August Gardening To-Do List fo Zones 9-11

august to do list florida

What to do on your property in August

It’s the peak of the summer heat and this is the time of year that our gardens are feeling it the most.  However, there are still plenty of things to be doing on your property this month.  Remember, in subtropical climates… July and August are (and should be) a bit slower, so be sure to take it easy and stay hydrated!

This list is tailored for warm temperate and subtropical climate growing zones, but if you are looking for cold temperate lists…  Click here for USDA Zones 3-8.

In the Garden

  • Things to plant by seed:  squash, zucchini, pumpkins, corn, beans, eggplant, watermelon, tomatoes, and more pumpkins.
  • Harvest:  Okra, tropical spinaches (longevity, Okinawa, Brazilian, and Suriname).   You can also use leaves from cranberry hibiscus, South Sea Salad, and Bele hibiscus for salads. Butterfly pea flowers are in full bloom and can be used in salads or tea.
  • Summer Tea:  Jamaican sorrel (Roselle) calyxes can be used for tea.  You can also use leaves from olives, moringa, Spanish needle, cranberry hibiscus, and lemon balm for refreshing summer teas and tisanes.  Enjoy these teas over ice and add organic raw honey from a local bee keeper.
  • Mulch:  Keep bare soil covered completely to prevent water evaporation and protect microorganisms.  Add a little more compost and wood chips around fruit trees and berry bushes.  Add another layer of straw around garden veggies. 
  • Sunn Hemp:  This is the month to chop and drop your sunn hemp.  It can be buried for faster decomposition or left on top of the soil to break down.  Cattle and horses can eat it BEFORE the flowers bloom, but it should not be fed to livestock once flowering has started.

It’s time to start making tinctures and drying herbs.

In the Greenhouse

  • Start taking cuttings: elderberry, sugarcane, Barbados cherry, fig, etc.
  • Plant trees / shrubs by seed: Jaboticaba, miracle fruit, loquat, mimosa, moringa, etc.
  • Clean and sterilize the plastic pots used this winter / spring
  • Set mouse traps to control critters
  • Hang fly trap to control aphids, flies, and other pests

In the Food Forest

  • Harvest berries that are ripe: elderberry, dwarf ever-bearing mulberry, muscadine and souther home grapes, and olives.
  • Mulch: Apply mulch / wood-chips around the base of fruit trees. Keep the wood chips away from the base of the tree, because if they touch the trunk it can cause rot or bacterial issues. Wood chips will encourage mycorrhizal activity and strengthen the root system.
  • Avocados: Keep mulching and adding compost around the base of avocados.
  • Chop & Drop: Time to harvest a round of moringa, legumes, and pigeon pea for chop-and-drop. Doing this now will ensure another harvest before winter months.
  • Herbs around fruit trees:  Start harvesting herbs to dry and make tinctures.
  • Harvest elderberries:  If you are making elderberry tinctures, teas, or wine – now is your time to harvest. Whatever you do not harvest, the birds will take care of for you. It is also a great time to harvest elderberry canes for cuttings and propagation.
  • Watch for fungal issues on leaves and apply organic neem spray as needed. This time of year with heat and humidity, fungal issues can pop-up overnight. Trees that are the most susceptible: sugar apple, sour sop, June plum, kratom, ginger, and coffee.
  • Continue planting fruit trees and berry bushes during the rainy season. For a tutorial on how to plant, click here…
  • Install a banana circle
  • Hold off on fertilizing until next month. Use this month to allow the plants to grow during the last of the rainy season.
  • Pastures: Plant wildflower seeds (in small batches) to make use of the last of the rainy season. Plant Timothy grass in pastures for cattle and livestock. Use 2-4lbs per acre if you are mixing into an established pasture. Timothy grass is high fiber and has great energy content (lower protein). It is drought tolerant and has a lower moisture content.

Reminder: Elderberry must be cooked before eating.

In the Shed

  • After heavy spring and summer use, give power tools a quick check (oil, air filters, and clean off exteriors).
  • Check mouse traps and keep animal feed in sealed containers.
  • Give cutting tools a good cleaning (using rubbing alcohol) and oil afterwards to prevent rust.
  • Sweep and clean out cluttered areas. Spend time working in the shade.

In the Chicken Coop

  • Chickens:  Some of the early spring chickens will start laying soon. Once the first egg has appeared, switch chickens over to a layer feed and/or provide supplemental calcium.
  • Harvest comfrey and feed to chickens, horses, goats, and cattle.
  • Quail:  Mix apple cider vinegar and honey with their water once a week. Pick fresh flowers and grass seed heads to put inside their coop and nesting area. This is a great time to provide supplemental protein using meal worms and small crickets.
  • Deworm: Use 1 tablespoon of Basic H in a 5 gallon waterer (1tsp per gal) for chickens. Add 1.5 cups to a 100gal waterer basin for cattle and horses. Available in bulk (much cheeper for farm use) This should be their only water source for two days.
  • Coop clean out: On a sunny day with a breeze, clean out the coop in the morning. Use Basic H organic cleaner and spray everything out. Leave the coop open all day to dry it out with good airflow. Clean out all waterers and feeders using a bleach solution.
  • Add wood ash to the dustbath to help prevent and treat lice and mites.
  • CLICK HERE for extra tips on keeping chickens cool during hot summer months.
Chickens eating a ground cover of wheatgrass, radish, and clover.

Around the House

  • Keep South and West facing shades closed during the day time in order to block out the hot sun.
  • Open up the windows on cooler nights to help air out the house and let in fresh air.
  • Replace your HVAC filters
  • Check batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Wash windows (inside and out). Use a product like “Invisible Glass” to avoid streaks.
  • Apply UV protectant to your recreational vehicles (boats, car interiors, RV’s, decals, etc.
  • Spray tire shine and protectant on vehicle and trailer tires to prevent sun damage
  • Give houseplants a good fertilization and shower to clean off leaves
Add kid-friendly elements, hobbit holes, and fairies to the perennial flower bed.

In the Perennial Flower Beds

  • Dead-heading: Cut back spent flowers in order to get a second bloom. Spent flower heads can be fed to chickens or composted.
  • Cut back any spent annual flowers and start planting new cosmos, zinnias, etc. Plant a little at a time to prolong your blooming season.
  • Take cuttings of cassava, Mexican Sunflower, chaya, etc.
  • Add extra wood chips to areas that are in full sun in order to protect soil health and microbial activity
  • Bring cut flowers indoors and share with neighbors, especially those who are shut-ins or elderly
  • Find / create garden activities that involve kids.
Kids picking flowers at the Blue River Forest Experience in Overland Park, KS. This organization hosts after school nature activities and summer camps.

Comment Below and let us know what YOU are doing this month in your garden.  

If this list was helpful to you, consider sharing it on social media or sending to friends who may benefit from it as well.

LOOKING FOR THE AUGUST LIST FOR COOLER CLIMATES? CLICK HERE

August Gardening To-Do List for Zones 3-8

What to do on your Property in August – Cold Temperate Climates

It’s the peak of the summer heat and this is the time of year that our gardens are feeling it the most.  However, there are still plenty of things to be doing on your property this month.  This list is tailored for cold temperate climate growing zones, but if you are looking for warm temperate or sub-tropical growing zone lists CLICK HERE.

In the Garden

  • Things to plant by seed:  beets, carrots, radishes, and turnips.
  • Fall greens:  In order to stagger your harvest times later in the fall, consider planting smaller amounts of fall greens (salad mixes, kale, etc.) every other week.  The same can be done with beets and radishes.
  • Brassicas:   Plant broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower by seed or transplants.  Keep them well-watered (1″ per week) as they get established and mulch with straw around the base to cover the soil and prevent water evaporation.
  • Harvest:  tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and other night shades.  Prop up plants as needed to provide support.  
  • Mulch:  Keep bare soil covered completely to prevent water evaporation and protect microorganisms.  Add a little more compost and wood chips around fruit trees and berry bushes.  Add another layer of straw around garden veggies.  
  • Compost application:  Add fresh organic compost to strawberry patch (thin them while you apply compost).  You can also add compost to bramble canes (blackberries and raspberries) to improve next years harvest.

