My Garden Blog

Dirty Hands ~ Happy Heart

Musings from the Garden

Pollination in the Garden

Dirty Hands, Happy Heart blog ...

Pollination in the garden is vital for plant life and reproduction.

Pollination exists because one of the primary goals for all plant life is to reproduce. It is instinctual.

Pollination occurs when the pollen from the male part of one plant is transferred to the female part of another plant.

This transfer of pollen creates fertilization and once that happens, flowers appear and the fertilized flowers produce seeds. The seeds make it possible to produce more plants.

Bees are the main pollinators of plants. This is why bees are so important and we must work at protecting and saving them. “Some statistics show that Bees pollinate 80% of the world’s plants including 90 different food crops. 1 out of every 3 or 4 bites of food you eat is thanks to bees.”

Butterflies are also helpful pollinators. When butterflies are sipping nectar from a flower they pick up some of the pollen and they carry that pollen to their next destination creating pollination. Butterflies do not pollinate as well as bees because they cannot carry as much pollen, but butterflies can travel longer distances.

Birds also play a part in the process of pollination. In the same way as butterflies and bees, birds carry pollen from one plant to the next. When birds are feeding on plant nectar, some pollen will attach to their bills and then be carried off to the next plant creating fertilization. Birds also feed on seeds and sometimes drop those seeds in another location thereby assisting in the reproduction process.

There are many types of plants that attract bees and butterflies. These plants should be planted in gardens to invite and promote pollination. It is also important to choose native plants for your particular environment so that the plant can thrive without the use of chemicals. When choosing plants always choose the right plant for the climate you are in for success. The plants shown above are all native to Florida and do well here naturally.

So plant some native plants and watch the bees, butterflies and birds do their thing. You will have more plants and healthy plants.

The Art of the Vegetable

Vegetables are a necessity for a healthy balanced diet, yes that is true, but vegetables are also simply beautiful to look at.

The next time you pull a vegetable side dish from your refrigerator, take a closer look at the beauty you will be eating with your meal.

Contemplating the Tomato

Vegetables have long been admired for their vitamins, how many times while growing up do children hear from the grownups “Eat your vegetables!” But their beauty also lies in their appearance as well.

Tiny seeds are placed lovingly in soil and watered and nurtured to maturity for our pleasure and sustenance.

How Many Purple Peppers

Their beauty unfolds as the plant continues to grow.

Vegetables are nothing short of tiny miracles, each amazing plant, flower and stem producing an edible and delicious delight for our senses.

Red Peppers

So remember the next time you are getting ready to chop, sauté, boil or fry your recommended daily allowance of veggie vitamins, take a closer look and see the beauty that is the art of the vegetable.

Take care, eat your veggies and always remember to

Play in the Dirt ~

With love,


All photos © Elizabeth Faubert

The Benefits of Community Gardening

Today we are going to explore the many benefits of community gardens. From environmental to personal, community gardens sustain and nourish us.

Let’s begin with something vital for human life: oxygen.

Community gardens provide more plant life and the plants, through the process of photosynthesis, create more oxygen. This is also vital for environmental health, creating cleaner air.

Plants produce oxygen through photosynthesis. Plants take in sun and water and other nourishment and then produce oxygen.

Personal health benefits are abundant in community gardens, not just physical health but also mental health.

Community gardens provide a place to grow fresh food which is the mainstay of a healthy diet. In our busy culture, our food usually travels hundreds of miles before we have access to it. A garden gives the opportunity to have food, freshly picked, when it is the most flavorful and most nutritious for our bodies.

Harvesting fresh food at the garden.

Many studies have shown that gardening, planting and growing food (what I like to call playing in the dirt) has significant benefit to our mental health. Being outside in the fresh air, feeling and smelling the soil and plant life awakens our senses. The fresh air gives our bodies more oxygen which produces a relaxation response.

It also can help relieve depression through a series of chemical reactions between the soil and our bodies.

Check out this information from the website”Getting your hands dirty in the garden can increase your serotonin levels – contact with soil and a specific soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of serotonin in our brain according to research. Serotonin is a happy chemical, a natural anti-depressant and strengthens the immune system.”

The word community is also vital. Community gardens bring people together in a healthy way. Members can be together outside, sharing common interests and helping one another.

Working in the garden gives a respite from technology which is so pervasive now. When you have your hands in the soil it’s hard to also hold a phone. Gardening is a break from computers.

Community garden members can share not only food but also information, helpful tips and experiences to foster a sense of unity.

Education workshops are also generally provided through community gardens so people can learn how to grow food successfully and be more self sustaining.

Education workshop on gardening at the Dunedin Public Library.

