call it a vanilla pod or vanilla bean, but it is actually a fruit.  When the vanilla bean is sliced down the middle with a knife it exposes thousands of tiny vanilla seeds.  The aroma of this is intoxicating.  So yummy!  There are endless ways to use these seeds in your food.  I like to scrape the sticky seeds out with a knife and add them to a large jar of sugar.  As the seeds dry out in the sugar, they lose their stickiness and mix better.  They dry fast.  We use the sugar in coffee, cereal, tomato sauce, lemonade, and well…everything.

Here’s the bad news…it is unlikely that you would ever get your vanilla orchid to produce a fruit.  However, it can be done.  The vanilla orchid (Vanilla planifolia) is native to Mexico and it only blooms one morning of the year for pollination.  It can only be pollinated in nature by one insect… the extremely tiny melipona bee  that is native to Mexico.  This tiny bee knows exactly what to do.  Cortez carried the vanilla vine from Mexico to Europe.  They were unsuccessful in getting a vanilla bean from it in Europe  for 300 years.  A twelve-year-old, French-owned slave discovered the flower could be hand pollinated in 1841.

Some of the world’s best vanilla comes from Mexico, Madagascar, Tahiti, and the West Indies.  Each country has vanilla that has its own unique flavor.  It takes a vanilla connoisseur to be able to tell the difference.  I love collecting the beans from different countries to see if I can distinguish the difference in taste and aroma.  Vanilla beans can be ordered off the internet and usually bought in your local grocery store.  The Vanilla Company has tons of information about vanilla on their website and plenty to order.  To store them, they should be wrapped in wax paper and stored in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

Vanilla beans are expensive.  Never throw a vanilla bean away.  After you scrape out the seeds, add the bean to a jar of  anything you want infused with a vanilla flavor.  You can even put the ends of the bean that are cut off into a jar.   After I scrape out the seeds, I add mine to a small jar of vodka.  It can marinate that way for years and you will always have a homemade supply of vanilla extract.  Sometimes I add the vanilla bean to a container of nuts, such as cashew or macadamia.  There are millions of ways to use a vanilla bean. 

I found an interesting fact on vanilla in Jamaica.  It grows beautifully there and it is all exported.  Apparently they are setting aside some land to grow it for the local Jamaican market as well.  The next time I am in Jamaica I plan on seeking out the Elan Vanilla Farm in the Canewood District and begging for a glimpse.

For now, we will just enjoy our vanilla orchid as a beautiful orchid growing on our house.  It is the only plant my husband will allow to grow on our house, so it must be special.

Come grow with us!

Don’t Worry, Bee Happy

Posted in Bees & Hummingbirds with tags , , , , on March 11, 2010 by PickMeYard


Grayson and I took a beekeeping class at the Lee County agricultural extension office last summer.  As a result, we have become avid backyard beekeepers.  The picture above is Grayson with an Apis mellifera (honeybee) on his thumb. 


We have two boxes of honeybees and we absolutely adore them.  We tend to their needs and we do our best to protect them from harm.  Florida has become a difficult place to keep bees alive.  Florida’s beekeeping rules are different from the rest of the country.  I am eagerly waiting for somebody to write the book on Florida beekeeping.  There is so much to discuss when it comes to bees and their keeping.  I couldn’t do it in one post.  But I will write about our bees frequently as we  desperately try to keep our bees alive. 


 Our bee boxes on stands. 

We lost an entire box of  bees several days ago.  I believe they were poisoned while out working for the day.  There were dead bees everywhere.  We are very, very sad about the entire event.  I’ve heard people say they were sad when they lost their bees, but I didn’t truly understand the emotion until it happened to us.  It’s becoming difficult to keep bees alive if you live near a golf course or a citrus grove.  The poisons get them eventually.  Are you now wondering what those poisons are doing to us?  Me too.  Our other box of bees are lethargic and barely hanging in there.  We’re feeding them sugar-water prepared a special way for feeding bees and saying a prayer for them. 


This is one of our girls on our lime blossoms.  Our garden has been buzzzzing with activity.  These worker bees are out collecting pollen, nectar, water and propolis.  Propolis has wonderful antimicrobial properties.  Bees use it to sterilize the hive and fill in cracks. 


During the bees active season, a colony usually has one queen, several hundred drones (males), and many thousands of workers (females).  In the above picture, the queen is marked with a green dot.  This is an international queen color code to determine her age.  She is also marked so that she is easy to spot when tending the bees.  The color green indicates that she is a queen from a year ending with a 4 or 9.  Each year has a different color.  The queen can still be spotted without a colored dot on her as  she is larger than the other bees. 

My colony, in the above picture, is not doing well.  If they were, you would see capped brood in the picture.   The term brood is used to refer to the embryo or egg, the larva and the pupa stages in the life of holometabolous insects. The brood of honeybees develops within a bee hive box.  

some capped brood cells here

If all goes well, this is the honey harvest you can expect at the end of the season.  Most backyard beekeepers get much, much more than this.  


This is a local honey stand, at the end of the beekeeper’s driveway, that is not far from us.  


We bought our honey here for years before we became beekeepers.  They use the honor system.  You choose your honey and put the proper amount into the money slot. 

Unfortunately, for the first time in history, beekeepers everywhere are giving up… at an alarming rate .  They are not able to keep their bees alive.  Since beekeeping is not our livelihood and only a backyard hobby for us, we will not give up…yet. 

Come grow with us!

