What to Plant in Florida After a Freeze

It can certainly be disappointing to see our gardens get hit by a hard frost or a freeze… especially when we mulch nice and deep, covered our plant, or used sprinklers. It can be heart heartbreaking to see the brown and wilted carnage over the days following the frost. However, this is part of the natural cycle of nature and we (as gardeners) get to flow in harmony with that cycle of life and death. So don’t stand there frozen in the garden path – there is more to plant in Florida after a freeze.

The key to replanting in January and February is planting seeds that are going to be extra cold-hardy and fairly fast growing. So, don’t give up your winter garden yet, there is still time for a harvest over the next few months.

TIP: If you are in cold temperate climates, here are some things you can plant in the show


Preparing a Garden Bed After a Freeze

Before you start planting seeds, be sure to reset your system. Don’t leave rotting or dead plants laying around, because they can spread disease to other plants. It’s best to either bury the scraps back into the garden OR compost them to add back to the soil later. When you water your compost pile, consider adding some probiotics (CLICK HERE). However, in the food forest it’s especially important to leave the dead leaves where they are, because it will provide insulation in case of another freeze this winter. This is especially important on things like bananas. So clean up, but do so with patience and wisdom.

Next, consider adding more organic mulch to the garden beds. We prefer using a straw mulch because when it decomposes, it will create a nitrogen rich and bacterially-based soil structure, which vegetables prefer. Using wood chips on a vegetable garden can tie up nitrogen temporarily as they decompose, and also creates a fungal-based soil structure, which is more preferred by fruit trees and berry bushes. So be sure to use the right mulch in the right place.

Purple top turnip (greens are edible too)

What to Plant in Florida After a Freeze

  • Onions
  • Beets
  • Radish
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Winter peas
  • Sunflowers
  • Cosmos
  • Zinnia
  • Sweet potato slips
  • Squash
  • Gourds
  • Zucchini
  • Turnips
  • Watermelon
  • You can also keep doing many greens like arugula, lettuces, mustards, and komatsuna greens (or bok choi).
Daikon radish help till the soil, has edible roots, edible leaves and flowers, and is excellent livestock forage.

FRUIT TREES & BERRY BUSHES TO PLANT IN JANUARY – FEB

Some fruit trees and berry bushes actually do BETTER when they are planted while dormant. In fact, some of the following varieties will even grow in snowy winter climates, which makes them extra hardy. Here are some fruit trees to plant after a freeze (or anytime in the winter):

  • Peach
  • Plum
  • Nectarine
  • Pecan
  • Apple / Pear (but they don’t do well in Zones 9-11)
  • Loquat
  • Mulberry
  • Fig
  • Persimmon
  • Jujube
  • Grapes
  • Bamboo (clumping)
  • Olive
  • Elderberry
  • Blueberry
  • Thornless blackberry
  • Strawberry Guava
Breakfast Radishes

January Garden To-Do List for Zones 9-11

While much of the northern states are fighting the cold, snow, and ice… here in the southern regions, we are in the midst of prime gardening season. Sometimes, I think I should feel bad about it, but then I realize… I paid my dues in the midwest for over 35 years. So, instead, I look out the window at the thriving tomato plants, harvest some winter greens, and get out some more seed trays for planting new starts. January is one of the best months for the vegetable garden. Tomatoes and peppers are ripening, eggplants are forming on the bush, more radishes and beets are ready every day, and the tropical greens are going crazy.

Winter campfires with farm friends and fam.

In the food forest, it can really vary depending on the winter, so in the south we really have to be willing to flex from year-to-year, but that’s what makes it interesting and keeps us on our toes.

If you are reading this from a cold climate zone, however, please CLICK HERE for your January Garden to-do list. Now, without further rambling…

Here are some our hit list items on the January Gardening To-Do List for Zones 9-11.

In the Garden & Greenhouse

  • Plant from seed: Onions, beets, radish, carrots, corn, cucumbers, winter peas, squash, gourds, zucchini, turnips, watermelon. You can also keep doing many greens like arugula, lettuces, mustards, and komatsuna greens (or bok choi).
  • From Seedlings: Cabbage, collard greens, eggplants or peppers, Swiss chard, tomatoes. If it’s a warm winter, then I also plant potatoes and sweet potatoes now. If we are honest, I would still plant them on a cooler winter (just because).
  • Harvest: All tropical spinaches, ginger, turmeric, African potato mint, galangal. Harvest tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants as they ripen. If you have extra, leave a few on your neighbors front porch.
  • Bring in cuttings from tropical spinaches (longevity, Okinawa, Surinam, Bele, South Sea Salad) so you have “insurance” if they freeze off during the winter. Also, save slips (cuttings) from your most successful sweet potato vines and and start rooting them in water indoor.
  • Watch tomatoes and squash for any signs of powdery mildew. If you see anything, give them a quick spray with Basic H and organic Neem Oil and you’ll be all set.
  • Turn the compost pile every week to keep things decomposing over the winter. Add an occasional bucket of water to keep moisture levels up, especially if there are a lot of leaves in the pile.
  • Apply winter soil probiotic and microbial spray (We use a product called BioAg, which is produced in Kansas City, MO).
  • Start planning for your first time fertilizing in late February (order compost, fish emulsion, etc). Typically I do my first foliar spray in February and the compost and/or soil amendments in March.
Tyler, Victoria (“Linda”), and Rachel harvesting ginger and turmeric in the food forest at A Natural Farm.

In the Food Forest

  • Plant: Loquats, peaches, plums, pears, nectarines, mulberries, blueberries, elderberries, figs, persimmons, and other cold hardy trees.
  • Prune existing peaches, plums, pears, nectarines, mulberries, etc. Remove branches that are preventing light from getting to other branches. Open and airy scaffold structure is best to promote fruiting. This is the most optimal month for pruning (all trees except mango and avocado).
    • First Year Flower / Fruit Removal: Personally, I always remove the flowers / fruit from trees the first year or two they are in the ground. This allows all the energy to go to healthy root and branch development. If you leave even a few flowers / fruit, then the tree will automatically take up more phosphorus and potassium, instead of focusing on getting established.
  • Grafting Scions: Get avocado cuttings and start grafting. This is a great month to graft avocados in most (subtropical / tropical) areas. CLICK HERE FOR A TUTORIAL
  • If you slacked off this winter and did not refresh your wood chips, then this is your last chance to do it before spring. 6-10″ deep, go out as far as the drip line of the tree, and keep chips and mulch a few inches away from the trunk.
  • Do NOT fertilize fruit trees until mid-February.
  • Order organic orchard supplies for the coming season – be sure to look for holiday sales! Include seaweed extract, BioAg, neem oil, Basic H (for all foliar applications), and fish emulsion.

In the Shed

  • Check mouse traps frequently. Add cotton balls with peppermint oil to deter rodents.
  • Finish oiling up any tools that got missed.
  • Refinish and moisturize wooden handles of tools with Danish oil.
  • Spray out old plastic pots and clean up the corners of the shed.
  • Look for online sales for any equipment that need to be replaced.

In the Chicken Coop

december chicken care
  • Feed extra protein (meal worms, black oiled sunflower seeds, bugs, etc.) to help them during their recovery season.
  • Do NOT use supplemental lighting to increase egg production. Chickens need this off season to let their bodies rest. Let them have a natural rhythm of rest too.
  • Add a small amount of corn or millet to their diet to help with caloric intake in the winter months. This helps keep them warm naturally. NEVER use heat lamps in a coop or run.
  • Purchase suet blocks (>5% protein) as you see them on sale. The fat content helps birds stay warm for the winter. (click here for more tips on keeping birds warm)
  • Rotate straw and bedding in the coop to keep things clean and sanitary.
  • Add garden and flower bed cuttings to their run for them to “go through” and eat bugs and seeds before composting them.
  • Feed spent pumpkin and squash (from fall decor) to chickens. It helps boost their immune systems and can be a preventative for worms. NOTE: Pumpkin seeds are NOT a proven treatment for worms, but a great as part of your preventative maintenance regime. You may need to break them open for the birds to get at the inner meat of the pumpkins.
  • Give healthy protein / omega 3 treats: One cheep way to do this is to go to a local pet store and get feeder fish (cheep minnows). Put them into a shallow tray (with a bit of water) and watch the birds catch them! You can also purchase live crickets from pet stores and feel them fresh veggies for a day or two. Feed several per day to your birds for a healthy winter treat.
cup and saucer vine flowering in January
Cup and saucer vine flowering in January.

