My goal is to grow and harvest as many fruits and vegetables as I can without using any chemical assistance. Living in a Southwest Florida Subtropical environment, you soon learn why chemicals have been so widely embraced – weeds threaten to take over the world, destructive bugs live all year round, and it is so humid that molds and funguses are all too common. But, I was not interested in doing that kind of battle, I wanted to figure out how to work WITH Mother Nature and employ her assistance in my gardening.
My journey started off small, with a little bin of earthworms and a few flowers to try to attract pollinators – and now I have a nice little support team that keeps the garden healthy and productive, and most importantly, chemical free.
Bird Houses & Bird Feeders
People ask me what my secret ingredient to organic gardening and keeping my yard pest-free is and I always say hands-down, the BIRDS! On a regular basis I see birds swooping through my veggie patch and no, I never get alarmed. They will not peck my treasured tomatoes, nor nibble my strawberries or any other sweet treats growing there, they are in fact, doing insect pest control for me!
Likewise, when I see birds in and out of my fruit tree orchard I rejoice. After all, I have invited them there! I have bird houses, bird feeders, bird baths AND native plants all placed strategically so that birds will want to visit my garden daily. Purchasing a couple bags of bird feed monthly is FAR cheaper than any chemical fertilizers I have ever seen! But I have found that I am not the norm in this idea. Most people concentrate so hard on ridding their edible gardens of this wildlife; they put up pie plates, bird netting, Mylar balloons and ribbons, etc.
But, here’s a piece of information that can bring birds off your “unwanted” list and hopefully be placed instead on top of your “V.I.P.” list: most birds don’t eat your garden produce. Many birds feed almost exclusively on insects, especially during the spring and summer. During these months, while your garden is in full swing, many birds are busy rearing their young. That means that they need lots of protein to feed themselves and their growing families. They get the nutrition that they need from insects. In fact, some of their favorite insects: beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, grubs and aphids are among the most destructive insect pests in your garden.
The bonus to having birds in your yard every day is the BEAUTIFUL music they bring – I am sitting here listening to them as I type this – pure serenity and peacefulness!
Yes, I also invite bats into my yard! No, we do not live in an area where there are vampire bats, those creatures depicted in horror movies that intend us evil by sucking our blood. Nor are they going to swoop down and get entangled in your hair – they are not interested in hunting YOU – the bats in our backyards are insectivorous, and they are looking for mosquitoes. In fact, they are capable of polishing off hordes of mosquitoes every night so it makes terrific sense to let them do their thing, even to encourage it! I have 2 bat houses so far, and am looking to add more soon.
Bee Hives & Butterfly Plants
If you ask most people what should you do to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables your plants produce, you will likely get the answer, “add fertilizer”. But if you ask me, my answer is going to be, “add a Butterfly Garden and/or a Bee Hive”. Pollinators, simply by visiting your plants and helping to pollinate them, can increase your harvest by a whopping 70%!
Butterflies add beauty and are always welcome, but bees sometime have to have a “letter of recommendation” to be welcome in the garden. A bee is not looking to sting you, a bee only stings you if they feel you are threatening their honey supply; usually they are very content on avoiding you and just going about their business of making their rounds to the plants and flowers in your garden. But without them, such things as: apples, berries, carrots, cherries, pears, plums, cucumber, onions, peach, plum, and squashes will not produce in your yard!
The bonus of having a butterfly garden is obvious – instant beauty. The bonus of a bee hive is not only crop production they provide, but the harvest they offer as well – RAW, UNFILTERED HONEY – one of the healthiest foods on earth!
Are you looking for great natural and organic fertilizer? Then you need to get some Earthworms!!
Using worms, or “vermiculture composting” is the process of using worms to decompose your yard and food waste into a natural fertilizer called worm poop or worm castings. Worm castings adds beneficial organisms, nutrients and minerals to the soil that sustain healthy plant life and vital plant growth. Your plants will grow stronger and have deeper root systems for better drought tolerance and disease resistance.
There is no smell, no noise and they are an organic gardener’s best friend!
Anyone who comes to my yard sees that I have a “Rabbitry”. This is, by definition, a collection of rabbits. At present, I have Flopsy, Benjamin and Edison in my Rabbitry. I do not raise them for meat, instead, I raise them for their “Bunny Berries”. If you haven’t guessed what those are, they are the little pellets they make when they go potty. Sounds so much more gentile than “manure”.
Rabbit manure is one of the best manures for your organic gardens! It is packed with nitrogen (higher in nitrogen than sheep, goat, pig, chicken, cow or horse manure), phosphorus, potassium, and many minerals, lots of micro-nutrients, plus many other beneficial trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, boron, zinc, manganese, sulfur, copper, and cobalt just to name a few. A couple of bunnies will produce over one ton of manure in a year!
Rabbit manure is dry and odorless and is one of the few fertilizers that will not burn your plants when added directly to the garden and can be safely used on food plants. The minute you add a bunny to your backyard homestead is the time you can start using this great “super fertilizer”. Grab a handful from under the hutch and use it as is and work it into the topsoil or throw it into a little pile to be used later – there is never a need to bake, turn or age it.
I have never had so much fun as I am having raising my little backyard chicken flock!
I started by wanting my own organic eggs, now I get those daily AND have 10 backyard garden assistants. Who knew that by turning them loose to free range in my yard, that my chickens would be great fertilizers for my fruit trees, be great pest eliminators (they eat spiders, frogs, grasshoppers, termites, slugs, fleas, scorpions, and ants!) and help me keep weeds under control too!
Because I do not want to compost my kitchen scraps outdoors (I live in an urban setting and do not want to encourage raccoons and rodents), I sometimes have too much to give to my earthworms. It turns out that chickens are Master Recyclers too. There is a long list of table scraps that you can feed to your chickens. It not only helps vary their diet, it also provides you hours of entertainment watching them fight and wrestle over every bite.
With so much energy and personality, it is no wonder that I have been seeing many articles and news reports about how chickens are now being used as therapy animals for people of all ages to address a wide variety of issues including dementia, Alzheimer’s, psychiatric illness, depression, and autism.
Miss Potters Place has an Urban Micro Farm right in your SWFL backyard!
Supporting the many edible, native and flowering plants are bee hives, bat houses, worm bins, a rabbitry, free range chickens, backyard quail, compost piles, and numerous rain barrels. Miss Potter’s place has evolved into not only a grand home garden, but is now a FL certified plant nursery and a working Backyard Urban Micro Farm that is registered as an agritourism destination. Miss Potter’s Place is designed to be enjoyed by its owners, but also purposes to inspire, encourage and educate others on the vast possibilities that gardening in SWFL affords.
Come Visit Miss Potters Place!
We would love to have you over! We are open to the public for Garden Tours, Harvest Market Produce, Nursery Plants & Seeds, Garden Shop Trinkets & Treasures
Hours of Operation: Please call to schedule your personalized appointment – we have spots available several days a week. 239-464-5754. We are close on rainy days and most holidays.
Come Visit Soon! Come be inspired! Come see what can be done in a backyard space!
We’re at 3747 Liberty Square, Fort Myers, FL 33908 (239) 464-5754
Call to schedule your personalized appointment – available several days a week.