It’s time to start making tinctures and drying herbs.

In the Greenhouse

  • We are finished with the “greenhouse” season, but if you have a shade cloth, you can actually open up all the windows now and put the shade cloth over the top. This will allow you to start micro-greens and other later season veggie starts. If using a shade cloth, use the opened greenhouse for your indoor tropical plants to give them a season outdoors. Just be sure to pay attention to your watering!
  • Clean and sterilize the plastic pots used this winter / spring
  • Set mouse traps to control critters
  • Hang fly trap to control aphids, flies, and other pests

In the Food Forest

  • Harvest berries that are ripe: goji, elderberry, brambles, etc.
  • Mulch: Apply mulch / wood-chips around the base of fruit trees. Keep the wood chips away from the base of the tree, because if they touch the trunk it can cause rot or bacterial issues. Wood chips will encourage mycorrhizal activity and strengthen the root system.
  • Herbs around fruit trees:  Start harvesting herbs to dry and make tinctures.
  • Harvest elderberries:  If you are making elderberry tinctures, teas, or wine – now is your time to harvest. Whatever you do not harvest, the birds will take care of for you. It is also a great time to harvest elderberry canes for cuttings and propagation.
  • Watch for fungal issues on leaves and apply organic neem spray as needed.
  • Plant late summer ground covers in any “bare spots” around the forest. Consider things like daikon radish or crimson clover. Water the first 10-12 days until established.
  • Wait to plant new fruit trees and berry bushes until next month, when the heat dials down a few notches.

Reminder: Elderberry must be cooked before eating.

In the Shed

  • After heavy spring and summer use, give power tools a quick check (oil, air filters, and clean off exteriors).
  • Check mouse traps and keep animal feed in sealed containers.
  • Give cutting tools a good cleaning (using rubbing alcohol) and oil afterwards to prevent rust.

In the Chicken Coop

  • Chickens:  Some of the early spring chickens will start laying soon. Once the first egg has appeared, switch chickens over to a layer feed and/or provide supplemental calcium.
  • Harvest comfrey and feed to chickens, horses, goats, and cattle.
  • Quail:  Mix apple cider vinegar and honey with their water once a week. Pick fresh flowers and grass seed heads to put inside their coop and nesting area. This is a great time to provide supplemental protein using meal worms and small crickets.
  • Deworm: Use 1 tablespoon of Basic H in a 5 gallon waterer (1tsp per gal) for chickens. Add 1.5 cups to a 100gal waterer basin for cattle and horses. Available in bulk (much cheeper for farm use) This should be their only water source for two days.
  • Coop clean out: On a sunny day with a breeze, clean out the coop in the morning. Use Basic H organic cleaner and spray everything out. Leave the coop open all day to dry it out with good airflow. Clean out all waterers and feeders using a bleach solution.
  • Add wood ash to the dustbath to help prevent and treat lice and mites.
  • CLICK HERE for extra tips on keeping chickens cool during hot summer months.
Chickens eating a ground cover of wheatgrass, radish, and clover.

Around the House

  • Keep South and West facing shades closed during the day time in order to block out the hot sun.
  • Open up the windows on cooler nights to help air out the house and let in fresh air.
  • Replace your HVAC filters
  • Check batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Wash windows (inside and out). Use a product like “Invisible Glass” to avoid streaks.
  • Clean outdoor windows and doors (I use Basic H for this)
  • Apply UV protectant to your recreational vehicles (boats, car interiors, RV’s, decals, etc.
  • Spray tire shine and protectant on vehicle and trailer tires to prevent sun damage
  • Give houseplants a good fertilization and shower to clean off leaves
Add kid-friendly elements, hobbit holes, and fairies to the perennial flower bed.

In the Perennial Flower Beds

  • Dead-heading: Cut back spent flowers in order to get a second bloom. Spent flower heads can be fed to chickens or composted.
  • Plant seeds of larkspur, holly hocks, and poppies for next year
  • Add extra wood chips to areas that are in full sun in order to protect soil health and microbial activity
  • Bring cut flowers indoors and share with neighbors, especially those who are shut-ins or elderly
  • Find / create garden activities that involve kids.
Kids picking flowers at the Blue River Forest Experience in Overland Park, KS. This organization hosts after school nature activities and summer camps.

Comment Below and let us know what YOU are doing this month in your garden.  

If this list was helpful to you, consider sharing it on social media or sending to friends who may benefit from it as well.

LOOKING FOR THE AUGUST LIST FOR WARMER CLIMATES? CLICK HERE

What to Plant Under an Oak Tree in Florida

The live oaks, swamp oaks, and scrub oaks of Florida can be some of the most challenging areas to grow under. In the Midwest and cold climates, there is a similar problem planting under black walnut trees. The dense canopy and high tannins in the soil make it hard for many species to thrive. However, this area is prime real estate for many types of plants. So if you are someone who has been wondering what you can plant under an oak tree in Florida… this article is for you!

Best Plants for Under and Oak Tree in Florida

1 – Spiral Ginger

This gorgeous tropical plant grows in part – full shade and looks like a corkscrew pattern. The spiral shape adds visual interest to the landscape and both the flowers and roots are edible and medicinal. Roots can be saved year-to-year or just left in the ground and grown perennially. (Cheilocostus speciosus)

2 – Aloe

Plants in the aloe family do really well under the canopy of the oak tree. The dappled light gives the perfect place to add succulents for texture and visual interest. Most succulents (like aloe and desert roses) will stay put and will not spread, but shade plants like mother-in-law tongue may spread over a larger area. (barbadensis miller)

3 – Shampoo Ginger

This popular landscape ginger may not be the best edible variety, but the water that comes from the cone (when squeezed) is excellent for a shampoo or soap alternative. It is also beneficial for skin health and treating / preventing fungal issues. You can add the water to your shower gel OR use it directly on the skin. (Zingiber zerumbet)

4 – Black Turmeric

This is the most potent of all the ginger and turmerics when it comes to its anti-inflammatory properties. It has been traditionally used to make teas and tinctures that benefit the immune system, gut health, and for potential anti-cancer benefits. The roots of the plant range from a deep blue to near black in color and the flowers are so bright they look like a bromeliad. Blooms, which display in June – August, last well over a month. (Cucurma caesia) You can order this organic plant from A Natural Farm, and it can be shipped nation-wide.

5 – Polka Dot Plant

This hardy ground cover grows up to 15″ tall and has a variety of patterns on the foliage. Smaller pink flowers are good for pollination. This plant will survive all but the most severe frosts, but will usually come back even after a hard freeze. It is easily propagated from cuttings and can be grown in full shade to dappled morning sun. (Hypoestes phyllostachya)

A few more suggestions to plant under an oak tree in Florida

6 – Katuk

This wonderful edible plant is used all over the world in soups, stews, and salads. The leaves and small flowers have a slightly nutty flavor. They do contain oxalates, so limit consumption to 3-4 days a week. This gorgeous, shade loving plant grows quickly and can be 8-10′ tall. It loves pruning and harvesting, so be sure to enjoy it at the kitchen table as well as in the garden. (auropus androgynus)

7 – Fire Spike

If you want to attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden, this is your plant! Fire Spike does well at the back of the garden, because it can be 7-10′ tall in the right conditions. Flowers most often come in red, but can also be found in purple and orange. Hummingbirds and butterflies love the nectar of this tall, shade-loving plant. It does do well in part sun as well, but its growth might be a little slower. (Odontonema cuspidatum)

8 – Pigeon Berry

Although these berries are not edible for humans… the wild songbirds love them! Butterflies and bees use the small pink flowers as a native food source. This plant can spread as a ground cover or be grown to be 24″ tall. The plant is also known in some areas as “rogue berry” or blood berry. Historically, the red berries were used to make dyes and ink. (Rivina humilis)

9 – Wild Coffee

This plant is an excellent food source for wild birds, butterflies, and bees. The berries can be dried and roasted for a coffee substitute, but should not be eaten raw. The flavor is much more bold and bitter than arabica coffee. The glossy leaves have an interesting texture and deep green color that really stand out under the shade of an oak tree. This dwarf bush can grow 18-24″ tall. (Psychotria nervosa)

10 – Monstera (Swiss Cheese plant)

This popular house plant, which actually has an edible flower, can be grown in the ground or in a pot under an oak canopy. The large leaves provide gorgeous visual interest and breathtaking beauty. Overtime, this plant loves to climb, and can even be trained up the trunk of a large oak tree. This is a great alternative to the invasive “pothos” plant, which should never go in the ground in Florida. (Monstera deliciosa)

What edible, medicinal, and pollinating plants would you recommend under an oak tree in the Southern US?