Around the House & Perennial Beds

  • Dead head spent perennials (i.e. purple coneflower, laitris, or hibiscus), and either save seed OR scatter / cover them for new plants in the spring.
  • Remove all spent tropical spinaches (longevity, surinam, etc.) or hibiscus (cranberry, roselle, pineland, etc.)
  • Plant native perennial wildflowers. If you are in central Florida, look at Green Isle Gardens in Groveland. Or check out the native wildflower seed mixes at Hancock Seed Company.
  • Apply BioAg probiotic spray the day before a rain (to the soil) in order to inoculate the soil with healthy microbes. This will help prevent a lot of common diseases and pests.
  • Water house plants sparingly.
    • Only water them when you can put your finger in the soil and it feels dry up to your first knuckle (about 1″ deep). If the soil feels or looks damp – do NOT water.
    • Water in the sink until water runs out of the bottom, so you know the full root ball is saturated. Let it drain for a few minutes before returning to a sunny spot near a window.
    • Rotate plants every view days for even light distribution.

In the Pasture

  • Plant Rough Pea (Lathyrus hirsutus), which is a high quality protein (especially for beef cows), helps maintain a healthy gut microflora.  High quality digestible fiber.
  • Winter wheat, Burmuda grass
  • Radish, turnips, or clover
  • Plant bamboo, Pigeon pea, Napier grass, Mexican Sunflower, Elderberry on pasture edges for chop-and-drop foraging or privacy.

Winter Bird-feeding for the Entire Family

  • Bird feeding is the perfect kids activity this month! My favorite bird-nerd store is Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU), which is found nationwide. They are not only knowledgeable, but often give free feeders to schools and libraries. Not to mention, the quality of their feed is far superior to box stores. Customize your feeds with different seeds for different birds. Each feed needs a different style feeder, but you can learn more about this by taking your kiddos to WBU.
  • Nyger and Sunflower Chips: For finches, vireos, and smaller birds
  • Safflower: Great to keep squirrels away, but cardinals and bluejays love this seed (especially in a hopper feeder)
  • Shelled Peanuts: For bluejays and woodpeckers
  • Black-oiled Sunflower Seeds: Everyone loves these! A must have for the feeder. Woodpeckers, sparrows, nuthatches, titmouse, etc.
  • White Millet: Indigo or painted buntings
  • Suet: Woodpeckers (ladder back, downy, hairy, red headed, etc.)

Time to Plan

During these winter months while the fruit trees are mainly dormant, it’s the perfect time to plan for the spring. So make a cup of nice winter tea, open up your sketch book, and start brainstorming. But please reach out if we can help you in the process!

If you are interested in a personalized permaculture consultation for your property, we do both in-person visits to your site AND digital visits (for those out of our area). CLICK HERE to learn more. We offer a wide variety of consultation types to fit an array of budgets and project sizes.

Winter Foraged Tea
Winter Foraged Tea: White pine needles, roselle calyx, and olive leaves. Great for anti-oxidants and immune health.

If this content was helpful to you, please help inspire other gardeners by sharing the link on social media or with your favorite gardening group.

January Garden To-Do List for USDA Zones 3-8

how to get ready for an ice storm

In cold climate regions, January is a time of deep rest. After the holidays end, it’s like our body exhales and realizes that the deep of winter has finally arrived. Instead of dreading it – lean into it. Enjoy it. It’s the perfect time to curl up with a warm blanket, read a new permaculture book, look through seed catalogues, and start planning the garden for next year in sketch books. Not to mention, it’s a great time to review the January Garden To-Do List. However, if you are in USDA Zones 9-11, we have a separate (specific) list for you. CLICK HERE for the warm climate to-do list.

It’s a great time to watch a few permaculture documentaries, take an online course, or even look into local permaculture events in your area. For many of us in cooler climates, the winter can get a little depressing if we just hide away in our caves. So, be sure to get out and connect in your local community and spend nice days outside enjoying the changing of the seasons.

But when the slightly warmer days pop up, be sure to get out into the garden, because there are definitely things that can be done in the food forest and garden in the deep of winter.

January Garden To-Do List for USDA Zones 3-8 

In the Garden & Greenhouse

  • Continue to cover the soil with organic matter. You can use chopped up leaves (i.e. picked up with the lawn mower), straw, compost, etc. Better yet, use layers of each!
  • Continue to plant garlic and spring bulbs. CLICK HERE for a list of what you can plant between snows.
  • Take soil samples on warmer days and have them tested at your local extension office. Personally, I don’t use their “fertilizer” recommendations (because it’s rarely organic), so instead I see what nutrients are lower and improve in those areas. Honestly, in 99% of cases the regenerative answer is almost always COMPOST and more organic matter. By adding compost, you automatically improve NPK and build soil structure.
  • Check seeds that are cold stratifying outside or in the refrigerator (chestnut, paw paw, acorns, etc.)
  • Apply winter soil probiotic and microbial spray to compost piles (I use a product called BioAg, which is produced in Kansas City, MO). I always have this on hand to spray on the soil or trees / shrubs during warmer spells in the winter months. I shoot for every other month, because it will prevent many of the pests and diseases that can come in warmer months. Be proactive!
  • Sort through your seed inventory and reorganize when possible.
  • Look through seed catalogues for what you want to plant this year. Use heirloom seeds when possible, because these have not been modified or hybridized since before WW1. Often, heirloom varieties produce a healthier fruit and have much better flavor. One of my favorite websites is rareseeds.com for veggies and an Etsy Store called Seed the Stars for some tropical edibles that can be grown as annuals in cold climates..

In the Food Forest

  • Wait to prune until February and early March. Let the trees rest for now. Most fruit trees should be pruned during a cold / dry period. The colder temps make the sap stop flowing, and the dry weather helps prevent immediate fungal or bacterial infections. When you prune, take no more than 1/4 of the tree off in a given year, and NEVER apply a wood sealer. Let the tree heal on its own.
  • Watch for rabbit or pest damage and protect trees accordingly.
  • Check for deer damage (eating branches, buck rubs, etc.) weekly. Save some deer bones from hunting season to make bone sauce for deer repellant (recipe coming soon). Pack the snow around the base of tree trunks to pack down vole and rodent tunnels.
  • Order organic orchard supplies for the coming season – be sure to look for holiday sales! Include seaweed extract, BioAg, neem oil, Basic H (for all foliar applications), and fish emulsion.
  • Finish any winter mulching (wait for compost until spring, so you don’t add too much nitrogen now).
  • Water compost piles during dry periods.

In the Shed

  • Check mouse traps frequently. Add cotton balls with peppermint oil to deter rodents.
  • Repair garden tools. Sand down wooden handles and reseal them (I like a good Danish oil or non-yellowing varnish).
  • Sharpen all tools (pruners, cutters, shovels, etc.)
  • Look for online sales for any equipment that need to be replaced.

