Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How to Start Your Own Garden and How I got Started…



Since getting certified in Permaculture design through my instructor Tia Silvasy, I’ve sought to apply these skills and pass them onto others. I believe that no one is born with a green thumb, but it is something that is developed. Anyone can become a gardener if they catch the “gardening bug.” I caught it when I was 14 (Now I’m 20 if you are wondering). My first gardening experience was, well, a flop. It also was a bit impulsive. I remember being in Home Depot and asking if I could buy a packet of tomato seeds. I planted my tomato seeds too late so by the time they were getting tomatoes it was starting to frost. At that point in time, I was gardening in Florida, but still I kept having to wheel them in and out. Those plants caused me more anxiety then they were worth. The leaves curled up and then they got some kind of blight. Oh, and they got leaf miners which resulted in white squiggly lines on the leaves. We ended up eating a lot of fried green tomatoes!

My strong-willed nature would not allow me to give up so I switched to butterfly gardening. Thus began my gardening adventure that continues on until this day. I did eventually conquer vegetable gardening and have expanded beyond into herbs as well as butterflies. Butterfly raising is one of my main focuses.

Permaculture is defined as “The development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.”

Elizabeth continues to get tomatoes from her “late” season tomato plants

It was 6 years ago that I started gardening. It all started out with tomatoes!


It was during Thanksgiving of 2008 that my family worked together to build a raised garden bed on wheels. My grandparents, uncle, and aunt came and helped.


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In spring of 2009, my interest in raising butterflies took off. I’ve been interested in insects since childhood. It was entirely a new experience to care for my butterflies from egg to releasing butterflies. What really got me enthusiastic was when I released 100 Monarch butterflies. My mom called all around the Orlando area in order to get me enough Milkweeds to feed them all.


By a miracle eleven Milkweeds was enough to feed them all. They ate them all to the ground and the Milkweeds still came back. It is normal for a caterpillar to consume a whole plant so feeding 100 hungry caterpillars was quite the stretch!


My first butterfly conservatory.


As my interest in butterflies expanded so did my butterfly nursery. I recycle salad containers to make butterfly nurseries.


Eventually the small plastic enclosure wasn’t enough so we purchased this enclosure meant for the beach. The down-side was that it only lasted a season because of the Florida humidity. It basically disintegrated.

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My next butterfly pavilion had a wood frame and window screening. I put my butterfly host plants in the bottom and bred butterflies in the top.


Starting to look more like a “secret garden.”


Then I outgrew the garden box and start claiming the back yard!


When the side yard in Orlando wasn’t enough… I claimed the whole backyard! Then it became a huge family effort. I got certified in Permaculture Design and Family Herbal Medicine to increase my training and experience.



My Garden in Raleigh, NC


Sadly, I had to leave my giant garden in Orlando behind, but as you will see below, I gained something far better! While we were deciding on what our permanent home site would be, we rented a home in Raleigh. So for one year which was 2013, I was confined to 2 raised beds and a strip in the side yard.

My current garden in Wake Forest, NC


My new fenced in garden is 60 x 20 ft.! For the vegetables, I have 5 rows that are almost 45 feet long. The other side (pictured below) has herbs, flowers, and will have a row of sunflowers. It is partially in the dream stage, but definitely off to a great start.



Most recent picture of me in my garden.


The two raised beds we had in Raleigh have a new home in Wake Forest, NC.


My mom has a flower garden near the home. I also have a huge area that will be my butterfly garden. It is clay soil so it will take time to develop. We also have a fruit orchard. This is just the beginning!

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To support my work, you can purchase my butterfly book and learn how to raise butterflies, create a butterfly nursery, learn about 10 butterfly life cycles, and butterfly garden tours I’ve been on. https://www.createspace.com/4083202

Special thanks to my parents who have supported me every step of the way, my instructor Tia Silvasy who trained me in Permaculture Design , Emily Ruff who certified me in herbal medicine, and most importantly Jesus who has watched over me and helped me get to where I am today.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Garden at SHAPE Eco Farm Begins



Now that we are all moved into our home in Wake Forest, we have now begun to focus our efforts on the garden. Setting up a fence was a must because of the deer that reside on our property as well as the bumble bee eating cat and the rabbits that would have a feast. The fence posts are 10 feet tall and buried 2 1/2 feet into the ground. It took a total of 12 fence posts to construct the fence as well as deer proof netting that we secured to the fence posts. To keep the critters out, we bought chicken  wire that is 2 ft. x 50 ft. and cut it in half so it would be 1 ft. and cover a grand total of 10 ft. Mesh hardware cloth would have been ideal except it is pricey. Our chose was the more economical one.

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This is what we used to go along the bottom of the fence netting.


Digging the holes for the fence posts was an entirely different story. It took both my dad and boyfriend to get the task done. Dad tried it solo, but the electric post hole digger had a mind of its own. Upon hitting a root it took off out of the hole and starting spinning dad around with it. The machine also lost 6 screws along the way and the gas tank fell off. It finally conked out and resulted in finishing the last stretch with the old-fashioned do it yourself post hole digger. 

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We decided upon certified compost and had it trucked in.

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There is enough dirt for the vegetable garden and flower garden.

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Dad helped me get the compost onto the rows.

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I spent April 5th shoveling and raking out rows so we could put the compost on top. I have 5 rows that are each about 40 feet. The other side of my garden is for herbs and flowers. My future blog entries will show that side. For today the focus is on the vegetable garden.


I planted the first row with tomatoes and eggplant. I planted peppermint as a companion plant to keep away the cabbage white butterfly that eats vegetables. The down side is that tonight is supposed to be a low of 33 degrees! The weather is not on my side this year. Can someone tell the weather that it is April 15? Thank goodness for frost blankets. I’ll keep everyone updated after a long break I took from blogging. Things have been busy and now I have plenty of post worthy blog material.