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!

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

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!

August Gardening To-Do List fo Zones 9-11

August gardening to do list

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. Finish harvesting mangos and early avocados.
  • 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 light 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.
  • Annuals: If you want annual cut flowers (cosmos, zinnia, sunflower, celosa, etc for Thanksgiving, starting planting a few seeds per week over the next month. If you do this, then you’ll have lots of fresh flowers this fall.
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.

We’ll see you in the garden!

LOOKING FOR THE AUGUST LIST FOR COOLER CLIMATES? CLICK HERE

August Gardening To-Do List for Zones 3-8

August gardening to do list

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, blackberry, raspberry, 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 fruit as they are ripe and remove those that fall to the ground. Fallen fruit calls in the pests… So feed to chickens or add to the compost pile.
  • 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.

We hope this gardening list was helpful for you! Enjoy some much needed time outdoors and we’ll see you in the garden.

LOOKING FOR THE AUGUST LIST FOR WARMER CLIMATES? CLICK HERE

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What to Plant Under a Walnut Tree

Black Walnut Tree Guild for Kansas City

One of the most challenging trees to grow under in much of the US is the walnut tree.  The black walnut tree produces a substance called juglone, which prevents many species from growing under the tree canopy.  If you have one in your yard, you may have noticed that grass is nearly impossible to grow under it.  After living in the Midwest for 15 years, I am well acquainted with this struggle, but also have a few keys on how to be productive in the midst of the challenges of juglone.   The highest concentrations are in the shell and hull of the nuts, and the highest concentration in the soil is often found around 15-20 feet from the tree.  The toxins can be found nearly 80 feet from the center of the tree on older species.  Because of this substance, it is important to not only identify what can grow around the tree, but also what will create a beneficial, symbiotic relationship with the tree to improve the system.   Which is why we have created this list of what to plant under a walnut tree.

Adaptations of this guild can be used in other regions as well with species that are slightly more suitable for your area.

Permaculture Meets Fitness!?

This particular walnut guild has been designed specifically to benefit the local ecosystem, but with the purpose in mind of serving those who are into a fitness based lifestyle.  This guild was originally installed at a K-12 school as a way to help benefit their gym class and sports programs.  These plants have high density nutrients and multiple levels of application for fitness recovery and active lifestyles.

Just imagine, if you can tailor a garden to compliment a fitness center – what other possibilities are out there!  Consider a women’s garden with plants like yarrow (helps with pain) or black cohash (hormonal balancing).  Imagine companion planting a garden in front of a restaurant to highlight their style of food, exploring planting guilds near a children’s recess area, for a bird sanctuary, a learning garden for kids to capture insects, etc.  The possibilities are endless.

Black Walnut Tree Planting Guild for Kansas City
Black Walnut Tree Planting Guild for Kansas City

What to Plant Under a Walnut Tree

Walnut Tree:  This is the centerpiece and canopy layer of the system.  Generally with a walnut species, we don’t plant anything under the canopy itself, but you could add some spring bulbs like daffodils, crocus, or spring violets.  Under a deep canopy, we recommend adding compost, chopped, leaves and/or grass clippings to add some biomass to the soil.  Next, apply wood chip mulch 6″ deep to help create a healthy fungal network.  We have noticed quite a wide species of mushrooms using this practice and that find this growing environment to be perfect for mushrooms.  An advanced system could use this understory area for mushroom logs to grow shiitake or oyster mushrooms.  The walnuts themselves though are the focal point and are excellent sources of protein, amino acids, and healthy fats.  The hulls can be used to make tinctures, which are often taken by cancer patients treating their condition naturally.

Comfrey:  Around the drip line, we have two species of plants.  The first is comfrey, which is a fantastic biodynamic accumulator.  This plant is used to bring up minerals using its taproot and make them more bioavailable to the upper layers of soil.  This plant can be used for multiple purposes.  It can be chopped and dropped in place for creating organic biomass and weed suppression, and even used as a pollination source for insects.  It can be applied as a poultice to speed the recovery of injured bones, ligaments, and joints.  It is also a fantastic feed for chickens, goats, or cattle.  My chickens go crazy over a handful of comfrey and it gives them a good boost of minerals, biotin, and vitamin B.

NOTE:  I only use bocking 14 comfrey, because it does not spread by seed.  Comfrey which propagates by seed can be extremely invasive and nearly impossible to get rid of down the road, unless you have pigs.  It’s worth it to stick with bocking 14, which can be easily grown from root cuttings.