In the Chicken Coop

december chicken care
  • Feed extra protein (meal worms, black oiled sunflower seeds, bugs, etc.) to help them during their recovery season.
  • Do NOT use supplemental lighting to increase egg production. Chickens need this off season to let their bodies rest. Let them have a natural rhythm of rest too.
  • Add a small amount of corn or millet to their diet to help with caloric intake in the winter months. This helps keep them warm naturally. NEVER use heat lamps in a coop or run.
  • Purchase suet blocks (>5% protein) as you see them on sale. The fat content helps birds stay warm for the winter. (click here for more tips on keeping birds warm)
  • Rotate straw and bedding in the coop to keep things clean and sanitary.
  • Keep water unthawed
    • Use an electric water heater (OR)
    • Use two watering containers and bring them in at night / rotate them
    • Note: The salt water bottle in the container does NOT work outside of 1-2 degrees below freezing and only for a short time. This can work as an addition, but should not be your primary means of keeping water unthawed.
  • Feed spent pumpkin and squash (from fall decor) to chickens. It helps boost their immune systems and can be a preventative for worms. NOTE: Pumpkin seeds are NOT a proven treatment for worms, but a great as part of your preventative maintenance regime. You may need to break them open for the birds to get at the inner meat of the pumpkins.
  • Give healthy protein / omega 3 treats: One cheep way to do this is to go to a local pet store and get feeder fish (cheep minnows). Put them into a shallow tray (with a bit of water) and watch the birds catch them! You can also purchase live crickets from pet stores and feel them fresh veggies for a day or two. Feed several per day to your birds for a healthy winter treat.

January Garden To-Do List for USDA Zones 3-8 Continued…

Around the House & Perennial Beds

  • Continue to plant spring bulbs every time the soil thaws. This can be done all winter. Click here for some of our favorite bulbs to plant in the winter.
  • Pay attention to windows and address any drafts immediately. Older winters should have plastic over them (purchased at a local hardware store), which will help save $$ on heat bills. Pull blinds to keep heat inside at night and open them during the day to let natural light inside.
  • Water house plants carefully.
    • Only water them when you can put your finger in the soil and it feels dry up to your first knuckle (about 1″ deep). If the soil feels or looks damp – do NOT water.
    • Water in the sink until water runs out of the bottom, so you know the full root ball is saturated. Let it drain for a few minutes before returning to a sunny spot near a window.
    • Rotate plants every view days for even light distribution.
  • Mid-Winter Banana Fertilizer for Houseplants: Soak 3 banana peels in a large jar of water for 3 days (make sure they stay submerged). Remove the banana peels and add 1 cup of the mineral rich banana water to one gallon of water. Use this ONCE this month to give your house plants a mid-winter boost.

Winter Ideas for Kids

  • Bird feeding is the perfect kids activity this month! My favorite bird-nerd store is Wild Birds Unlimited (WBU), which is found nationwide. They are not only knowledgeable, but often give free feeders to schools and libraries. Not to mention, the quality of their feed is far superior to box stores.
  • Customize your feeds with different seeds for different birds. Each feed needs a different style feeder, but you can learn more about this by taking your kiddos to WBU.
  • Nyger and Sunflower Chips: For finches, vireos, and smaller birds
  • Safflower: Great to keep squirrels away, but cardinals and bluejays love this seed (especially in a hopper feeder)
  • Shelled Peanuts: For bluejays and woodpeckers
  • Black-oiled Sunflower Seeds: Everyone loves these! A must have for the feeder. Woodpeckers, sparrows, nuthatches, titmouse, etc.
  • White Millet: Indigo or painted buntings
  • Suet: Woodpeckers (ladder back, downy, hairy, red headed, etc.)

Time to Plan

During these winter months while the fruit trees and gardens are dormant, it’s the perfect time to plan for the spring. If you are interested in a personalized permaculture consultation for your property, we do both in-person visits to your site AND digital visits (for those out of our geographical area). CLICK HERE to learn more.

January Garden To-Do List for USDA Zones 3-8

Happy New Year

from Kris, Vala, and Leto! If you have enjoyed this content, please help us inspire other gardeners by sharing this link on social media or with your favorite gardening group.

5 Tropical Plants to Take Cuttings of Before a Cold Snap

In USDA Growing Zones 9-11, cold snaps and frosts don’t happen very often, but when they do, it does require us to do a few more steps to prepare our gardens and food forests. Some plants, like newly planted trees, need extra protection and some plants are better off being brought indoors. For a list of what plants need protection and how to do it, CLICK HERE.

There are other plants, however, that it is important to take “insurance cuttings” of just in case they don’t survive. These cuttings can be easily planted in small pots and brought indoors to root, and then can be transplanted in the spring after the danger of frost has past.

Auntie Lillies South Sea Salad
Auntie Lillies South Sea Salad

Here are 5 Tropical Plants to Take Cuttings of Before a Cold Snap

  1. South Sea Salad
  2. Auntie Lilies South Sea Salad
  3. Longevity Spinach
  4. Okinawa Spinach
  5. Brazilian Spinach

TIP: If you are looking to order these plants, here is where I get mine: https://www.anaturalfarm.com/live-plants

Okinawa spinach
Okinawa spinach – Edible tropical spinach that love more shaded areas. Delicious in soups, stews, or scrambled eggs.

How to Propagate the Cuttings

First, take sterile pruners and cut a 6″ piece of each plant, removing all the leaves except one at the top. With your pruners, cut the top leave in half. This will stimulate growth hormones in the plant, but still allow a little bit for photosynthesis. This is a great time to take multiple cuttings, so you have more to plant or give away.

Second, plant the cutting in a four inch pot (1/2 of the stem below the soil), making sure that at least one leaf node is buried in the soil. Use a loose potting mix with excellent drainage.

Water the plant thoroughly and place in a shaded area outside OR a sunny window indoors. Allow soil to fully dry out between watering in order to force the plant the send out new roots.

Keep the plant protected for 30 days, occasionally misting the leaves. Only plant in the ground after the danger of frost (usually mid-march in most climates).

Roselle calyx drying for tea and center for seed saving

Plants to Save Seed From (that do not grow as well from cuttings)

A. Roselle (Jamaican) Sorrel

B. Cranberry Hibiscus

C. Cape Cod Gooseberry

D. Moringa

E. Royal Poinciana (in Zone 9)

A Few More Helpful Links for Tropical Gardening in the Winter

December Gardening To Do List

How to Know When to Cut Back Hibiscus

Dwarf Mango Options

3 Things to Do in the Garden Before the Holidays

For more information on our property consultation services or gift certificates, CLICK HERE

What Plants Should Be Protected in a Freeze

In subtropical regions where frost is likely during the winter months (USDA Zones 9-10 especially), it’s imperative to protect certain plants during a frost. The two most common questions are these:

1. What plants should be protected during a freeze?

2. How do I protect my plants during a freeze?

Knowing what plants to cover and how to do it will help ensure the success of your garden and food forest. Keep in mind that sometimes plants only need to be covered when they are younger (under 6′ tall) or newly planted. Once plants are more established, they are less likely to die back during a hard frost, and they can take a little more beating from the elements. However, until they are established, they need to be protected with a little extra care. So, which plants (in USDA Zones 9-10) should be protected during a cold snap?

Here is a list to help you determine what needs the extra protection with a few notes on each species.