Community gardens also provide a location for composting which helps decrease food waste. When we just throw food waste in the garbage it produces more harmful gases, but when we compost food scraps they become nourishment for plants. I am going to delve deeper into composting in my next blog.

Community gardens also provide an opportunity to bring the whole community together, not just the garden members, by hosting plant sales. This way people who might not have the time or interest in gardening themselves can still be part of the movement. Community gardens have expenses, and fundraisers like plant sales or picnics can foster a larger circle of friends and supporters.

Please visit your local community garden and enjoy the beauty (don’t pick the produce). There are usually volunteer opportunities available or you can make a donation.

Community gardens benefit the entire community.

Royal Burgundy Bush Beans

Summer is a great time to plant beans and these Royal Burgundy Bush Beans are colorful and tasty.

Royal Burgundy Bush Beans are a beautiful addition to your garden.

The hot Florida weather is upon us and keeping our gardens growing can be challenging. In my last blog I talked about summer crops and focused on Sweet Potatoes. This time we will look at a bean that can be planted in the month of May: the Royal Burgundy Bush Bean is a gorgeous plant and also tastes good.

The seeds can be purchased at most garden shops so they are easy to find. I recommend starting your seeds indoors in containers and then transplanting them when they are established at about 5 to 6 inches high. These seeds sprout quickly and will pop up before you know it, approximately 2-5 days. I planted mine in soil blocks, (see photo below) and I will also be posting a blog about soil blocks soon.

Royal Burgundy Bush Beans sprouting up from soil blocks.

These beans are called “bush” beans because they grow as a bush. This differentiates them from a “climbing” bean. When a bean is a bush variety that means you do not have to give it a support to climb. It can support itself. When you plant a climbing bean you need to give it a fence to climb or some other type of support, or a place to travel.

When the beans have grown high enough you can now transplant them to your garden bed so they have more soil and space to grow big and flourish. Be sure to keep the soil wet for new plants and add amendments as needed, every week or so, such as compost or organic fertilizer.

Bean seed opens to sprout a new plant.

This is a good height for transplanting. The plant is strong enough to withstand rain now.

You will see the bean begin to grow and see the beautiful purple color. When the bean looks mature, about 5 inches long, it is time to harvest. Look carefully at each bean because they all might not be ready at the same time. Leave small ones on the bush to continue growing.

As the plant grows you begin to see the purple flower from which the bean emerges.

As the bean grows it shows that rich burgundy color for which it is named. This one is still small and not ready for harvest yet.

These beans are ready to harvest.

After harvesting these beans can be eaten raw or cooked. I like mine raw but I also steam some of them to have with dinner as a side dish.

These beans can go from seed to harvest in only 60 days. They are also entertaining when you cook them because when cooked the burgundy color turns green! So after cooking they look like a common green bean. It’s a magical transformation.

So get planting and have some colorful fun with these beans. It’s so fun to play in the dirt!

Peace Love and Dirty Hands ~ Happy Heart,


All photos copyright Elizabeth Faubert

Let's Talk About Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes are sweet and flavorful.

In Florida the easiest tomato to grow is the Cherry Tomato. Cherry Tomatoes are delicious fresh off the vine and can be eaten like little candies. The Cherry Tomato comes in many different varieties such as Red Cherry, Sweet Chelsea, Sweet 100, Yellow Pear and Sweet Million. My favorite is the Sweet 100 variety. All these varieties are usually available at your local garden store or by ordering online from your favorite seed seller.

In Florida we have two planting seasons for tomatoes: January/ early February and September. Tomatoes do not like the hot weather, we plant the seeds so they grow when the air is cool.

Tomato seeds are very small so I recommend you start your seeds indoors in small containers. This way they can be protected and cared for. Begin by preparing your soil as outlined in my previous blog. I start my tomato seeds in soil blocks (please see my blog about soil blocks to learn more) and you should place them in a warm spot, preferably on a covered patio and not in direct sunlight. This way they are not hurt by a hard rain or animals. Also you can keep a close eye on the moisture, the soil needs to stay wet and not dry out. Once the plant is approximately 6 inches high it is established enough to transplant into your garden bed or larger container outdoors.

First you will see the tiny flowers from which the tomato emerges. The tiny green tomato begins to emerge. The tomatoes continue to grow but remain green in color until they reach almost ripeness.

Once they are established outdoors in your garden bed or larger container water daily to keep the soil moist. If you water during the day when the sun is out, only water at the bottom of the plant where the soil is. The leaves of the plant are sensitive and if they get wet when the sun is bright and hot it could slightly burn the leaves. The water on the leaf magnifies the sun rays like a magnifying glass. You might think the water would not be detrimental because when it rains the leaves get wet, but generally when it rains it is cloudy and the sun is not strong.