Our Girls, Part I

Posted in Chickens with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2010 by PickMeYard

We have eight hens.  No roosters.  Roosters are lovely and they help keep their girls safe.  They find bugs and then call out to their girls to come and get it.  They warn everybody when there is danger.  We don’t need a rooster though and it wouldn’t work for us here on our “somewhat urban” property.  They are too noisy for our neighbors and you don’t need a rooster to have fresh eggs every day.  You do need a rooster to have fertilized eggs that will provide baby chickens.  If we lived on a farm we would have baby chickens and roosters running everywhere.  Since we don’t, we will limit ourselves to our eight hens.  Eight hens provides us with more than enough fresh eggs for ourselves and neighbors.  The Polish chicken in the picture above seems to be in every picture because she demands to be picked up and cuddled. 

This is our chicken tractor.  This is how we keep our girls out of the garden when we don’t want them “helping”.  The top opens up for gathering eggs every day.  It has several windows that can be opened for ventilation or locked shut.  It has wheels so that the coop can be moved around the yard.  We move it about every two weeks or so.

 The grass looks dead under the trampoline.  After a few rains, the dead grass spot becomes greener than the rest. The trampoline has chicken wire around the bottom of it so the chickens can forage during the day and stay safe.  We have a five gallon bucket between the trampoline and the chicken tractor that the girls use as a tunnel to get from one side to the other.  To close off the trampoline, we put the top on the bucket.  (We bought a bucket that came with a top). 

The chicken tractor has wire on the sides and bottom.  It is predator proof.  The trampoline is not, so we lock up the girls in the coop at night.  Chickens will put themselves to bed, they just need help closing the door.  They have a nice view of the Intracoastal Waterway.  I have a string of white Christmas lights on the outside.  They’re solar lights so they move easily with the tractor. We have happy chickens.  Our eggs are the best in the world! 

Everybody should be so lucky to have a job they love.  Grayson is the sole caretaker of the chickens.  He takes pride in his job and he gets paid $1.00 a day.   When his friends come over they enjoy playing with the chickens.  The chickens love it too.

I called our local zoning department to get permission before we got our chickens. We live in the country, but for some strange reason the zoning department couldn’t give me a definite “yes or no” answer. The neighbors weren’t sure if they wanted us to have chickens.  The calls to the zoning department went back and forth.  Finally, a woman from zoning  told me to just do it.  She said, “nobody’s gonna come take away your pet chickens”.  I love this town. 

The girls have toys in their coop.  They play with them daily.  My absolute favorite website for checking out other people’s clever chicken house ideas is  Even if you don’t have chickens, it’s fun looking at the pictures. The pictures on this chicken tractor gallery site are great for inspiration too. Did you know it is your right to be able to keep chickens in New York City?  The blog, Urban Chickens, is a great site to learn more about chicken ordinances. 

We have lots of eggs to share with the neighbors.  Although they may have been skeptical at first, I believe they like our chickens.  They really like them.  When the egg production slowed down, one neighbor suggested we play some nice music.  Not a bad idea.  Once you have a steady supply of fresh eggs, you’ll do anything to keep them.

Come grow with us!

A Box of Treasure

Posted in Seeds with tags , , , , , on March 8, 2010 by PickMeYard

We decided to organize our seeds.  We have quite a collection.  They’re mostly seeds collected from this year and a few from last year.  My son gets really excited when we run into seeds for sale so I always buy him a packet or two…or ten.  Grayson likes to keep his own collection of seeds, separate from mine.  He keeps his in a bin with a handle so he can easily carry the seeds outside.  I keep my seeds in the house in a wooden wine box.

We have been collecting seeds and we wanted to keep them in something interesting.  We’ve been using plastic baggies to store our seeds but I think it’s better to keep them in paper so they are ventilated, (away from light and moisture).  I found a wonderful template in a Fine Gardening magazine called, “Starting from Seed”. 

It’s a template to make your own seed packets.  It’s so easy an eight year old can do it.  We printed out the template onto different colored construction paper.  We cut it out, folded the edges on the dotted line and glued it shut with Elmer’s glue.  I used a q-tip to put the Elmer’s glue on the edges.  I taped the top closed so it would be easier to get it open once the packet is filled with the seeds.  We made extra so we’d have empty packets ready for seeds we collect.  Sure enough, right after we’d finished our project we found some Scarlett milkweed with pods bursting open with seeds.  Those seeds went straight into a packet.  You can download the template for the seed packets from the fine gardening website.  has many other fabulous and clever ideas.

Grayson calls this his box of treasure.  He’s decided he’s going to start a business from this project…collecting and selling seeds.  He said he would share with friends and family.  He’s collected Jamaican pumpkin seeds, white lotus, lemon grass, Indian pepper bush, a fuscia vegetable amaranth, a native Florida necklace pod, Scarlett Milkweed, and Surinam cherry.  Surinam cherry has just been listed on the invasive species list, but that is another post.  I have tons of information I want to share about the Surinam Cherry.

Come grow with us!

A Berry Berry Good Lunch

Posted in Fruits of our labor with tags , , , , on March 7, 2010 by PickMeYard

Fresh from the garden today

This was lunch today.  We took the picture and then devoured them on the spot. Grayson said he feels sorry for people who can’t grow these. Made me laugh. They are so darn good. They have a really sweet wild berry flavor.  


We planted a hundred little “Sweet Charlie” strawberry plants on November 6, 2009.  We ordered the tiny plants from Willis Orchard Company. We’ve had several huge strawberry harvests over the last couple of months.  The berries just keep on coming and the plants are lovely.

I was skeptical about planting strawberries because I have always been told that growing strawberries in Southwest Florida is difficult.   There was nothing hard about it.  I planted them in the ground and they grew…and grew.  The bees have been all over them. 

 Come grow with us!