Frost cloth from A Natural Farm with Christmas light underneath to keep new mango trees warm

What Plants Should Be Protected During a Freeze

  • African Blue Basil: Cover at 33 degrees. Will die back in a freeze, but do not remove damaged leaves. It will often rebound from the woody parts in the spring. Prune after possibility of frost has passed.
  • Atemoya: Needs protection from temps under 35. Much hardier once established.
  • Avocado: Needs protection from temps under 33 while young. Not necessary to protect until 28 degrees once they are established. May loose leaves, but will come back. Check the hardiness of your exact variety, as there is quite a difference in cold hardiness.
  • Banana: Protect base and truck. Leaves will die back below 32 degrees. Leaves should be left on the tree until after April 1. Clean up dead leaves after the danger of frost has passed.
  • Barbados Cherry (Acerola Cherry): Only protect younger plants (under 5′ tall). Hardy once established, but may loose leaves in a hard frost / freeze.
  • Bilimbi: Must protect from freeze below 33.
  • Canistel (egg fruit): Must protect below 32.
  • Cashew: Protect below 33 until established. Larger trees are often hardy down to 28.
  • Cassava: Leaves will die at 32 degrees. However, at that point, it’s generally time to dig up and harvest each plant. Save cuttings of the stems to propagate more later. Dried stems can be used up to three months later (even without water).
  • Cattleya guava (strawberry guava): Hardy down to 24 degrees. Cover at 32 to protect leaves. Usually will readily rebound after leave damage occurs.
  • Carambola / Star fruit: Needs protection from temps under 35. Much hardier once established.
  • Chaya: Cover younger plants below 32. However, once they are hardened off and established, they will come back from the older growth. Great to chop and drop after April 1.
  • Cherry of the Rio Grande: Cold hardy once established, but protect if under 3′ tall.
  • Citrus: Protect below 33
  • Coffee: Protect below 34
  • Custard Apple: Protect younger trees. These may defoliate for the winter, but leaves will come back fresh in the later spring. Hardy once established. Leaves tend to get powdery mildew when the turn brown, so be ready to spray with neem and basic H.
  • Dragonfruit: ones growing up the south side of trees are often more protected. Otherwise, cover below 33.
  • Guava: Cover young plants below 33. Hardy once established and will not need covering.
  • Hibiscus: For roselle and cranberry hibiscus, it’s better to save seed and regrow in the spring time. These are actually a self seeding annual / tender perennial. Prone to powdery mildew in cooler weather.
  • Ice cream Bean: Protect below 34.
  • Jaboticaba: Young plants need protection under 35 degrees, but older plants may be much more hardy.
  • Jackfruit: Protect trees under 10′ tall at 33 degrees or below. Normal to loose leaves in a frost.
  • Longan: Protect younger trees. Hardy once established. May defoliate, but leaves will return in the spring.
  • Lychee: Protect younger trees. Hardy once established. May defoliate, but leaves will return in the spring.
  • Mango: Protect trees under 10′ tall to the best of your ability. They are hardier once established, but cannot do temps under 28 very well.
  • Miracle Fruit: Often grown in a pot in the winter so it can be taken indoors to a sunny window. Then returned outside in the warmer months in part shade or full shade. Cannot tolerate under 35 degrees.
  • Moringa: Hardy once established. Leaves will drop for the winter, but will come back in the spring. Great time to prune and shape while dormant.
  • Nasturtium: Cover or save (and dry) seeds for replanting.
  • Nightshades: Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, ashwagandha, etc.
  • Pandan: Leave planted in a pot where frost is likely. Then bring indoors under 40 degrees. They prefer full shade when outside and a sunny window when indoors.
  • Papaya: Protect under 33 degrees. Remember, it’s a fast growing and short lived tree anyway.
  • Pigeon Pea: Will get leaf damage at 32 degrees. If leaves get crunchy, just “chop and drop” them around the base of another fruit tree. Cut back 1/3 of bush only, and they usually rebound in the spring. They are a short lived tree anyway, and mostly grown as a living fertilizer and soil builder. Easily grown from seed in pots.
  • Soursop: Protect under 33.
  • Star Cherry (pitangatuba): Protect younger bushes. Hardy once established. Cover under 30 degrees.
  • Strawberry Tree: Protect younger trees. Hardy once established. Cover under 32 degrees. Will often loose leaves for the winter. Prune in early spring to remove dead and give desired shape.
  • Sugar Apple: Protect younger trees. These may defoliate for the winter, but leaves will come back fresh in the later spring. Hardy once established.
  • Sugar Cane: Protect under 30 if possible. Will come back from roots if it gets frozen a bit.
  • Surinam Cherry: Only protect younger plants (under 3′ tall). Hardy once established.
  • Toilet Paper Plant (Blue Spur): Cover at 33.
  • Tropical Spinaches: Best to take cuttings of these and replant in the spring. Not cold hardy. Recommended to take cuttings in early December and protect in pots over the winter (transplant April 1). Examples: longevity spinach, Okinawa spinach, Surinam spinach, Brazilian Sisso, Jewels of Opar, etc. CLICK HERE FOR 5 TROPICAL PLANTS TO TAKE CUTTINGS OF BEFORE A FREEZE
  • Vanilla Bean Orchid: Bring indoors under 37 degrees.
Tropic Beauty Peach
Tropic Beauty Peach – NO PROTECTION NEEDED

No Protection Needed

  • Apple
  • Apple Cactus (Peruvian)
  • Bay
  • Blackberry
  • Blueberry
  • Brassicas: kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.
  • Elderberry
  • Fig
  • Ginger
  • Loquat (Un-pollinated blossoms may need some protection)
  • Mulberry (all varieties)
  • Nectarine
  • Olive
  • Peach (Tropic Beauty pictured above)
  • Pear
  • Persimmon
  • Plum
  • Pomegranate
  • Raspberry
  • Turks Cap Hibiscus
  • Turmeric

TIP: For online ordering of some of these plants, here is a great local place we recommend, who also ships nation-wide: https://www.anaturalfarm.com/live-plants

How to Protect Tropical Plants During a Freeze

There are several methods of protection that you can offer your tropical and cold sensitive plants during a freeze. Sometimes, layering these methods will help provide that extra bit of peace of mind.

  1. Bring younger potted plants indoors or against the house. The radiant heat from the house, concrete, and protection of a covered pool area is often enough to protect them. Some sensitive plants (like Vanilla Orchid) are better off being brought indoors for the night when frost is eminent.
  2. Cover younger plants and trees with frost cloth. This is one of the best methods for younger trees, plants that are in the ground, or if you are working on short notice. The wraps that go around individual trees are often more expensive, so frost cloth is cheeper when purchased in a longer roll.
  3. Turn on a sprinkler or misting system. The running water will help keep things moving and prevent the damage to the trees up to a certain point. Let it run all night over your food forest and into the morning until after the temps are above freezing.
  4. Start a campfire or two. The smoke and heat from the fire burning overnight can help keep the food forest warm. This does, however, require safety measures to be taken.
  5. Use old Christmas lights. Wrap sensitive trees with filament style lights, because the heat produced by the bulbs can protect the trees, especially when used under frost cloth.
  6. Spray the plants with probiotics the day before the freeze. Probiotic and microbial activity can help prevent frost damage on sensitive plants. There are some great scientific studies on this, for those who like this sort of thing. Click here for the probiotic we recommend.
  7. Mulch extra heavy with wood chips, leaves, or straw. The extra biomass is not only good for the soil, but the blanket will help protect the soil and root ball from the colder temps. The biomass will also give off radiant heat throughout the colder temperatures.
  8. Wrap small banana trunks with towels. Bananas are going to look “ugly” this time of year with a lot of dead material. Leave it on! This will serve as additional insulation until the spring arrives, and keep the plants protected.

What NOT To Do During the Cold Snap

A. Water well the few days before. It’s actually best to have LESS water in the plant leaves and stems. So do NOT water for a couple days before the frost. Let plants rest.

B. Use tarps or plastic to cover plants. The plastic does NOT breath enough and increases the humidity and formation of frost / ice crystals under the covering. In addition, the plactic will prevent plants from breathing and daytime heat will literally cook the plants, which can be more dangerous than the frost itself. Use a breathable material like an old bed sheet or frost cloth instead.

C. Leave the frost protection on the next day. Always remove the covering first thing in the morning, so the moisture can be released and the plants can slowly warm up in the morning sun. Leaving them covered can actually cause the plants to get “cooked” under the material.