As they start to ripen you will see their colors changing from green to orange and then eventually to red.

Once your tomatoes become a deep red color they are ready to harvest and eat. As shown in the photo above the tomatoes might not all ripen at the same time. You just pick the ones that are ready and leave the rest to ripen in their own time.

“50 Shades of Red”

As you can see in the photo on the right >>>>>>>>>>>> the evolution of a tomato plant is a gorgeous array of many colors while growing and ripening. In this photo you can also see that some of the leaves on the plant are starting to yellow and die. The leaves will eventually turn brown and fall off, which is signaling the end of the plant's life.

The quote I always think of when waiting anxiously for tomatoes to ripen is the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson – “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.”

All photos copyright Elizabeth Faubert

What's That Smell?

The Garden is a wonderland of scents, wonderful smells that help us feel better. Just as essential oils are used to heal or assist in elevating mood, the scents of certain plants in the garden can be healing also. After all, these plants are where essential oils come from to begin with. Essential oils are made from herbs and other plants that are dried and then processed to become a concentrated oil.

Let’s take a look at some of the favorite beautifully scented plants.

Roses are a logical first choice. The old saying about “Remember to stop and smell the roses” is a good reminder to slow down and notice the beauty around us. Roses are a great way to do this because they are not only beautiful but also have a lovely scent that is calming and lifts the spirit. Rose oil is used in a multitude of products for better health. Rose oil is noted for things from moisturizing skin to calming anxiety and many things in between. So when you stop to smell the roses it’s more than just a nice smell, it’s actually good for you.

Rosemary is another herb known for it’s beneficial uses. It has a beautiful scent and feels oily when you touch it. You can touch the rosemary plant and get some of the oil on our hand and use it that way. Rosemary has many healing properties and its oil is used in many ways. Rosemary is also used in cooking for its nice taste but also to improve digestion. Rosemary has also been found to help with memory issues, so smell rosemary whenever you can to prevent brain aging.

Purple Basil

Basil is fragrant, pungent herb that is mostly used in cooking. Studies have shown that basil is good for digestion. It definitely can give things flavor. Basil has a pleasant smell, that make your nose take notice. There are many direct types of basil also.

Lemon Basil and Purple Basil

Sage is the magical herb used for centuries in rituals in many different cultures. The word sage means wise and knowledgeable and the plant has been used by tribal elders to safeguard against negativity. This year of 2020 and all that it has been so far with the far reaching effects of COVID 19 has produced many memes about burning large amounts of sage to get through the rest of the year.

Almond Bush

Almond Bush is a gorgeous small tree with a very sweet scent that is absolutely intoxicating. It is called almond bush only for its scent; it never produces almonds. Bees love it too.

The Lavender plant mixed in with a few colorful Cosmos flowers

Lavender is my personal favorite. This herb is beautiful inside and out. The plant itself is a gorgeous purple color and the smell is legendary for its seductive nature. The lavender plant is sought after for making oil and using it for a calming effect on frayed nerves. The oil from lavender plants is often used to scent yoga classes or massage therapy rooms. It helps people relax. So smell the purple lavender whenever you can.

I hope you enjoyed this little walk through the garden of scented plants. These plants bring much beauty to the world and are wonderful to see but they also are wonderful for our sense of smell.

The next time you see one of these be sure to say hi and take a few seconds to stop and smell. Your nose will thank you.

Dirty Hands ~ Happy Heart,


All photos © Elizabeth Faubert

Garden editation

A garden, any garden, is a wonderful place to relax and let the stress of the day melt away.

A Garden is a Wonderful Place to Relax ~ Om ~

Meditating in a garden space is one of the best ways to de-stress and allow yourself to feel refreshed. Gardens provide a healthy atmosphere that can help us take our minds off our cares and worries. Plants are alive and creating clean oxygen for us to breathe. It is a time to leave our phones in the house or in the car and just take some time for ourselves without electronics.

Every garden has the potential to be a place of relaxation and meditation. A space to take some time for yourself.

The ultimate goal of the meditation garden is to provide a space where you can find peace and feel calm. This can be done in many ways, it’s all up to the individual to decide what feels appropriate and helpful.

In your meditation space you want to be comfortable. Look for a shady spot and see what’s available for seating. You might want to sit on the ground and that might require bringing a blanket or mat with you in case the ground is wet. You might want to sit in a chair, so bring a chair with you. Maybe there is a shady spot with a bench already there so you don’t have to bring anything with you.

This picnic table under a shady tree might be a good spot.