Share your experiences in the comments below and feel free to share this article with friends and gardening groups.

How to Plant a Food Forest | Part 2 SOIL

Preparing the Soil for Your Food Forest

Transitioning your decorative landscape into an edible one is much easier than you may think. Learning how to plant a food forest can be as simple as replacing one “inedible” plant at a time over a period of years, or it can be as complex as installing a productive food forest through intentional permaculture design. Either way, I am convinced that I am “winning at life” is when I can go into my backyard and pick a peach right off the tree OR fix a full garden salad right from my back porch. It’s true, there are few things more fulfilling than having friends and family over for wine and cheese, and then stocking your charcuterie board with nuts, berries, and pickled items from your property.

Before you start plopping your new fruit trees and berry bushes into the ground, it’s important to take time and assess the site. As a designer, I am convinced that it takes a year of studying the site before you can REALLY get to know it. However, a trained eye can definitely get a plan into motion and help you get started. If you want to look into a consultation to help you develop a site plan, click here. Planting a food forest is an invitation to know and interact with your site and learn to steward the land accordingly. Whether you decide to hire a permaculture designer to partner with you or assess the land yourself, there are a few initial questions to get to you started in selecting your location (CLICK HERE).

The Most Important Step Starts Right Under Your Feet

The single most important step you will take in this entire process will be how you prepare your soil before you even put anything into the ground. In fact, the best thing you can do is prepare the soil for an entire season before you even plant your first tree or shrub. There are multiple ways you can both clear the land and/or build organic matter in the soil. Some of these methods will depend on what you have available and how much land you need to clear and prepare.

Option 1: Animal and Livestock to Build the Soil

This is, perhaps, the best possible way to not only clear the land of weeds and grasses, but also build the soil at the same time. If you have a lot of bushes, shrubs, or undergrowth, then goats are the best way to clear this area. In fact, some of their favorite foods are things like Virginia creeper and poison ivy! They have amazingly strong digestive systems and will do a great job at turning the bushes and underbrush into fertilizer for the new plot. Once the shrubs are removed, then you can send in the chickens to take care of the grasses and smaller weeds. They will finish the job nicely, till up the soil, scratch up the dirt, remove bugs and pests… and again turn them all into fertilizer for you! Not only is this source of fresh feed better for your soil, but it’s far better for your animals that bags of conventional feed.

In order to control them and focus their energy, I like to keep them in a smaller area (which I rotate) using a solar electric fence. Personally, I use a set-up from Premier One Fencing Supplies and have had minimal escape problems or predator animal attacks. Once the animals have cleared an area, then move the fence to the next zone to keep them working and fertilizing.

Option 2: Light Tilling and Smother Cropping

If you do not have access to animals, then you will need plan ahead several months before starting your food forest. Another way you can clear the area and also build your soil is to lightly till the area to remove weeds and grasses. Get as many of them out by hand as you can, and then follow with a ground cover or smother crop. Ground covers for the cooler climates are listed here. My favorite smother crop for the Midwest and cold climate growing zones is buckwheat and crimson clover. If you are in a warmer climate, the primary ground cover I would use is Sunn Hemp. Plant this is June and let it grow to max height (6-8 feet), and then chop-and-drop it in August. This plant can easily be buried or tilled under in August and will not only build the organic matter in the soil, but will also repair nitrogen content. Because of its dense growth habit, it will often smother out other weeds and grasses. At the end of the growing season, till these under and then you’ll be ready for a fall planting. Otherwise, you can leave it over the winter to decompose in place and plant in the spring.

Option 3: Layer Mulching

This method works really well and provides fast organic matter, but it does require higher inputs into your system. Often called lasagna mulching, this is a much better alternative to the “Back to Eden” method, which only uses ramified wood chips. Starting at the ground level (and working our way up), here are the layer I would recommend.

  1. Cardboard (remove tape and staples)
  2. Chopped up leaves (using a lawn mower)
  3. Grass clippings
  4. Straw (not hay, because you do not want seed heads)
  5. Manure and/or compost)
  6. 4-6″ of ramified woodchips

Once you have this in place, you can either plant immediately or wait for a few months to let the worms and microorganisms do their job. My preference is to wait a bit and let the layer mulching start working before plant installation.

Option 4: Black Tarp

This method is fast working (during warm summer months), but is also one that does the most harm to the soil. Putting a black tarp down over the area will most definitely cook the grasses, weeds, and pests. However, it will also cook a lot of the good bacteria, worms, and microorganisms in the soil. I rarely, if ever use this method.

Option 5: Spraying

The least recommended method in my book is to use a chemical spray. The ONLY two organic sprays I would recommend for a weed and vegetation killer would be either orange oil OR horticultural vinegar (30-45%). Both of these are effective at removing weeds, but they also have a short impact on the soil. The downside is that vinegar and orange oil will both kill any insects (topically) and will impact the pH of the soil you are working with. Though they will remove the weeds, it will also cause more work in the long run to repair and rejuvenate the soil.

Food Forest at A Natural Farm in Howey in the Hills, Florida

Soil Regeneration is the Key to Your Food Forests Health

Spending adequate time in the stage of soil building is absolutely key to the longterm success of your food forest. However, keep in mind that a good garden or food forest will be a continuous journey of rejuvenating soil and creating more organic matter. Perhaps even more than producing a good crop for human consumption, the role of a gardener is likely better described as one who stewards the soil and all the life therein. I’m not saying that all problems in the garden (fungal, pests, insectary imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, etc.) can be solved by compost alone… but 97.3% of them can be. If the soil (and its microbial and fungal balance) is in healthy shape and rich with organic matter, the fruit and flowers that appear above ground will likewise be healthy. Inversely, it’s nearly impossible to maintain healthy plants at the expense of soil biology. Personally, I apply compost every spring and refresh my wood chips each fall. In (sub)tropical climates, compost is best applied in February, June, and September.

If I notice that plants are on the struggle bus, I almost always start with two steps. First, add organic compost and the secondly apply a foliar spray. Either way, building soil is the single most important step of planting a garden or food forest. Generally speaking, when applying compost, use a fungal dominated compost for hard stemmed plants (trees, shrubs, and bushes) and a bacterially dominated compost to soft stemmed plants (veggie gardens and perennial flowers). If you do not have a fungal compost available to you, you can introduce mycorrhizal activity by adding flour to your compost pile.

So, before you plant your trees, shrubs, and bushes – consider how you might improve your soil quality and build organic matter. Share your ideas for new site soil preparation below…

More Articles in the “Planting a Food Forest Series”

Part 1 – Food Forest Myths

Part 3 – Selecting and Planting the Layers of the Food Forest (coming soon)….