D. Fertilize. Never fertilize in the weeks before or after a cold snap. Let your plants harden off and do not force new (sensitive) growth. Generally during the winter months, stop fertilization in general (only use light compost or foliar feeds).

Final Notes

If you have any further questions, feel free to reach out to us on social media or contact a local greenhouse. Get insight from other organic fruit tree and berry bush growers in your area, because they will have familiarity with your microclimate.

NOTE: We also offer several personal property consultation services. Check those out HERE.

Best of luck in the cold and we’ll see you in the garden.

Please share this post with others in your gardening network who might find this helpful.

December Garden To-Do List for Zones 9-11

In the northern states, they are wrapping up their vegetable gardening season, and in the south we are just getting started! This month the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and squash are ripening. We are harvesting mid-season crops like mustard greens, bok choy, komatsuna greens, lettuce mixes, and a plethora of herbs.

Chickens and ducks are resting their bodies in order to restore nutrient levels after a busy laying season and fall feather molting. Fallen leaves and plants are starting to decompose a bit and returning important nutrients to the soil. Fungal networks are expanding underground to strengthen the soil web. So even though the fruit trees and berry bushes are slowing down for the season, we are doing an abundance of vegetable gardening right now! So, in between holiday functions, be sure to get organized with your monthly gardening list. (Click here if you are in a colder climate for your tailored list)

Here are some our hit list items on the December Gardening To-Do List.

Food Forest at A Natural Farm & Educational Center in Howey in the Hills, FL

In the Garden & Greenhouse

  • Remove “shade cloth” from greenhouses and put up the greenhouse plastic to protect seedlings from the occasional cold snap.
  • Plant: Onions, greens, kale, broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, beets, radishes, turnips, and snow peas.
  • Harvest sweet potatoes planted in the spring, and finish harvesting tropical spinach.
  • Bring in cuttings from tropical spinaches (longevity, Okinawa, Surinam, Bele, South Sea Salad) so you have “insurance” if they freeze off during the winter. Also save slips (cuttings) from your most successful sweet potato vines and and start rooting them in water indoor.
  • Watch tomatoes and squash for any signs of powdery mildew. If you see anything, give them a quick spray with Basic H and organic Neem Oil and you’ll be all set.
  • Turn the compost pile every week to keep things decomposing over the winter. Add an occasional bucket of water to keep moisture levels up, especially if there are a lot of leaves in the pile.
  • Apply winter soil probiotic and microbial spray (We use a product called BioAg, which is produced in Kansas City, MO).
  • Test soil samples and begin making amendment plans for springtime. Bring them into your counties local extension office for testing. Be sure to minimally test NPK and organic matter.
Okinawa Purple Sweet Potato

In the Food Forest

  • Plant: Peaches, plums, pears, nectarines, mulberries, blueberries, elderberries, figs, persimmons, and other cold hardy trees.
  • Prune existing peaches, plums, pears, nectarines, mulberries, etc. Remove branches that are preventing light from getting to other branches. Open and airy scaffold structure is best to promote fruiting.
  • Harvest: Enjoy the last hurrahs from your tropical spinach trees. Save seeds and cuttings.
  • Make sure that every fruit tree and berry bush has 4-6″ of wood chips around the base (from the truck area to the edge of the drip-line). Keep wood chips a few inches from the trunk (to prevent rot), and never allow the soil to be bare or covered in grass.
  • Do NOT fertilize again until February.
  • Order organic orchard supplies for the coming season – be sure to look for holiday sales! Include seaweed extract, BioAg, neem oil, Basic H (for all foliar applications), and fish emulsion.
Jamacan Sorrel / Roselle Calyx. Seeds will be saved and the red part will be dried for winter tea.

In the Shed

  • Check mouse traps frequently. Add cotton balls with peppermint oil to deter rodents.
  • Finish oiling up any tools that got missed.
  • Look for online sales for any equipment that need to be replaced.

In the Chicken Coop

december chicken care
  • Feed extra protein (meal worms, black oiled sunflower seeds, bugs, etc.) to help them during their recovery season.
  • Do NOT use supplemental lighting to increase egg production. Chickens need this off season to let their bodies rest. Let them have a natural rhythm of rest too.
  • Add a small amount of corn or millet to their diet to help with caloric intake in the winter months. This helps keep them warm naturally. NEVER use heat lamps in a coop or run.
  • Purchase suet blocks (>5% protein) as you see them on sale. The fat content helps birds stay warm for the winter. (click here for more tips on keeping birds warm)
  • Rotate straw and bedding in the coop to keep things clean and sanitary.
  • Add garden and flower bed cuttings to their run for them to “go through” and eat bugs and seeds before composting them.
  • Feed spent pumpkin and squash (from fall decor) to chickens. It helps boost their immune systems and can be a preventative for worms. NOTE: Pumpkin seeds are NOT a proven treatment for worms, but a great as part of your preventative maintenance regime. You may need to break them open for the birds to get at the inner meat of the pumpkins.
  • Give healthy protein / omega 3 treats: One cheep way to do this is to go to a local pet store and get feeder fish (cheep minnows). Put them into a shallow tray (with a bit of water) and watch the birds catch them! You can also purchase live crickets from pet stores and feel them fresh veggies for a day or two. Feed several per day to your birds for a healthy winter treat.
Luc (owner of A Natural Farm) teaching how to plant a fruit tree

Around the House & Perennial Beds

  • Harvest pine cuttings for natural winter decor, garlands, and wreaths
  • Apply BioAg probiotic spray the day before a rain (to the soil) in order to inoculate the soil with healthy microbes. This will help prevent a lot of common diseases and pests.
  • Water house plants carefully.
    • Only water them when you can put your finger in the soil and it feels dry up to your first knuckle (about 1″ deep). If the soil feels or looks damp – do NOT water.
    • Water in the sink until water runs out of the bottom, so you know the full root ball is saturated. Let it drain for a few minutes before returning to a sunny spot near a window.
    • Rotate plants every view days for even light distribution.

In the Pasture

  • Plant Rough Pea (Lathyrus hirsutus), which is a high quality protein (especially for beef cows), helps maintain a healthy gut microflora.  High quality digestible fiber.
  • Plant bamboo, Napier (elephant) grass, or elderberry on pasture edges.

Winter Ideas for Kids

Natural winter decorations
  • Take nature walks on nice days.
    • Have kids look for interesting textures and shapes
    • Look for buck rubs or signs of animals
  • Put out bird feeders and make fun food treats for wildlife. Consider a natural Christmas tree outside for the birds with all edible ornaments and garland.
  • Visit a nature center or arboretum in your area and let the kids pick out a new house plant to take care of.
  • Attend a local gardening, mushroom, or permaculture event in your area.
  • Visit a local farm. Many offer family friendly activities.
  • Have kids help you pick out seeds for next year in the seed catalogues. Consider giving them their own section of the garden to plant in the spring. Involve them in the entire process of planning as well as planting and maintenance. It’s amazing the veggies kids will eat when they picked it out, planted it, and grew it themselves.

Time to Plan

During these winter months while the fruit trees are mainly dormant, it’s the perfect time to plan for the spring. December through February are the BEST months to come up with a design for your property so you can hit the ground running in March. If you are interested in a personalized permaculture consultation for your property, we do both in-person visits to your site AND digital visits (for those out of our area). CLICK HERE to learn more.

And yes, we offer a variety of packages that fit a range of property sizes, project scopes, and budgets!

Many blessings to each of you this holiday season, and as always…

I’ll see you in the Garden!

October Garden To-Do List for Zones 9-11

Fall is officially here! The rainy season has come to an end, hurricane season is in full force, and winter gardening prep is now the #1 priority. Whew…what a rush! Although many southern states don’t get the color change that Midwest do, we are all still grateful for the slightly less oppressive heat and cooler nights. I can already smell the campfires coming over the next couple months.