Think about what time of day is best for you. Do you like to get up early? During the summer, the middle of the day is hot, so think about which part of the day feels right for you. The early morning? The early evening? Also, depending on your space, consider what might be happening nearby. If you are at your home garden, what time do your neighbors mow their lawns? If you are at a community garden, do they have meetings there at a certain time that might disrupt your quiet time? Plan your meditation time around those activities.

Check out this great article from Forbes Magazine about how soil has antidepressant qualities: “DIGGING IN THE DIRT REALLY DOES MAKE PEOPLE HAPPIER”:

Happy Gardener

Studies have shown that working in the soil, planting seeds and just being in a garden surrounded by plant life improves physical and mental health.

Meditation has been proven to be a stress reliever. Many studies show people have used meditation to lower blood pressure, relieve anxiety, sleep better, have more focus and other benefits.

Find your meditation spot. listen to the sounds of nature around you, maybe it’s bees, or birds or water.


Take deep breaths and with each exhale feel your body relax.

Remember when we mediate we are not trying to erase all thought. We are just watching the thoughts go by…and not being attached to the thought. It is not a good thought or a bad thought, it is just a thought. If you feel like you have too many thoughts, you can focus on your breath and say to yourself; I am breathing in, I am breathing out.

You can mediate for as long as you like. If you are just beginning you might want to start with 5 minutes and work your way up from there. The optimum meditation time is 20 minutes but you can do less or more than that, whatever you feel comfortable with.

Take time for yourself to give your mind and body a rest.

While you are at your meditation garden, place one hand over your heart and think about all the people that you love in this world, sending them love and good energy.

And when you think about all the people that you love in this world always remember to include yourself. Always remember to be kind and gentle with yourself. Loving kindness always starts with self and radiates out from there.

Peace, Love and Gardens,


All photos © Elizabeth Faubert

Cool Summer Snacking with Japanese Cucumbers

The Japanese Cucumber, proper name Jibai Shimoshirazu, is the perfect summer snack to grow in Florida.

This variety has been adapted over the years to grow in hot, humid conditions; hello Florida in the summertime!

Japanese Cucumber

The shape is similar to a traditional cucumber that we are generally familiar with, but the sides of this Japanese variety are curly or wavy, making it an unusual looking addition to your menu. But everyone will be pleasantly surprised when they taste it.

The Japanese Cucumber has a sweet taste with no bitterness. It is a refreshing snack in the hot Florida summer.

It begins with a small seed similar to a sunflower seed in size and shape.

The flower of the Japanese Cucumber

When the plant starts to grow it begins as a sprout and produces a beautiful lavender and white flower.

The plant continues to grow, producing vines, leaves and flowers. The leaves of this plant are also edible.

The Leaves of the Japanese Cucumber are Quite Beautiful

This plant is a climbing plant so you want to place string, poles or cages for it to grab onto and climb up.

The Japanese Cucumber Climbing High

During it’s growing season remember to give it the support it needs. As shown in the photo above this plant can travel very high.

Pick the produce of this plant frequently to see the plant producing well.

Remember to never pick your neighbors produce without permission. A good rule of the green thumb is: “If you didn’t plant it, don’t pick it.”

Keep Growing

To order Japanese Cucumber seeds please go to this Rare Seed Company

Dirty Hands ~ Happy Heart,


All photos ©Elizabeth Faubert and can only be used with permission.

Compost Happens

Florida is a great place to compost materials. Because it really never snows here our compost piles can be productive all year long. The compost process loves warm temperatures. And we can turn the compost every week all year long and never have to worry about it being covered in a pile of snow.

Here’s a great definition of composting:

Composting is recycling done by nature! Composting is the controlled natural decomposition of organic material, such as leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps. Microorganisms break down these materials into compost, or humus, the nutrient rich soil products that result from proper composting.”

Compost bin

So let’s break that down (pun intended).

Recycling done by Nature: we recycle organic material like veggie scraps, leaves, sticks, grass and turn it into food for our plants.

Microorganisms: When we place the organic materials together they create microorganisms that work to break down the materials and create humus.

Humus: The material made from decomposed organic waste that becomes the organic component of soil, the part of the soil that is alive and nutritious food for growing plants.

Compost pile of veggie scraps and oak leaves.

Composting is a simple way to help the Earth.

Composting has many benefits for the planet. When we throw our food waste in the garbage and it goes to the dump, that waste creates methane gas which contributes to global warming. But if we save our kitchen scraps and compost them we turn them into nutritious food for other plants.

Start with a compost bin.