How to Plant a Food Forest | Part 1 MYTHS

How to start a food forest

Part One: Food Forest Myths

There is a growing desire in the gardening and regenerative agriculture movements to grow low-maintenance gardens that still offer productive abundance. Learning how to start a food forest is one way to have a productive area with minimal long-term maintenance. Since there are many ways to build these areas, the system described in this series of articles is intended to be adapted to your individual space and growing zone. Keep in mind, there is not a perfect copy-and-paste method of how to build a food forest, but there some key points to keep in mind. Before explaining a few of those broad-brush stokes, let’s talk about a few myths regarding food forests.

Food Forest Myths

  1. “Think about plants before thinking about soil.” – This is, perhaps, the easiest trap to fall into when it comes to building a food forest. Yes, it is GOOD to get excited about the plants, varieties, colors, and textures. Gimme all the plants! However, if we do not first think about soil health and biology, then we cannot expect it to provide abundance in return. The more we partner with the ecosystem by building soil, the more the soil will give back to us by nourishing our trees and shrubs. By skipping the step of soil building, we are essentially taking nutrients from the ground without offering something in return, which will be detrimental in the long-term. Before you put in any plants – add organic matter to your soil.
  2. “Get the trees in the ground, then figure out water later.” – No matter how many beautiful trees and shrubs we put in the ground, if we don’t water them enough in their establishment phase – the trees will suffer and possibly die. Moisture retention in the soil is what will help increase mulch decomposition and soil microbial activity. This moisture will also help increase the needed mycorrhizal fungi in our soil structure. Remember, new plants are often very sensitive (and young), so they need extra care when they first go into the ground.
Food Forest at A Natural Farm and Educational Center – volunteers from one of the PermacultureFX Design Courses.
  1. “Plant things closer together so it looks better.” – Remember, when building a food forest, the goal is to partner with nature in establishing a system in 3-5 years that might take 50 years under natural conditions. With that in mind, it’s important to carefully consider the spacing of the plants to allow for their mature growth and height. Over-planting generally results in a lush green system, but lower levels of fruit and production because the excess shade does not allow for fruiting and pollination. Plan your spacing for mature plant height, and be patient in the initial years while your system gets established. To fill in space during the initial years, use nitrogen fixing ground covers and pollinating wildflowers to provide visual interest.
  2. “You will get fruit the first year.” – This goal may be possible if you spend hundreds of dollars per fruit tree to get specimens that are 5+ years old, however in most cases it will take 3 years to get substantial fruit and 5 years to reach near maximum productivity. Generally speaking, plant growth follows this pattern: Survive – Grow – Thrive. Year one the plant will work on survival and establishing its root system. During the first year, it’s advisable to remove any fruit to allow the plants energy to go to the root system. Next, during the second year, the plant will grow slightly and possibly produce a few small fruit, but most of the energy is focused on the plant becoming established in your specific growing conditions. Finally, in years 3+, the plant will begin to thrive and flourish. At this point, you should begin to see a significant increase and the yield and production levels.

“The Garden was the birthplace of partnership and stewardship. It continues to be a place that is centered upon connection.”

Kris Edler

More Food Forest Myths…

  1. “Food forests do not require any maintenance or upkeep.” – Unfortunately, nothing in life is free. We simply never get something for nothing. The purpose of gardening, specifically in permaculture, is recognizing that we are an active part of the system. Which means, the human element and stewardship greatly increases yield and can help build and regenerate the system. Just like we have the power to destroy a system quickly through mismanagement, we also have the ability to quicken its rejuvenation. The goal of a food forest is NOT to remove ourselves from the equation, but rather to integrate intelligent design in a way that our involvement results in a healed ecosystem. Though a food forest may require less maintenance long-term than a traditional annual vegetable garden, the human connection is still essential in proper stewardship of the land.
  2. “Mowing and tilling the soil are always bad.” – Though there are benefits to a low-till or no-till methods of gardening, they are often necessary in the first 3-5 years in order to help the system reboot. Mowing allows you to bag up nutrients and mulch around trees, creating a microclimate and nutrient dense soil covering that is rich in biomass. It also helps remove invasive species in order for the native plants to have a better chance. Tilling (in small doses) can help remove invasive weed species and can pave the way for replanting in larger areas (i.e. native prairie management or pasture maintenance). Controlled burning methods were used by the First Nation tribes all over North America and arguably around the world over the last thousands of years. These methods may not be an everyday tool, but are often necessary to help restart a damaged system and bring it back into balance.
How to start a food forest
Permaculture in Central Florida (second year example of a small food forest installation)

The Last Few Food Forest Myths

  1. “Only plant native species.” – This one is controversial for sure. Personally, I prefer to use as many native plants (especially pollinators) as possible, because I know it’s best for the birds, bees, and butterflies. Generally speaking, the native plants are also known to be far more disease resistant and tolerant of local weather conditions. At the end of the day, native species will always require less maintenance. That being said, traders have been moving species around the planet for as long as we have historical records. In Europe, the seeds of tomatoes, brassicas, and beans were saved and traded among pre-historic tribes. Sailers, traders, and merchants brought squash, corn, and pumpkins with them to North America 600 years ago and have been used here ever since. So, as long as a species is not invasive or damaging to the local ecosystem, they may actually provide human and wildlife benefit when properly introduced. If in doubt, grow your new plant in a pot for 3-5 years and test it out. Better yet, call your local extension office to ask them about any questionable species.
  2. “Summer is the best time to plant my food forest.” – For most of us, the summer is the time we are up and moving, full of energy, and ready to be productive. The same is true with plants – this is a time for them to be productive, but it’s rarely the best time to plant. Summer heat and drier weather can be hard on newly transplanted stock. Generally speaking, the best time to plant is when the trees are still dormant. In USDA Growing Zones 3-8 that would be either September – early November OR March – April. However, in Growing Zones 9-11 the best time to plant is in the winter months. That being said, winters in the Southern US are often dry, so some people prefer to wait until March – April. The ONLY benefit of planting in the summer in the south is that it’s rainy season. However, sometimes that helps and sometimes the heat + rain is actually harder on the plants. For those of us who garden in Florida… it’s a toss up!
How to Plant a Fruit Tree or Berry Bush
  1. “Dig a hole, put the tree in the ground, and you’re done. “ – There is actually a best practice process when planting fruit trees and berry bushes. Most of the time they prefer extra water while they are getting established, but like to dry slightly out between waterings. Secondly, fruit trees should never just be planted in the grass, because the grass will both compete for moisture and nutrients. Click here to read the blog post about “How to Plant a Fruit Tree or Berry Bush.” The primary exceptions to these are citrus and mango, because they prefer sandy and well drained soil. They like compost top dressings, but don’t do well with traditional wood chip mulching.
  2. “We should randomly plant unmaintained food forests in the city.” – In theory, the fruit trees will provide free food for the community and for the poor. In theory, these trees will thrive and produce food for inner city kids. In theory… HOWEVER, in actuality, fruit trees and bushes need maintenance to not only keep their shape and overall health, but they need to be appropriately harvested. Fallen fruit that is not properly harvested can actually feed rats, raccoons, and other city pests. Food forests are an incredible tool, but they are not a magic cure-all for every scenario. They require proper stewardship, and like all living things… they require connection.

NEXT ARTICLE: How to Plant a Food Forest Part 2 – SOIL

How to Keep Chickens Cool During Hot Weather

During times of extreme summer heat, it’s important to not only keep our families safe and cool, but also our chickens and farm animals. Here are some easy ways to keep your chickens cool in extreme heat and help their bodies cope with extreme temperatures.