That being said, it’s also a busy time for farmers and home gardeners. So, here is your list of things to do in your yard during the month of October. Pay attention to the garden, house, shed, orchard, animals, and of course… the kiddos!

This is your October Gardening To-Do list for Zones 9-11. For a list specific to USDA Growing Zones 3-8, click here.

In the garden

  • Plant seeds for: carrots, onions, radishes (all types), turnips, and other root crops. It’s also important to stagger your lettuce and kale plantings, so they have various ripening times.
  • Plant baby starts of: Beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, sugarcane, Swiss chard, etc. If you have any tomato (or other nightshade) seedlings left – go ahead and get them in the ground now too. Last chance on those guys.
  • Cover soil with straw! Never leave garden soil exposed to the elements. Remember, most veggies prefer a bacterially dominated soil, which is created by decomposing grass and straw.
  • Apply Fall probiotic spray (I use BioAg by SCD Probiotics) to all gardens, flower beds, and orchard soil. I use this both as a foliar spray and soil drench to help keep microflora healthy and the soil biome in pristine condition.
  • Test garden soil and make necessary fall amendments. As a general rule, this time of year is the most ideal for adding a LIGHT layer of compost (you don’t want to stimulate new growth), and for spreading wood chips and mulch.
BioAg Probiotic Concentrate

In the Greenhouse

  • Plant another round of: kale, cabbage, Swiss chard, radishes, diakon, mixed greens, peas, etc.
  • Remove shade cloth and get ready to apply winter plastic that may need replacing.
  • Look for areas that have mold, mildew, or fungus after the rainy season. Address each appropriately with neem, Basic H cleaner, etc.
florida sweet potatoes
October Gardening To-Do List | Harvest sweet potatoes that have been growing for 130-150 days. Plant new slips from plants that did well. Remember, in zones 9-11, we can plant sweet potatoes year round!

In the Food Forest

  • Harvest tropical spinaches, edible hibiscus, sweet potato greens and other low-growing plants. Continue harvesting tropical cherries (Barbados, Cherry of the Rio, Pitangatuba, etc.) and other fall tropical fruit.

• Avocado
• Barbados cherry

• Carambola • Citrus
• Dragon Fruit • Fig

• Guava
• Hibiscus (edible)
• Katuk (leaves & berries) • Moringa
• Mulberry
• Passion Fruit
• Peanut Butter Fruit
• Pecan
• Persimmon
• Peruvian Apple Cactus • Soursop
• Strawberry tree
• Sugar Apple
• Sweet potato harvesting • Tropical spinaches

  • Spray all fruit trees with probiotic spray, neem oil (for bugs and fungus control), and keep areas beneath the trees clear of waste.
  • Fresh compost and mulch around the base of the trees for winter. You can also use chopped leaves from trees around your yard. Do NOT use other fruit tree leaves if you can avoid it, because you don’t want to let any fungus or disease overwinter in the food forest.
  • Divide plants that are big enough to multiply and share (i.e. comfrey, berries, perennial flowers, etc.)
  • Harvest any remaining summer herbs (dry them, make tinctures, give away, or make an herbal broth for cooking). Some herbs can actually be frozen in olive oil (using ice cube trays) for use over the winter.
  • STOP planting tropical trees that are cold sensitive, like mango, avocado, strawberry tree, etc. Wait until Easter time to plant these in the ground. If you want to purchase them this fall, just be sure to leave them in a pot until springtime. This can actually be beneficial, because you can purchase a smaller tree, upsize the pot, and let it fill in over the winter. Then when spring arrives, you have a tree that has grown a foot and is acclimated to your particular site.
  • Save seeds from: Roselle, cranberry hibiscus, and other tropical plants that die back for the winter. Also, get ready to start harvesting and drying Roselle calyx for a nice winter tea.
  • Chop and drop: Mexican Sunflower, moringa, comfrey, pigeon pea.
Roselle caylx ready for drying and winter storage

In the Shed

  • Get out fall decorations
  • Clean and oil all tools
  • Consider adding a fuel injector cleaner to 2-cycle engine equipment to give them a fall tune-up.
  • Add mouse traps. TIP: You can also soak cotton balls or fabric in water with peppermint essential oil and put them in the corners to deter mice.

In the Chicken Coop for October

  • Feed extra protein (meal worms, black oiled sunflower seeds, bugs, etc.) to help them with molting season.
  • Purchase suet blocks (>5% protein) as you see them on sale for winter prep.
  • Clean and sterilize your coop and get ready for winterizing (have extra straw on hand for the winter months).
  • Add probiotics to your water to get birds healthy before winter. You can use a mixture of honey, apple cider vinegar, and garlic powder as one approach. I also rotate in BioLivestock, which is a blend of probiotics, beneficial microbes, and bio-fermented organic acids.
  • Add garden and flower bed cuttings to their run for them to “go through” and eat bugs and seeds before composting them. I love adding Spanish needle because of it’s amazing health benefits for animals and livestock.
  • Feed pumpkin and squash to chickens. It helps boost their immune systems and can be a preventative for worms. NOTE: Pumpkin seeds are NOT a proven treatment for worms, but a great part of your preventative maintenance regime.
Nitrogen fixing plants are ready for a nice fall chop-and-drop

Around the House

  • Clean out gutters and eavestroughs
  • Check caulk around windows and doors
  • Check / change light bulbs around the yard
  • Chop leaves as they fall by mowing them up. Never rake and put them to the road, because you are literally sending nutrients away from your yard.
  • Power wash sidewalks, sides of house, etc.
  • Change air filters on HVAC and check pilot lights on your heater before turning everything on. It’s also smart to vacuum out all ductwork / register vents and add a few drops of essential oils to them to keep things fresh.
  • Fall clean out of the garage and shed
  • Check batteries on carbon monoxide detectors (replace every three years) and check batteries on smoke detectors.
Cranberry Hibiscus – Time to look for seed head and cut them off to save for next spring. When Roselle, Kenaf, and cranberry hibiscus start to look rough or get powdery mildew, cut them back immediately and replant in the spring. This is normal for them to start looking a mess this time of year.

Perennial Flower Beds in October

  • Cut back spent plants, but leave as much as you can for winter interest, especially if there are seed heads. I recommend pruning back fully in the spring, because many butterflies and beneficial insects have already laid eggs and are in a chrysalis form on your plants now, and they will not hatch until spring.
  • Plant winter annuals: pansy, cosmos, zinnia, viola, snapdragons, etc.
  • Divide large perennials and multiply in your garden OR share with friends.
  • Cover all soil with either compost, chopped leaves from your yard, or wood chips. NEVER leave your soil exposed to the winter elements.