There are many different types of compost bins. We have already seen one example at the top of this page. Here are a few more:

Plastic tumbler compost bin

This container has a screw on lid and can be rotated (turned) to easily mix the materials. The downside is that it is plastic and takes a long time to create compost.

Three stage compost bin

This type of container is very popular. You place the raw materials in the first bin and then when they have broken down somewhat, you transfer to the second bin and allow them to break down more and then transfer to third bin when ready to use. This method saves time and work. The materials can easily be turned because the pile never gets too full.

This is a partly enclosed bin.

This bin is partly enclosed but still gets plenty of air because the top is open. This is a community compost bin with instruction signs so people will know which items to add and how to do it properly.

Whichever bin you choose the first step is adding materials. You want a mix of greens and browns.

Greens are: Vegetable scraps; banana peels, potato skins, egg shells etc… whatever part of the fruit of veggie you don’t eat. Also other plant materials like fresh leaves from plants.

Browns are: Leaves, sticks, newspaper, paper towel pieces, grass clippings, sawdust, straw or hay.

Example of compost materials.

Here is a photo of things being added to a compost bin. You see a mix of veggie scraps and leaves. There is even a paper towel thrown in there that will decompose.

This pile should be covered with leaves and left for a week, then turned. You always cover your greens with browns so as not to attract rodents or other animals. These materials will begin to break down and create heat. Your compost pile should never smell foul. If you have the correct mix of greens and browns the compost pile will have a pleasant smell.

The mix of greens and browns should be 40% greens and 60% browns. That is a good ratio for enabling the decomposition process to take place.

Keep filling your compost bin often.

Things you should never add to a compost pile:

Meat, fish, dairy, grease or weeds should never go in the compost bin. These things attract animals and do not decompose.

When you are first starting you might not see much happening until you have a larger pile. It needs more material to really start creating the heat it needs to get the decomposition process going.

You will know when your compost pile is ready to use as plant food when you can no longer recognize any of the veggies anymore. The resulting humus looks like dark brown soil and can be spread onto the base of existing plants or mixed into planting soil to feed your new seeds or plants.

This container holds a mixture of planting soil and compost which is used as a nutritious starting soil for seeds. Seeds sprouting in compost enriched soil.

Your compost bin will also have to be watered if you do not have any rain for a long period of time. All these things work together to create rich composted material. The veggie scraps, the leaves and other brown material, water and sun.

Your compost pile does require a little work on your part but reaps great rewards in nutritious food for your plants. You won’t have to purchase fertilizer and you won’t be contributing to the landfill. Composting is the original recycling. From the Earth back to the Earth. This is how nature works.

Dirty Hands ~ Happy Heart,


All photos © Elizabeth Faubert

Florida Summer Rains

Here in Florida, summertime is our rainy season. The rains begin at the end of May or beginning of June, about the same time the temperature gets hotter. So, in that instance the rains bring sweet relief for us.

Plants also love the rain. After many months of dry weather the rain is like a growth shot for plants and you will see them double or triple in size after a few days of steady rain. It shows you how much they need that drink of water. It is such a joy to see the plant perk up and almost grow before your eyes. It is the kind of watering you could never do with just a hose.

This Plumeria tree is enjoying a nice rain. Plumerias are a beautiful, sweet smelling flower that blooms in June and loves the Florida heat. Plumeria flowers are used in Hawaii to make the traditional leis.

My tomato plants are almost done producing at this time of year. As I talked about in a previous blog, tomato plants do not like the Florida heat and call it quits in May and June. I still have a few tomatoes left on the vine and they like this cloudy, rainy weather as a brief respite from the hot sun.

Th last of my tomatoes getting a cool bath of rain water.

One of the plants I love for summer in Florida is Lemon Balm. Lemon Balm is a calming herb, that’s why it’s named balm and it has a mild lemony flavor. You can eat it right off the plant for a refreshing, cool taste on your tongue during our hot summer months. You can also make tea with it and cool off under a tree. Lemon Balm is used by herbalists to treat anxiety and nervousness. It really is a balm.

Lemon Balm is a beautiful plant that loves the Florida heat and helps cool us.

I have always thought it ironic that in the summertime the grass grows so fast. When it is so hot you barely want to do anything, you have to mow the grass! And in the wintertime when it would be very pleasant to mow the grass it doesn’t grow much at all. It’s just another good reason not to maintain lawns and grow food instead. Lawns waste a lot of time and energy with no rewards. Make your raised beds and grow your own food and share it with your neighbors so they might turn their lawns into vegetable gardens also.

I hope you all have a great summer and you and your plants enjoy the rains.

Dirty Hands ~ Happy Heart,


All photos © Elizabeth Faubert