  1. Change their water multiple times a day: Practically speaking, this will keep the water temperature cooler and your activity around the waterer will remind them to get a bit to drink. There are attachments available online to even turn a medium sized water cooler (like an Igloo) into a chicken waterer, which will keep the water cooler longer (or warmer in the winter).
  2. Add ACV and honey to their water: The honey and apple cider vinegar are a great way to add electrolytes and probiotics to their water. Think of this like Gatorade for chickens. Honey is also antibacterial, so it is strengthening their stressed immune system.  You can also purchase a chicken supplement to add to their water, but I generally use what I have on hand in the kitchen.
  3. Watermelon treat: Cut the watermelon in half and put one half inside the chicken run (like a giant bowl) and let them go to town. Watermelon contains electrolytes that are important for the birds during extreme heat, but it is also very easy to digest, which will help keep their body heat down. Leave the rinds in the run and fill them with water for the next 24 hours like a giant watermelon bowl (see image below).
  1. Frozen veggies in a muffin tin (corn, canned spinach, canned tuna): This Poultry Popsickle is possibly my favorite way to keep chickens cool and also provide a nice treat for them during the extreme heat. Buy some canned corn, spinach, or even tuna and empty the contents into a muffin tin. Slide the tin into the freezer overnight and you’ll have perfect little frozen veggie muffins to entertain the birds and keep healthy them cool.
  1. Proper airflow in the coop: Open up two sides of the coop in order to create a nice cross breeze. Allowing proper airflow will not only cools the birds, but also helps to prevent mold from forming due to the stagnant and humid air.
  2. Access to fresh veggies and fruit: These are normally used as “treats” for the flock, but access to a little extra green material on a hot day will be easy for them to digest and provide micronutrients for the flock. Stay away from treating with things like cracked corn, which may increase their body temps as they digest it.
  1. Create a shaded run or temporarily move coop under a tree: During the extreme heat, provide adequate shade for your flock. If you are have the ability to grow vines up the side of the run, this will provide a nice living shaded area for them. Pole bean, squash, butterfly pea, and passion vine are great choices or this (depending on your growing zone).
  2. Cool their feet: Run the hose on the ground for 10-15 min in the heat of the day so they can walk in it. Chickens can regulate body temps through their feet, so give them a little water on the ground to wade in and they will be happy campers. Practically speaking, hot days are also a great time to clean and sterilize your coop (and leave them open for the day). I sweep and scrape mine out and then either spray and wash with Basic H OR add it to the powerwasher and give everything a nice spray down. Then leave the coop open for the day to dry. Do this in the morning, so the coop has the full day to air dry.
  3. Dust bath (shaded) with wood ash: Dust bathing should be available at all times, because this is a primary way for them to stay clean and cool. Fill a 6-8″ deep container with sand for them to play in and occasionally add a few shovels full of wood ash. This will help treat them for any mites and fleas. Do NOT use Diatomaceous Earth, as this is terrible for their respiratory health; DE should only be used WET or in very small quantities of their feed (3%). Always keep the dust bath in a shaded area, otherwise the sand will get too hot for the birds.
  1. Keep bedding fresh and add herbs (fresh or dried): During heat waves, it’s important to keep things fresh in order to prevent mold, bacterial growth, and to help control insects. Keep nesting boxes and bedding fresh at all times. Add in fresh or dried herbs to repel insects and provide a little fun for the hens. You can add leaves or flowers to the nesting boxes or hang bundles of herbs around the coop. Use things like mint, bee balm, oregano, thyme, fennel, dill, or lemon balm. For flowers, you can use petals from marigolds, roses, snapdragons, sunflowers, etc.

Leave a comment below if you found this helpful, and feel free to share the article on social media to help your chicken friends try out a few new ways to keep the girls cool in the summer.

BONUS: Click here to find out ways to keep chickens warm in the winter.

Best Pollinating Plants for the Garden

As permaculturists, we are often focused on food forests, regenerative agriculture, and organic gardening. Often, we focus our energy on what we can eat. At the same time, it’s important to recognize that if the local pollinating insects (mainly bees, moths, and butterflies) don’t eat – then we won’t either! If we are going to have successful kitchen gardens or food forests, having adequate sources of pollination throughout the growing season is imperative for fruit production.

Although most of the suggestions in these lists are native plants, there are a couple non-natives included that grow well and are excellent food sources for bees and butterflies. As much as possible though, it’s important to plants native to your area in order to help the local ecosystem thrive. Native plants are also proven to be tried and true to your area, often are the easiest to grow, and generally have the best blooms with the least maintenance.

So, here is the Top 10 Best Pollinating Plants for your Garden and Food Forest!

NOTE: This next section is divided into two separate lists, according to USDA Growing Zones.

Top 10 Best Pollinators for USDA Zones 3-8

crocus bulbs in bloom

1. Crocus

Crocus is one of the first signs of spring and an excellent early source of nectar for honeybees and local pollinators. It is best planted in the fall after the first frost and can even be planted through February between the snows. Click here to find out what else you can plant between snows.

2. Laitris

A mid-spring / early summer bloomer that has a flower which lasts over a month. Great for butterflies and also makes a good cut flower for the house.

3. Serviceberry

Also known as Juneberry or Saskatoon berry, the flowers are like massive sweet smelling snowballs in the spring. Then in the summer, the ripe berries can be used for jams or preserves, or simply left for the birds.

butterfly weed kansas city native pollinator

4. Butterfly Weed

This bright orange and yellow flower will bloom repeatedly over the summer. It’s a source of nectar for Monarch butterflies, and the leaves may become a food source for their caterpillars as well.

5. Purple Cone Flower

Begins blooming in June and will continue to bloom until the last frost. Moths, bees, butterflies and even dragon flies appreciate this one. Not only is it great for insects, but it’s an excellent medicinal herb as well for human use as well.

6. Agastache (Hyssop)

There are many varieties of this plant, but try to get one native to your area. The plant leaves can be made into a tea (tastes like root beer) and the flowers will bloom midsummer and provide nectar for bumble bees and butterflies.

7. Coreopsis

Varieties of coreopsis can be found all over the US, some even having red and orange centers. Deadheading will prolong the blooms until mid-fall. Similar to cosmos, it is great as a cut flower and wonderful for honey bees.

8. Penstamon

Native in most of the continental US and a great bee and butterfly attractor. A long time bloomer, and goes well in the flower garden or even in a naturalized area.

9. Aster

There are many types of asters to choose from, ranging in colors from blue to deep purple. They are one of the later sources of nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies, blooming toward the end of summer and early fall. Also, this show stopper is long blooming, which makes it an excellent choice for a food forest or flower garden.

10. Jerusalem Artichoke

Growing 12-17′ tall, this one get pretty massive. Sunchoke (or Jerusalem artichoke) a spreader with edible roots that taste like potatoes. It is not one to put in your main flower bed, but goes well on the edges of a property to provide visual interest and pollination in the farther regions. Sunchokes are one of the last bloomers of the season before frost hits, so very important for our native pollinators as they prepare for winter.

Honorable Mentions: Yarrow, hairy mountain mint, bellflower, white clover.

Great resource for purchasing native plants and seed mixes: Prairie Moon Nursery


Top 10 Native Pollinators for USDA Zones 9-11

1. Firebush

This bush is a wildlife magnet! Bees, butterflies, birds, moths, and even little lizards. The flowers attract insects and hummingbirds, and then produce berries that the native songbirds enjoy. Not edible for humans, but a food forest favorite.

2. Saw Palmetto

We often think of this plant as a pest in places like Florida, but for the native pollinators and honey bees – it’s an abundant food source. In fact, in may areas, local bee keepers are always looking for a place to get saw palmetto honey, because the flavor is unparalleled.

3. Sweet Almond Shurb

This plant, native to South America, is one of the best pollinators for this growing zone. The blooms can come and go all year and the fragrance is intoxicating. The smell is a nice vanilla almond fragrance that fills the entire garden. Not to mention, they are always covered in native butterflies and bees. It’s non-spreading and not invasive.

4. Coreopsis

Varieties of coreopsis can be found all over the US, some even having red and orange centers. Deadheading will prolong the blooms until mid-fall. Similar to cosmos, it does well as a cut flower and is also wonderful for honey bees. Go get some of these for your native flower beds.