Ideas for Kids

Teach kids a new outdoor activity.
  • Make a fort with sticks and branches and then cover in leaves
  • Use peanut butter and spread on the trunks of trees, then press birdseed into it to attract woodpeckers
  • Fall nature walks are a must!
  • Take the kids to a greenhouse this fall. Many local nurseries offer free fall activities for kids, pumpkin patches, etc.
  • Buy each kid a tree / shrub to plant in the yard or food forest. Help them pick it out and let them know it’s “their tree”
  • Consider teaching kids a new outdoor sport or activity

How to Prepare Your Garden for a Hurricane

Every climate zone offers unique beauty and wonder, but at the same time they each have their own challenges. Unfortunately, in many subtropical areas, hurricanes are one of the primary natural challenges that we face. While there are many things to do inside your home to prepare, there are also some practical things to do in the garden before a hurricane. So, whether you are new to food forest work or this all all “old hat” for you, perhaps this checklist will help you remember a few things as you prepare your garden and yard for a potential hurricane.

how to prepare your garden for a hurricane
  1. Remove hanging flower pots and take down wind chimes and hanging bird, feeders, and decorations. Walk through your yard a few days before and just start taking down anything that’s hanging. Once you think you have it all, come back after a few hours and walk through again to double check everything.
  2. Turn over bird baths and lay on the ground.
  3. Bring patio furniture and umbrellas into a garage or shed. If you don’t have an indoor place, secure them to poles or against the house. Tables should always be turned over.
  4. Secure kids play items. This includes removing trampoline covers and tops, or turning them over and putting bricks on top. Bring smaller plastic playhouses into the garage or secure in place.
  5. Select prune trees with large leaves. These large leaves are going to get ripped to shreds anyway, and would usually take down the tree – so prune before the wind hits. To give them their best chance, cut bananas back to one leaf. Or even cut papaya to the trunk. We recommend this with things like banana, papaya, canna lily, etc. 
    1. Banana pruning tutorial video – CLICK HERE
    2. Tropical spinach pruning tutorial video – CLICK HERE
  6. Harvest annual flowers, sunflowers, decorative plants, etc. Save seeds from varieties that have already bloomed like Jamaican sorrel, cranberry hibiscus, butterfly pea, etc.  Better to save seeds and have some to restart next year incase you need it as insurance.
  7. Use large T-post stakes to tie up younger fruit trees. Always use straps – never rope.  Rope will cut and damage the bark. These can be removed after the storm has passed to allow the tree trunk to strengthen naturally.
  8. Roll up awnings, close available window shutters, and move your car out from under tree branches or store vehicles in a garage.  RV’s can be strapped to the ground or to nearby trees to hold in place.
  9. Harvest fruit that is “close” to being ripe and bring indoors.  This should be done just before the storm, just in case the weather changes.   Many times the forecast will change even as the storm is coming in.
  10. Make sure your water catchment and drainage systems are ready. Be prepared to watch the water flow on your site so you can adjust later.  During the storm, look for problematic areas where you need to divert water flow at a later time through swales, French drains, etc.
  11. Prepare to have dogs and cats brought indoors.  Have some herbal or natural calming meds ready for dogs before the storm begins.  Calming aids should be given an hour before the storm arrives and then as prescribed there after. Play soft music or turn a TV on for the animals to help drown out the noise.
  12. Secure livestock and animals.  Bring appropriate animals inside barns or shelters when available.   Remember, animals like cows and horses are not necessarily native here. They are not built for this. Utilize dog crates and kennels for smaller animals (chickens, quail, ducks, etc.). This may need to be done the night before when animals are calm, and then they are kept inside the 24 hours prior to the storm. Dim lighting will help keep animals calmer.
  13. Don’t “panic buy” from the grocery store. Have enough of your weekly items, but don’t stock up and short someone else.   Fill a few extra jugs with water and freeze them. That way if the power goes out, you have the ice to keep things cool and water to melt and drink. 
  14. Check on your elderly neighbors, single parents, or shut-ins to see if they need help.  Do not assume that just because they have family that they are ok. Consider using phrases like, “What is something I can do for you this afternoon to help you prepare for the storm?” Or if it’s an elderly person, just let them know that you are bringing over a frozen meal for them the day before and afterwards. Bring them over some of the flowers you cut from the garden as a way to connect and then see how you can help them prepare. Text them during the storm again to check in on them. Be the change you want to see in the world around you.
  15. Have a good book, candles, and some extra snacks on hand.  Don’t spend the storm worrying. Have a nice cup of tea or glass of wine and enjoy the adventure. Stay calm and take pictures along the way. Tag @permacultureFX on social media with your storm prep pics so together we can help inspire others to prepare with wisdom.

We’ll see you in the garden again…after the storm!

September Gardening To-Do List for Zones 9-11

September Garden to do list subtropical climates

The last days of summer have arrived…

Summer is coming to a close and we are also nearing the end of the rainy season in many southern states.  Though temps are still high, we are now officially in annual vegetable gardening season.  As most of the US is finishing their veg gardens, we are just getting started!   So if you want to plant those tomatoes, pepper, eggplants, and squash – the season is now upon us! Needless to say, there are plenty of things to keep us southerns folks busy in the garden and around the homestead.

Please note, this specific list is catered to those living in USDA Zones 9-11, so if you are looking for Zones 3-8 – click here.  

Without further adieu, here is your September Gardening To-Do List!

September Gardening To-Do List

In the Garden

  • Things to plant by seed:  beats, brussels, collards, eggplant, kale, lettuce, peppers, swiss chard, tomatoes, and one last round of tropical spinaches.  Plus, you can start planting beans a little at a time this month!  We also recommend continuing to plant a few squash, pumpkins, carrots, and cucumber seeds each week.   We suggest staggering your planting this month, so all your cucumbers aren’t ripe at once.  Typically, this is our strategy with most varieties of annual veggies.
  • Onions:  Start planting bunching onions
  • Pumpkins:  Keep plantings through the second week of the month.
  • Tropical greens:   Harvest and enjoy your tropical spinaches (longevity, Okinawa, Surinam, Brazilian, etc.) all month long!  Start looking for flowers to dry so you can save seed for next year.  
  • Brassicas:   Wait until the last week of the month for most cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.  
  • Fertilize:  This is a great month to apply compost to the garden and food forest!  Composted manure is our favorite for the garden and mushroom compost in the food forest.  Other great amendments for this month include:  azomite (minerals), fish emulsion, blood meal, kelp, folic acid, and epsom salts (which is actually magnesium).  
Spicy Turmeric Flower

Turmeric and Ginger are all in flower this month! These are fun little surprises that often hide at the base of the plants. Be sure to pay attention!

In the Greenhouse

  • Time to start planning to remove shade cloth (end of the month). Check to see if any greenhouse windows or plastic needs to be ordered before winter months.
  • Keep air flowing! September is still pretty wet in many parts of the south, so be sure to encourage proper airflow to prevent mold and mildew.
  • Check mouse traps regularly, because animals will start looking for their fall homes soon.
  • Start fall propagations of fruit trees and berry bushes from cuttings. It’s a great time to propagate mulberries, elderberry, sweet almond shrub, African blue basil, start avocado and mango seeds, etc.
jaboticaba fruit

Jaboticaba are producing a nice fall harvest in many areas this month! It’s also a great time to save those seeds and start planting new plants that can be overwintered in a greenhouse or indoors.

In the Food Forest

  • Harvest: enjoy the last of the mangoes and start preparing for sugar apple, atemoya, and chermoya! Avocado season has also officially begun! Look for guava, more tropical cherries, and java plums later this month. Strawberry trees, acerola, and goji are in high production right now – so get out there and enjoy!
  • Fertilization: Use mushroom compost as much as possible. 1-2″ deep at the base of the trees (away from the trunk) and then cover with wood chip mulch. Always make sure your compost is “cool” before applying. If it’s hot to the touch when you receive it… let it sit for a few weeks to cool off before applying to your fruit trees. Always water thoroughly immediately after applying compost.
  • Avos and Mangoes: The first week of September is the last opportune time to plant new avocado, strawberry trees and mangoes if you are in North or Central Florida. Otherwise, they may not have time to root in properly before winter months.
  • Berries: This is an ideal time to plant tropical berries and cherries like strawberry guava, Barbados cherry, pitangatuba, Cherry of the Rio, etc.
  • Stone fruit: It’s best to WAIT to plant peach, pear, plum, nectarine trees until fall or winter dormancy.
  • Plant late summer ground cover, like buckwheat, to create biomass coming into fall.
florida pasture maintenance for september

In the Shed

  • Keep tools oiled. This time of year is often hot and humid… the perfect recipe for rusty tools.
  • Check mouse traps and keep animal feed in sealed containers. Give the feed shed a nice cleaning to prevent critters from finding their “fall homes” in areas you don’t want them.
  • Look for estate sales for garden tools. Many of the new (plastic) ones are junk! The best tools are the old wooden handled tools that are available at estate sales. Instead of buying new, consider up-cycling.