Mint / Lemon Balm:  Between the comfrey plants, a mint species or lemon balm would work really well.  This will help serve as both a ground cover and a source of continual pollination in the vegetative layer.  This makes mint a great choice, because there are continuous flowers to serve as a support species, and the juglone in the soil will help control mint from spreading out of control.  The leaves can be used in a tea to aid in digestion and relaxation, or can also be ground into a poultice for injured muscles.  If using lemon balm, the leaves are also used as a tea for insomnia, stress and anxiety relief, and to help digestion.  For those in fitness, both teas are extremely helpful in assisting in the repair and soothing of the muscular system.

Golden Currant:  The next layer has golden currants.  These spring and summer berries are excellent sources of antioxidants and do well in part sun.  They are best planted on the South and West sides of the tree, but can be interspersed throughout the planting guild.  The bright yellow flower clusters in the spring are satisfactory pollinators, but will be very showy and a source of color and beauty within the guild.  The berries are extremely sweet and have high antioxidants. They are easily picked and eaten raw or can be used in smoothies.

Gooseberry:  This plant is a great one to grow in the shade and is very tolerant of the juglone produced by the walnut.  These can be planted on the North and East sides of the tree or interspersed around the planting.  The slightly sour berries can be eaten raw, used in smoothies, or cooked down into a jelly or preserve.  They are high in vitamin C, A, and manganese.  As a berry, they also contain a surprising amount of minerals, including calcium and phosphorus.

Mulberry / Redbud:  In the final layer, it is a great place to put dwarf species that can either be food sources or nitrogen fixers.  In our area, I prefer to use the nitrogen fixing Eastern Red Bud.  The red bud tree produces pink / purple flowers in the springtime, which put on a great visual show.  Later in the spring, they produce a pea like pod that can be cooked and eaten like a snap pea as a source of early season plant protein.  The tree is a satisfactory legume tree, which has a root system producing nitrogen-fixing nodules to help rebuild the soil.

On the other hand, one could also plant a mulberry tree, though in this setting I would prune it to remain a bush for easier harvesting.  Mulberries grown as a tree are often harder to harvest and just make a mess on the ground.  The mulberries are excellent food sources for humans and wildlife.  Mulberries contain riboflavin, vitamin C, K, iron, and potassium.  They are also rich in antioxidants and contain alkaloids that activate macrophages to help build the immune system.

Other Growing Zones

Regardless of where you live or what type of top story tree you are using as your centerpiece, there are likely many species that will thrive under and at the edge of the canopy.  For those living in southern states, one particular tree that is challenging to grow under is the southern Live Oak.  CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT LIVE OAK COMPANION PLANTS.  However, there are still many plants that can be easily grown on the edge and even in the deep shade of the canopy.

So go find a tree on your land and start planning your next gardening area for the deep shade!  Abundance awaits – I’ll see you in the garden.

– Kristofer Edler | PermacultureFX Founder

Understanding Your Eggs

understanding your eggs

The eggs you are purchasing from the grocery store may not actually be as high of quality as you think they are. Unfortunately, marketing gimmicks abound in the produce world, so many times consumers expect their eggs are coming from birds raised in open green spaces…when the reality is likely VERY different. This makes it vital to have an understanding of your eggs and where they are coming from. A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, seeing a visual of your egg and poultry scenario could be a real game changer.

Keep in mind, that as consumers, we have a responsibility to know and understand where our food comes from. Yes, those cheep conventional eggs might be convenient, but when consumers purchase these products we are not just feeding our families. Every purchase supports the systems that are producing the food itself. We are what we eat and our purchases entire food production systems. Make sure you are supporting the right farms and production methodologies.

1 – Conventional Eggs

  • Caged their ENTIRE life (usually killed at 9-10 weeks if they are a meat bird, or 1 year if a laying hen)
  • NO access to sunlight
  • NO exercise
  • NO access to grass, soil, or bugs
  • Essentially treated as a machine
  • Low quality feed
  • High use antibiotics and medicine, because the birds are prone to sickness and disease under these conditions

NOTE: Conventional eggs can also be sold as “ORGANIC”. However, that only means their food doesn’t have pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides in it. “Organic chickens” or “No anti-biotic birds” are often raised in the same setting as that pictured above. This is actually MORE dangerous for consumers, because since the living conditions are so bad – the birds are often sick. So in this case, the lack of antibiotics actually makes them even more dangerous to consume.