5. African Blue Basil

In addition to making a yummy pesto, this hybrid basil but is always covered in non-stop blooms. It has sterile seeds, so must be propagated via cuttings. Bee keepers in Georgia, Florida, Texas, and California always suggest this variety.

6. Gayfeather Laitris

A mid-spring / early summer bloomer that has a flower which lasts over a month. In addition to its beauty, it’s also a great food source for butterflies and also makes a good cut flower for the house.

7. Red Pentas

A beautiful Florida native and a wonderful pollinator for butterflies, bees, and moths. The blooms generally begin in May and continue until December, when the plant can get a “hair cut” to maintain its shape.

8. Passion Vine

The native variety (Passiflora incarnata) is found wild in many southern US states. However, other varieties like Purple Possom or Yellow Passion Vine are the varieties edible for human consumption. They also attract native butterflies and bees and are the primary food source of fritillary butterflies.

9. Yarrow

This gorgeous plant blooms in spring and summer and comes in a variety of colors. It not only attracts bees and butterflies, but also attracts lady bugs. So, this is a great one to plant in areas that often have aphid problems, because the lady bugs will eat them as well. Not to mention, it’s also great for making teas and tinctures out of.

10. Spanish Needle

Most people consider Bidens Alba a weed, but it is one of the best native pollinators in the southern US. It’s also an edible and medicinal plant with antibiotic and antiviral properties. So, be sure to some at the edges of the property or in the food forest; the bees will thank you.

Honorable Mentions: Blanket Flower, indigo bush, rattlesnake master, white wild indigo

Great resources for seeds: Native American Seeds (for wildflower pasture seeds) & Hancock Seed Co (I love their native quail mix)

Leave a comment below with some of your favorite pollinators for the flower garden and food forest.

How to Build a Banana Circle

how to build a banana circle

One of the most common inquiries that I received while working at a food forest nursery and educational center in Central Florida was how to build a banana circle. Banana circles have benefits on multiple levels, both for the environment and for the human community.

First, they utilize companion planting so that the growth habits of the various species included benefit that of the others. In essence, they work together symbiotically by providing nitrogen, biomass, shade for other species in the circle, etc. Secondly, banana circles are beneficial because they provide stationary composting scenarios that do not require turning. Lastly, a banana circle provides a way to readily utilize grey water runoff from a house or a well. This is extremely beneficial in both rainforest and (sub)tropical climates because it lessens “open water”. This not only decreases the potential for disease and bacteria, but also eliminates the breeding ground for malaria-causing mosquitoes.

If you are in a tropical or subtropical climate, learning how to grow a banana circle is not only an excellent regenerative agricultural practice, but also a way to bring natural beauty to areas that are often more difficult to design around. So, here are is an easy-to-follow diagram with simple steps for building a banana circle.

Diagram of How to Building Build a Banana Circle

how to build a banana circle

Simple Steps to Building a Banana Circle

  1. Dig your hole. A small banana circle should be a bowl-shaped hole that is 1-2 yards in diameter and about 3 feet deep in the center. A larger circle can be 2-2.5 yards in diameter and 3-3.5 feet deep in the center. It is better to have multiple circles this size than to try and make a pit larger than the sizes listed. Otherwise, the organic matter may not decompose quickly enough and it will be harder to harvest crops around the circle.
  2. Pile the dirt around the outside edge of the hole in the shape of a donut. This circular swale is where you will plant most of your trees. Under the “donut” of soil, you can also bury logs to make huglekultur swales for increased fertility and water retention.
  3. Fill the pit with mulch and compost. Use kitchen scraps, small sticks, yard clippings, leaves, cardboard, newspaper, etc. Material can continue to be added to this pile as often as needed. Install drainage from existing grey water systems to empty into the pit. Otherwise, if you install pipes or trenches later, you will risk disturbing the plants once they are established.
  4. Plant around the outside of the circle using the diagram above. If you are doing a larger circle, plant no more than 4 banana plants (at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock) around the circle. This will allow them adequate space to spread out. Beans (not pictured above) can be planted anywhere in the system to fill in space and provide nitrogen for the other plants. Climbing beans can be used on the bananas once they have reached a mature height. In the earlier phases it is best to use bush beans. If you are in the US, I have purchased organic plants for banana circles from A Natural Farm and Educational Center.
  5. Don’t over plant. Plant quantities for a large (2-3 yard diameter) circle: 4 Banana, 2 papaya, 2 sugar cane, 2 taro, 10-12 sweet potato slips).
  6. Water. Water the center and harvest the edges.

Banana Circle Maintenance

  1. Spring (after danger of frost): Cut off dead banana leaves and chop and drop any spent plants and throw them into the center of the circle.
  2. Add moisture to the center of the pit during the dry season. Water ONLY in the center of the pit. Do NOT water the mound or edges of the swale.
  3. Keep adding organic matter to the compost pile in the center.
  4. Plant sweet potatoes farther away from larger plants, for ease of harvest. Add in bush beans in any gaps that you find.
  5. Mulch on the outside using wood chips to create a path and accessible area for harvesting.
  6. Consider a late spring foliar spray for papayas to prevent “black spot”.
  7. Harvest sweet potatoes in the autumn OR once leaves have died back. Be careful to not disturb the tree roots nearby.
  8. Consider additional plants: Ginger, turmeric, and katuk can also be planted nearby or in the shaded areas.
banana circle
Grand Nain Banana. One of many varieties available from A Natural Farm. They ship anywhere in the continental United States and grow their plants using organic farming practices. Many of the varieties they provide are USDA certified organic.

Banana Circles as a Gray Water Run-off Catchment System

In many tribal communities, the water well is a place of social interaction as much as it meets a practical need. Adding a banana circle to this area helps create a sense of beauty, but is also extremely practical. In many tribal systems, the people will either burn or throw out plant material instead of using it in a composting system. However, changing this simple component can help build their soil, provide food, and bring new strategies of sanitization and disease prevention.

On an ecological level, as the soil improves around these composting circles, the people can then begin to introduce chickens, which will further improve soil quality. The compost will feed the chickens and they will add their own biomass to the system via their droppings. Though it may take a few years to dramatically improve soil quality, the lasting impact of these systems is profound. Utilizing waste water and compostable material is ideal in creating micro-ecosystems that can help restore abundant soil health.

Just to reiterate, standing water (especially in humid climates) can foster disease and bacteria when left untreated. By funneling the run-off water and planting a banana circle, we are not only utilizing the excess water, but also purifying it before it attracts disease and mosquitoes.

The compost pit in the center creates a place for mycelial mass to thrive, which helps destroy many disease causing bacteria. Furthermore, the fungal networks will also act as a way to break down organic matter and fertilize the soil. Palm fronds (specifically) are especially beneficial in this type of a composting system. Essentially, they release phosphate which boosts the networks of mycelium in the soil.

Keep in mind, however, that bananas and mycelium alone can only handle minor pollutants (like grey water, kitchen water, run-off, etc.). Do NOT use this system as a way to use black water.

What additional insight can you provide for others regarding banana circles?

What specific varieties have worked well for you?

Leave your tips in the comments below and tag @permaculturefx on social media so we can share your banana circle posts to further educate others.

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June Gardening To-Do List for USDA Zones 9-11

A Natural Farm

What to do on your property in June?

What should I be doing in my garden in the month of June if I live in a subtropical climate (Zones 9-11)?  This is the list for you! 

Looking for a list for USDA Zones 3-8, click here.

Have you ever wondered what other organic urban gardeners are doing right now in their yards or on their properties?   Well, here’s a little list to help you get started in on your property this month. 

