Garden Making with Handy Helen

By Published On: April 28, 2014
Garden Making with Handy Helen

The Best of Handy Helen


Helen, aka Handy Helen, is a woman on a mission with a garden growing from beginning, middle to end. Most recently she’s up to her elbows in grant writing with the goal of erecting and running a 50 x 100 ft solar powered, aquaponic greenhouse in her Indiana hometown. Growing fresh organic veggies and raising fish together under one big tent, each helping the other and making it possible to provide produce to her community while creating a center for hands-on learning to local schools. Technology, science, stewardship and food wrapped up like a package that has “miracle” written all over it.

Now, backing up, I have to admit I first met Helen through twitter. She was one of those people. Warm and enthusiastic with a load of energy and curiosity that was obvious even through social media. She immediately struck me as amazing.  A can-do woman who could tinker her way through any problem. When I heard about her greenhouse project (Helen’s Green Scene) I knew I had to call her. Who is this person that could be your neighbor or my neighbor making wonderful things happen?

When I finally chatted with her one sunny afternoon she said, “Emily, it’s the coolest thing ever. Fish and plants working together, it doesn’t get much cooler than that….” She described her research visits to other aquaponic greenhouses, Amish aquaponic farmers and the revelation that it’s “life on both ends”. But how did she get from A to B? What’s her inspiration?


Handy Helen


Maybe it was those days of chewing on rhubarb and looking for garden bugs with her sweet neighbor Amelia. Or it could have been her mom’s stack of Better Homes & Gardens. As a kid Helen would make a spot on their “itchy, gold shag carpet” dreamily looking through pictures of gardens and landscapes, Bob Segar playing in the background, clipping out the 3 best photos from each issue to add to her dream garden rolodex. Or it could have been projects with mom during the day and then later with dad. He’d come home from work to then venture out to the wood-shop, kids in tow, where he’d build hutches, dry sinks and picture frames. Her dad had “an eye for the perfect finish” and it was Helen’s job to help with the sanding until she graduated to more complicated tasks.

My guess is it’s a combination of all these things and more along with the garden she tends today with her children. A 24 x 30 ft plot brimming with summer tomatoes and melons. Sweet 100’s, sugar babies, crimson red and cantaloups all top hits. It’s “garden and snack, snack and garden” heaven for the family and her chance to give her children what her parents gave her. An eye for the perfect finish and the love that comes with it.

Handy Helen -- "I tinker therefore I am."Helen’s Green Scene is going the distance. Passing her “garden and snack recipe” on from her children to her neighbors and their neighbors.

To learn more about Helen and follow her green scene visit her at the links below:


Bee Walls & Insect Hotels: Habitat Inspiration
Handy Helen -- Garden Maker


Grow what you love podcast
Grow what you love podcast on Spotify
Grow what you love podcast on itunes
Grow what you love podcast on Google Play
Grow what you love podcast on Stitcher
Grow what you love podcast on Tune In

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About the Author: Emily Murphy

I’ve learned there’s something wonderfully powerful in the simple act of growing. Here, in our gardens, we can repair ourselves and our plots of earth with our own two hands. GROW WHAT YOU LOVE and GROW NOW!


  1. Bren May 28, 2014 at 8:07 pm - Reply

    Its been wonderful getting to know you all on Twitter … hope we can do a #tinkerOn event soon in person.

    • Emily Murphy May 28, 2014 at 9:00 pm - Reply

      A #tinkerOn event sounds perfect. Looking forward to it. Thanks for your support but, more importantly, your passion for growing gardens.

  2. Sarah April 28, 2014 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    I’m a cheerleader too! What a thoughtfully AWESOME article. And though I too only know Helen via the internet, the spirit of this article captures her as I imagine. Exuberant and bubbly! Please keep us update on how we can help support Helen’s Green Scene.

    Much garden love – sj

  3. Handy Helen April 28, 2014 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    #PassthePistil !!! Emily, this is a gift – you write so eloquently! I’m honored and overjoyed to know you and connect and #grow and learn and POWERUP! with you! You are amazing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. This took me back (ahem) a few years – I felt the itchy carpet and could hear Bob singing about MainStreet. Much love to you

    • Emily Murphy April 28, 2014 at 6:13 pm - Reply

      Yay! Glad you love it… Was holding my breath. So happy to be your cheerleader — love what you’re doing! #grow #passthepistil #gardenmaker