Over the past couple of months, I have been working and reworking my garden. It has been a challenge and a joy all wrapped in one. Starting out, I just wanted to grow some vegetables. That turned into growing everything organically, which blossomed in a full back yard rejuvenation.
There have been numerous set-backs along the way. I’ve started from seed twice and lost too many seedlings to count. Some have made it to the garden, only to shrivel up and die. Others sat for months, neglected, as I thought they were goners, only to come back to life. In some areas, I decided on a new path (flowers anyone).
I have been simultaneously attempting a vegetable garden, butterfly garden, worm farm, and shade garden. A lot has been learned, so I thought I would share an update.
Happy little buggers they are! I moved the worm bin to the shade garden. It was on the patio and they were not happy. Even though they were in the shade, the temperatures were soaring, they were slow to eat, and I had thought I lost them all. I sorted through all the compost, salvaged any worms that were left, cleaned out anything gross or unwelcome, rebuild their habitat with new organic matter and old peat pots, and gave them some time to adjust. They seemed much healthier and were eating again. I purchased another round of red worms and monitored the temperature and moisture daily.
It was still too hot. They were also gathering on the catch pan for the drain (I’m guessing because it was cool and wet) so I created two layers. The bottom layer was lined with cheese cloth and filled with organic matter (no food). The second layer started as a feeding bin, and later was promoted (as the temperature outside started to rise) as a second organic layer. The third layer is simply a feeding bin. It has a very small dusting of soil and leaves, covered on top with ripped up peat pots.
I have found that the worms stay low in the bin and come up to feed. The bottom layers stay moist and cool, keeping the worms happy, eating, and seemingly reproducing. The peat pots covering the food allow air to circulate and hold moisture well. The worms seem to enjoy meandering among the pots while eating, and traveling up and down through the bin.
The vegetables are a continual work in progress. Never in my life could I have fathomed the number of issues that can arise trying to garden organically in South Florida. I’m amazed, yet determined.
Sun is a continual issue, although now that the days are getting longer and it is warming up outside, everything seems to be doing better. I’ve managed some potatoes and just harvested my first round of lettuce today. Peppers were struggling, but are perking up as well and there are several baby peppers hanging on both plants that were purchased.
Everything that was from seed is in slow motion. I have several pepper plants that are trying to get past the six inch mark, but they are getting more leaves even if it is taking a while. The herbs have been moved and moved again to find a place where they are happier. They didn’t take well to the hanging planter as it was too dry and didn’t allow them to spread out. On a positive note, they are all still alive and slowly growing.
What is growing and blossoming is under the constant attack of caterpillars and aphids. It has become my nightly ritual to go out caterpillar hunting at night. I spray the plants once or twice a week with neem oil, handpick invaders, and give them a soap wash every few weeks. It is an ongoing mission, but it’s kind of fun in its own right.
The tomatoes that I gave up on are now actual plants! Some even have blossoms. This is definitely cause for celebration.
My beans and melons, on the other hand, didn’t make it. They were beautiful seedlings, but the transfer was too hard on them as the soil skyrocketed on the pH scale. I put a lot of time and energy into creating a healthy plant environment and, if you read my prior posts, struggled with some bad soil. Sadly, I have found that our water is also very alkaline. So, in trying to give the garden the water it needs, I stripped it of the nutrients and created a hostile plant environment that was too much for some plants. Mix that with sunshine that is lower on the spectrum, and it is not a great outcome.
So, I’m working to correct the soil, but that takes time. I’m also working on a system to collect rain water for the future (gardening is becoming a very expensive hobby).
In the meantime….
Butterfly Garden, Flowers, and Shade Garden
I tired of looking at an empty garden bed and a dull back yard. Dead plants are depressing. So, I decided to go with a change of pace.
I’ve dedicated two beds to a butterfly garden, added potted plants and bulbs to the landscape, and started working on the an old garden bed that is in full shade now.
Things are coming together and the back yard is becoming a place of beauty and enjoyment. I found my first monarch caterpillar last night and found three babies this morning. These are caterpillars that I welcome with joy!
Don’t give up. These gardening adventures started over four months ago. Everything has, obviously, not gone as planned, but I keep learning and adjusting. I have no doubt that by the time fall rolls around, I will have a beautiful garden, full of both edible and decorative plants. Although I have “failed” in a number of ways, the process has not been a failure in the least.