June companion plants
Collards, Red Russian Kale, and Jewel Mix Nasturtiums

In the Garden

  • Summers in Subtropics:  Remember, this is the season that is like winter for most of the country.  Many of our annual veggie gardens are going to sleep now and should be cover-cropped until the fall.  Our best growing time for traditional garden veggies is essentially wrapping up.  Although it “can be done”, it’s likely better to focus on the food forest than the annual vegetables during the hot summer months.
  • Planting:  Summer peas, okra, and sweet potato.  You can also TRY and plant Seminole pumpkins now, but it’s a risk.   It is also still a good time to plant sweet potatoes, ginger, and turmeric – but I would not wait until the end of the month. 
  • Harvesting:  This month, you can harvest the pumpkins and squash from this winter, green beans, and the last bit of the cucumbers.  It’s also prime time for tropical greens!  This last week, I was harvesting the Dwarf Everbearing Mulberry and making jams and syrups to can for later.  I also tried a new pepper this year from “Seed the Stars” called a Dew Drop Pepper, and had wildly great results with them.  Most of those were canned up this week, but they are still yielding like crazy.  In fact, I have also used seeds from Seed the Stars for growing Seminole Pumpkins, Everglade Tomatoes, and butterfly pea as well.  

  • Tropical spinaches:  Some favorites (especially in Florida) are:  longevity spinach, Okinawa spinach, Suriname spinach, and Brazilian spinach.  Each o

  • Tomatoes:   Most of the larger tomatoes are finishing up for the summer in the hot climates, so if you are wondering why they look so sad… that’s totally normal.  The best (if not the only) tomato that does well in the summer in warmer climates is the Everglade tomato.  It’s a gorgeous little cherry tomato that will fruit most of the summer and is very disease resistant.  It’s excellent on salads, canned in salsa, or eaten fresh.  As for your other tomatoes… let them go and focus on other things.  

  • Plant Cover Crops:  One of the best cover crops in hot climates is called Sunn Hemp.  It’s in the legume family (as opposed to the other hemp) and not only repairs nitrogen in the soil, but is also a massive biomass accumulator.  If you plant it now, it will be 6-9′ tall before August, at which time it can be chopped and dropped or even buried and composted in place in the garden.  For a FREE growing guide on Sunn Hemp, email permaculturefx@gmail.com 
  • Managing powdery mildew:  In warmer tropical climates, this is the time of year when powdery mildew really starts getting wild.  When you see the initial signs, spray immediately with neem spray (buy 100% need on Amazon and then dilute with water and some Basic H to emulsify).  Spray in the early morning well before the heat of the day, preferably on an overcast day.   Follow up in 2-3 days with a probiotic spray like BioAg by SCD Probiotics.  Repeat the following week, if necessary.   If this doesn’t help, it’s actually better to remove and burn the plants so it doesn’t spread.  Remember, the spores will stay active in your soil, so it’s important to catch it early and remove / burn the spent plants.
Plant nasturtiums

GARDEN TIP

Plant nasturtiums around the garden and in the food forest. They are a two-fold insectary plant. First, they will attract the good insect and pollinators, especially the braconid wasps (which defend against the bad guys). Secondly, they are an insect trap for aphids, so if you see your nasturtiums covered…. consider them a sacrificial crop to protect your veggies. In hot climates, they appreciate part shade in summer months and sun in the winter.

In the Greenhouse

  • We are essentially finished with the “Greenhouse” season, but if you have a shade cloth, you can actually open up all the windows now and put the shade cloth over the top. This will allow you to start micro-greens and other tropical plants (like Vanilla beans and orchids). If using a shade cloth, you can also use the opened greenhouse for your indoor plants to give them a season outside. Just be sure to pay attention to your watering schedule.
  • Clean and sterilize the plastic pots used this winter / spring. Stack and store them.
  • Set mouse traps to control critters.
  • Hang fly trap to control aphids, flies, and other pests.
A Natural Farm
Spring 2021 Permaculture Design Course students serving in the food forest at A Natural Farm in Howey-in-the-Hills, FL

In the Food Forest

  • Compost and wood chips! In places like Florida, the rule of thumb is to fertilize (especially via compost or manure) every February, June, and September. This month, it’s highly encouraged to refresh your wood chips as well, which helps prevent soil sterilization during the hot sunny months. Some species (like Avocado, Citrus, and Mango) can have some compost this month, but organic fertilizers should wait until September when fruit are NOT on the branches. For a FREE planting guide for new fruit trees or how to layer mulch around existing trees, click here.
  • Ground cherry seedlings (or Cape Codd Gooseberry) can go into the ground now.  Plant them around the base of fruit trees to provide shade for the root systems, but allow enough light to get through to produce a harvest.  These will often self-seed, so plant in an area where you are ok with them spreading.  The taste of these berries is incredible, you will not regret planting them! Not to mention, they are packed with vitamin-C.
  • Herbs around fruit trees:  Woody and smelly herbs are great at two things:  keeping pests away (deer and bad bugs) and attracting native bees for pollination.  Wait, I lied… three things.  They are also a great ground cover under the young fruit trees.  Plant yarrow, bronze fennel, dill, oregano, thyme, chives, or garlic chives in clusters around the base of each fruit tree.  Let them spread and grow wild.
  • Harvest elderberry flowers:  If you are making elderflower tinctures, teas, or wine – now is your time to harvest!  Make the good stuff when flowers are at their peak.
  • Apply late spring foliar spray, if you have not done so already. It’s also a good time to try and get some elderberry cuttings for propagation.
  • Do NOT prune fruit trees! Never prune during the warmer months… wait until they go dormant. While the plant is sleeping, the sap slows down and the weather is often drier, which helps prevent bacterial and fungal infections.
Elderflower blossoms in Central Florida

Enjoy Flowers in bloom

Though this isn’t exactly the best time to plant native perennials, it’s a great time to enjoy the ones you started earlier. If you decide to plant anything this time of year, remember to check their water needs and mulch heavily. Never water until the soil has had the chance to try out for a day. If in doubt, finger check the soil down to your big knuckle.

In the Shed

  • Now that your tools are up and running, give them a check over before the summer months hit. 1 – Check oil levels. 2 – Check air filters. 3 – Add a bit of Seafoam to the gas to help clean things out a bit.
  • Make sure all outdoor tools and equipment are covered when not in use. In places like the South Eastern US, we are entering the rainy season and moisture is hard on equipment. If you cannot store them in a shed, make sure they are covered with a tarp when not in use.
  • Set mouse traps and keep any animal feed sealed and contained.
  • Make a tool cleaning bucket: Fill bucket with sharp play sand. Add oil motor oil, cheep cooking oils, etc until the sand is “damp”. Stab shovels, hoes, pitch forks in and out a few times to clean off dirt and give the metal a nice oiling to keep them from rusting after each use. Garden spades and trowels can be kept in the sand bucket when not in use. Obviously, do NOT put pruners or tools with gears in the sand.

In the Chicken Coop & Barn

  • Chickens:  Many folks who bought/hatched spring chickens are now free ranging their birds. They are not laying yet, so do NOT give them calcium.  Stay on an organic grower feed until the first eggs arrive.  My preference is a high protein feed with lots of seed varieties.   Personally, prefer to mix and ferment my own feed. Here’s my recipe.
  • Quail:  It’s starting to get hot, to be sure to keep their water filled at all times.  It helps (once a week) to add a tsp of apple cider vinegar to their waterer.  It will keep them healthy and active.  As you weed the garden, you can also give them an occasional worms and weeds for additional goodness in their diet.  Their cooing and songs will be as nice of a reward as the healthy eggs they will produce.
  • Deworm: Use 1 tablespoon of Basic H in a 5 gallon waterer (1 tsp per gal) for chickens. Add 1.5 cups to a 100gal waterer basin for cattle and horses. Available in bulk (much cheeper for farm use) This should be their only water source for two days.
  • Disinfect: Use Basic H to clean coops, animal areas, waterers, feeders, etc. This is a great time to power wash the barn, shed, and garage as well.
Feeders and seed in my yard are always from Wild Birds Unlimited, because I believe strongly in their quality and their support of local education and school connections.