In the Chicken Coop

  • Chickens:  Spring chickens have finally started laying eggs! They should be given plenty of fresh greens and can now have supplemental calcium. For calcium supplements, you can use crushed oyster shells or aragonite.
  • Quail:  It’s time to start helping the quail get ready for winter months. Extra protein, bug treats, dried grass heads, etc. are always a boost to their health. TIP: Dry flower petals and grasses to add to their nesting areas to help simulate their native habitats in the prairie.
  • Plant fall foraging areas using a native wildlife seed mix. Plant a mix specifically for chickens. We like the Happy Hen Mix from Hancock Seed Co.
chickens and mealworms

Offer mealworms, beetles, and other insects as a healthy protein treat to help boost the health of your flock as they go into the fall season. This helps prepare their bodies for fall molting (that is right around the corner).

Around the House

  • Run dehumifiers to keep the indoor humidity between 30-50%. This is the ideal range for health and to prevent mold, fungus, and bacterial growth.
  • Replace your HVAC filters
  • 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. Put moisture collecting crystals (like DampRid) in the cupboards of RV’s to prevent mold in storage.
  • Spray tire shine and protectant on vehicle and trailer tires to prevent sun damage
  • Fertilize house plants at regular strength until the end of the month, then taper off in late October. Do not fertilize house plants in the winter months… allow them to go “dormant” as well.
garden ideas

Make gnome or fairy houses with kids as a late summer / early fall project.

Also, start scoping out some local apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and corner mazes.

In the Perennial Flower Beds

  • Dead-heading: Cut back spent flowers in order to get a final bloom. Spent flower heads can be fed to chickens or composted.
  • Fertilize: Use compost to fertilize annual flower beds at the beginning of the month. Then toward the end of the month, use a fish emulsion / sea kelp foliar spray (like that from GS Plant Food) on flowers, fruit trees, and berries.
  • Plant annual flowers for fall color: sunflowers, zinnia, cosmos, celosia, broom corn, etc.
  • Plant fall flowers like chrysanthemums for autumn color. They can actually be grown in the ground as well and will come back every year in most regions. It’s also a great time to plant wild flower seeds en-mass. Companies like American Meadows and Hancock Seeds have some great wildflower mix selections.
  • Bring cut flowers indoors and share with neighbors, especially those who are shut-ins or elderly
turks cap hibiscus flower
Edible flowers from Turk’s Cap Hibiscus

Enjoy the final days of summer and we’ll see you in the Garden!

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September Gardening To-Do List for Zones 3-8

September Garden to do list temperate climates

The last days of summer have arrived…

Summer is coming to a close and the evenings are just starting to have the smell of fall in the air.  Coffee shops have started selling the pumpkin spice lattes again and gnomes and fall candles are on the end caps of every home store.  Even though it’s not officially fall just yet, many of us are ready for fall campfires, autumn hikes, and the harvest season.  In the garden, many regions are still in peak production and harvest time.  So, needless to say, there are plenty of things to keep us all busy in the garden and around the homestead.

Please note, this specific list is catered to those living in USDA Zones 3-8, so if you are looking for Zones 9-11 – click here.  

Without further adieu, here is your September Gardening To-Do List!

September Gardening To-Do List

In the Garden

  • Things to plant by seed:  beets, carrots, radishes, and turnips.  
  • Garlic:  Order / purchase garlic for next year.  Start planting garlic cloves at the end of this month. 
  • Pumpkins:  Begin to cut them and bring them indoors as soon as they are fully orange.   If you are a seed saver, be sure to collect seeds from the best and most robust plants of the season.
  • 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.
  • Tomatoes:  It’s important this month to start removing the smaller tomatoes in order to allow the medium and larger ones to ripen before the frost.  
  • Harvest:  tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and other night shades.  
  • 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.   Always collect your yard waste (leaves and grass) to apply to garden beds!
sunchokes

Jerusalem artichokes / Sunchokes are beginning to bloom! The leaves can also be used as forage for cattle, horses, goats, and (chopped) for chickens.

In the Greenhouse

  • Start organizing things now, before it gets cold. If you are planting in the ground in your hoop house or poly-tunnel, be sure to start applying lots of organic matter (like straw) in order to build a nice biomass before going into the winter months.
  • Check mouse traps regularly, because animals will start looking for their fall homes soon.
  • Watch your temperatures closely! Open windows in the greenhouses as needed.
  • Bring tropical plants in the greenhouse if it gets below 50 degrees at night. Start washing them off and preparing them for the winter relocation.

In the Food Forest

  • Harvest: apples, pears, fall berries, and any remaining stone fruit. Goji berries and raspberries are in their peak production, so be sure to harvest now and start preserving for the cooler months.
  • 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:  Finish harvesting herbs to dry and make tinctures because they are at their peak right now! Start hanging them around the house and preparing to store them for the winter months. TIP: Use those little “silica packets” in the bottom of your glass jars to absorb moisture while in storage.
  • Fallen fruit: Remember to harvest fruit as they ripen and remove those that fall to the ground. Fallen fruit attract pests, so feed them to chickens or add to the compost pile immediately. Don’t let them sit.
  • 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.
  • Plant late summer ground covers in any “bare spots” around the forest. Here are some of of our favorites – CLICK HERE.
  • Wait to plant new fruit trees and berry bushes until next month, when the heat dials down a few notches.
florida pasture maintenance for september

In the Shed

  • Start getting winter wood stove supplies ready to prepare for the coming winter. Check woodpiles to ensure they are stacked properly.
  • 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 the feed shed a nice cleaning to prevent critters from finding their “fall homes” in areas you don’t want them.
  • Give cutting tools a good cleaning (using rubbing alcohol) and oil afterwards to prevent rust.

In the Chicken Coop

  • Chickens:  Spring chickens have finally started laying eggs! They should be given plenty of fresh greens and can now have supplemental calcium. For calcium supplements, you can use crushed oyster shells or aragonite.
  • Quail:  It’s time to start helping the quail get ready for winter months. Extra protein, bug treats, dried grass heads, etc. are always a boost to their health. TIP: Dry flower petals and grasses to add to their nesting areas to help simulate their native habitats in the prairie.
  • Plant fall foraging areas using a native wildlife seed mix.
chickens and mealworms

Offer mealworms, beetles, and other insects as a healthy protein treat to help boost the health of your flock as they go into the fall season. This helps prepare their bodies for fall molting (that is right around the corner).

Around the House

  • Plant fall grass or ground covers. One of our favorite is a grass blend (that doesn’t need to be mowed) called ECOgrass by Prairie Moon Nursery. Check them out! Their wildflower mixes are also pretty incredible and can be fall planted as well.
  • Open up the windows on cooler nights to help air out the house and let in fresh air.
  • Replace your HVAC filters
  • 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. Put moisture collecting crystals (like DampRid) in the cupboards of RV’s to prevent mold in storage.
  • Spray tire shine and protectant on vehicle and trailer tires to prevent sun damage
  • Fertilize house plants at regular strength until the end of the month, then taper off in October. Do not fertilize house plants in the winter months… allow them to go “dormant” as well.
garden ideas

Make gnome or fairy houses with kids as a late summer / early fall project.

Also, start scoping out some local apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and corner mazes.

In the Perennial Flower Beds

  • Dead-heading: Cut back spent flowers in order to get a final bloom. Spent flower heads can be fed to chickens or composted.
  • Plant fall flowers like chrysanthemums for autumn color. They can actually be grown in the ground as well and will come back every year in most regions.
  • 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

Enjoy the final days of summer and we’ll see you in the Garden!

PLEASE SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH THOSE WHO WOULD FIND IT HELPFUL!