Around the House

  • Put out summer bird seed and feeders. This is an excellent way to help with insect control around the garden. For more information on bird seed selections and food forest benefits, watch this IGTV video.
  • Keep South and West facing shades closed during the day time in order to block out the hot sun.
  • Open up the windows (on cooler nights) to help air out the house and let in fresh air.
  • Replace your AC air filters and clean out the vents with a shop vac.
  • Power wash cement, walkways, sides of house, shutters, wood decks, and outdoor furniture.
  • Clean outdoor windows and doors (I use Basic H for this).
  • Apply UV protectant to your recreational vehicles (boats, car interiors, RV’s, decals, etc.)

In the Perennial Flower Beds

  • Transplanting:  Now is NOT the time to transplant, unless you see rain in the forecast for the next week.
  • Compost! Now is the last chance to compost your perennial wildflowers before fall, so if you want to increase your summer blooms then go ahead and do that now. It’s also a great time to water using an organic fish emulsion / sea kelp blend. Your potted plants will REALLY appreciate this.
  • Cut back mums:  Yeah, go to town. Cut them back quite a bit.  Leave only about 1/3 of the plant.  You do NOT want this to develop buds yet, so if you see them forming again – give it a hair cut.

Comment below and let us know what YOU are doing this month in your garden.  

Be sure to let us know your city / state so we know your growing region. Add any tips that you have learned, additional items that we’ve missed, and any wisdom and experience you can add to the mix. Happy gardening!

NOTE: If you are interested in having an in-person or digital consultation for your property, we are now offering these at discounted prices.

Looking for a list for USDA Zones 3-8, click here.

June Gardening To-Do List for USDA Zones 3-8

backyard chickens in kansas city

June Gardening To-Do List

What should I be doing on my property in the month of June if I live in USDA Zones 3-8? Have you ever wondered what other organic urban gardeners are doing right now in their yards or on their properties?   (Looking for USDA Zones 9-11, click here)  Well, here’s a little list to give you a jump-start for what you be doing in your midwest garden in June.  

In the Garden

  • Kale, lettuce, cucumbers, summer/winter squash: Plant another round of them, if you have room in your gardens.  These are also great to plug into open spaced in your flower beds.
  • Tomatoes: Plant another round of them to diversify harvest throughout the season.  In the midwest, where we often have hard clay soil, you can actually increase your root systems for greater water intake by following these easy steps.  First, pinch off the bottom layers of leaves, only leaving 2 – 3 sets on the top of the seedling.  Second, plant the seedling all the way up to the top of the plant leaving only the remaining leaves above the ground.  Because tomatoes will grow roots from the hairs on the stem, the entire stem under the soil will produce roots.  This should only be done with seedlings up to 6-8″ tall.  Lastly, be sure to give it a good watering from your rain barrel when you finish.
  • Plant extra bean seedlings everywhere you can.  Yes, everywhere you can.  The bush beans are excellent off the plant (raw), can be cooked, and some can be dried.  The best part, in my humble opinion, is that the green beans are nitrogen fixers and help repair the soil.
Plant nasturtiums

TIP

Plant nasturtiums around the garden and in the food forest. They are a two-fold insectary plant. First, they will attract the good insect and pollinators, especially the braconid wasps (which defend against the bad guys). Secondly, they are an insect trap for aphids, so if you see your nasturtiums covered…. consider them a sacrificial crop to protect your veggies.

In the Greenhouse

  • We are essentially finished with the “Greenhouse” season, but if you have a shade cloth, you can actually open up all the windows now and put the shade cloth over the top. This will allow you to start micro-greens and other later season veggie starts. If using a shade cloth, you can also use the opened greenhouse for your indoor tropical plants to give them a season outdoors. Just be sure to pay attention to your watering!
  • Clean and sterilize the plastic pots used this winter / spring
  • Set mouse traps to control critters
  • Hang fly trap to control aphids, flies, and other pests

In the Food Forest

  • Ground Cherry seedlings can go into the ground.  Plant them around the base of trees to provide shade for the root systems, but allow enough light to get through to produce a harvest.  These will often self-seed, so plant in an area where you are ok with them spreading.  However, the taste of these berries is incredible, you will not regret planting them.
  • Herbs around fruit trees:  Woody and smelly herbs are great at two things:  keeping pests away (deer and bad bugs) and attracting native bees for pollination.  Wait, I lied… three things.  They are also a great ground cover under the young fruit trees.  Plant yarrow, bronze fennel, dill, oregano, thyme, chives, or garlic chives in clusters around the base of each fruit tree.  Let them spread and grow wild.
  • Harvest elderberry flowers:  If you are making elderflower tinctures, teas, or wine – now is your time to harvest!  Make the good stuff when flowers are at their peak.
  • Apply late spring foliar spray, if you have not done so already.
What Can You Plant Between Snows?

Enjoy your spring pollinating bulbs that you planted this winter.

If you forgot… here’s an article of when you could plant this this coming winter.

In the Shed

  • Now that your tools are up and running, give them a check over before the summer months hit. 1 – Check oil levels. 2 – Check air filters. 3 – Add a bit of Seafoam to the gas to help clean things out a bit.
  • Set mouse traps and keep any animal feed sealed and contained.
  • Make a tool cleaning bucket: Fill bucket with sharp play sand. Add oil motor oil, cheep cooking oils, etc until the sand is “damp”. Stab shovels, hoes, pitch forks in and out a few times to clean off dirt and give the metal a nice oiling to keep them from rusting after each use. Garden spades and trowels can be kept in the sand bucket.

In the Chicken Coop

  • Chickens:  Many folks who bought the spring chickens are now free ranging their birds. They are not laying yet, so do NOT give calcium.  Stay on a great grower feed until the first eggs arrive.  My preference is a high protein feed with lots of seed varieties.   Personally, prefer to mix and ferment my own feed. Here’s my recipe.
  • Quail:  It’s starting to get hot, to be sure to keep their water filled at all times.  It helps (once a week) to add a tsp of apple cider vinegar to their waterer.  It will keep them healthy and active.  As you weed the garden, you can also give them an occasional worm for additional protein in their diet.  Their cooing and songs will be as nice of a reward as the healthy eggs they will produce.
  • Deworm: Use 1 tablespoon of Basic H in a 5 gallon waterer (1tsp per gal) for chickens. Add 1.5 cups to a 100gal waterer basin for cattle and horses. Available in bulk (much cheeper for farm use) This should be their only water source for two days.

Around the House

  • Keep South and West facing shades closed during the day time in order to block out the hot sun.
  • Open up the windows on cooler nights to help air out the house and let in fresh air.
  • Replace your AC air filters and clean out the vents with a shop vac.
  • Power wash cement, walkways, sides of house, shutters, wood decks, and outdoor furniture.
  • Clean outdoor windows and doors (I use Basic H for this)
  • Apply UV protectant to your recreational vehicles (boats, car interiors, RV’s, decals, etc.

In the Perennial Flower Beds

  • Transplanting:  It’s the chance to move perennials for a few months.  Once the Midwest summers get hot, it’s really a challenge to transplant your perennials without over stressing them too much.  Now is a GREAT time to transplant coneflowers, yarrow, black-eyed Susans, penstemons, etc.
  • Share plants that you are dividing and trade with friends.
  • Cut back mums:  Yeah, go to town. Cut them back quite a bit.  Leave only about 1/3 of the plant.  You do NOT want this to develop buds yet, so if you see them forming again – give it a hair cut.

Comment Below and let us know what YOU are doing this month in your garden.  

Be sure to let us know your city / state so we know your growing region.  Check back soon for items to do next week… bookmark this page for referencing this month and keep checking back.  We’ll keep you updated on a weekly basis.

LOOKING FOR THE JUNE LIST FOR WARMER CLIMATES? CLICK HERE