2 – Cage Free Eggs

  • Raised indoors / barns (often concrete or sand floor)
  • Very little exercise
  • Very little space to move
  • Overcrowded living conditions
  • NO access to grass, soil, or bugs
  • Essentially treated as a machine
  • Low quality feed
  • Little or no human interaction
  • High use antibiotics and medicine, because the birds are prone to sickness and disease under these conditions

3 – Free Range Eggs

  • Raised indoors / barns (often concrete or sand floor) with LIMITED access to sunlight or actual soil. Just because they have “access” to it does NOT mean they get to enjoy it, because an average barn has 10,000 birds in them.
  • Very little exercise
  • Very little space to move
  • Overcrowded living conditions
  • LIMITED access to grass, soil, or bugs
  • Medium quality feed
  • High use antibiotics and medicine, because the birds are prone to sickness and disease under these conditions
  • “Organic” eggs that are in these condition are likely coming from more “diseased” birds, because they are in such over crowded conditions. In these conditions, disease is common, so the antibiotics are actually helping control sickness.

4 – Pasture Raised

This is the phrasing we should be looking for when purchasing our eggs. Even better “organic pasture raised”.

  • Raised outdoors with access to sunlight, soil, insects
  • Lots of exercise
  • Open space to move around
  • Cleaner living conditions
  • FULL access to grass, soil, or bugs
  • HIGH quality feed
  • LITTLE or NO use of antibiotics because birds in these conditions are generally healthier.

Why are Organic Pasture Raised Eggs so Expensive?

  1. Food cost for organic feed is often 3x higher than conventional and medicated feeds. However, the quality ingredients are whole grains and foods instead of a cheaply made corn mush (with synthetic supplements).
  2. There is more human connection (time commitment) involved in pasture raising animals. These animals are often being supervised for predators, checked for disease, and getting social time with their owners. The human connection helps ensure the birds are “happy”, but also HEALTHY! Having humans eyes on them multiple times a day allows farmers to ensure the health of their flocks and in turn – your eggs.
  3. The USDA charges an insane amount of money to be “certified organic”.
  4. Pastures need to be reseeded and maintained so they have enough biodiversity for the birds to eat.
  5. Birds on pasture are often “rotated” to new areas daily, so they have a fresh supply of greens, insects, and soil.
  6. Many farms who are pasture raising their livestock are also using other biodynamic practices (adding probiotics to the water, composting systems, giving birds vegetable overstock to supplement feed). This results in a healthier eggs and meat, but also ensures that the farms ecosystem is healing the land and building soil structure.
  7. Animals raised on pasture are often cared for more attentively during summer heat and winter cold. When the birds are less “stressed” they produce a much higher quality egg / meat.
Organic PASTURE RAISED chickens enjoying a fermented feed treat with whole grains, probiotics, and live mealworms and soldier flies. For a FREE recipe on making this fermented goodness…CLICK HERE

Understanding your eggs

As you head to the grocery store (or better yet… FARMER’S MARKET) next time, consider giving your family the best and get “organic pasture raised eggs”. Yes, they will cost a couple bucks more, but you can be assured you are not only providing quality eggs for your family, but also supporting an ethical food production system. Whenever possible, try to purchase eggs and meats locally at a farmer’s market or co-op and support local farms in your area that are using practices that you believe in.

Remember, many local farms will actually let you visit (and bring kids), so you can see where your food comes from. This can be a priceless, fun, and educational experience for the entire family. Connecting ourselves again with our food helps us not only appreciate what we consume, but also support ethical practices in the food production system.

Our choices as consumers matter.

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

june garden calendar

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

  • Plant more:  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.
  • To Plant:  Corn, cucumbers, beans, squash, pumpkins
  • 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 right 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
  • Fertilizing: It’s crucial

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.
  • Deworming: 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

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

june gardening list

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.

The rainy season has begun, especially in Florida, so it’s time to shift from annual vegetable gardening to a focus on the food forest.  In essence, put your gardens to “bed” by using a cover crop like annual clover OR sunn hemp to help repair nitrogen and add biomass.  Instead, focus now on fruit trees, berry bushes, and nut trees!  This is a fantastic time to add some new tropical spinaches and edible hibiscus to your collection too!

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.  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.  Plant your sunn hemp in your annual garden beds and let them grow until August, at which time you can till it under to add nitrogen and biomass to your soil.  Then you’ll be ready for September vegetable season again.
  • 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  ginger and turmeric – but I would not wait until the end of the month.   Get them in the ground as fast as you can.
  • 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.   These are high producers all summer long!

  • 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

  • Get a plan: Summer is an ideal time for planting in the food forest, because rainy season will make sure everything is well taken care of for you. Consider getting a private property consultation with us to help you design your yard. We will tell you where to plant, what specific varieties, how to plant them appropriately, and give a guide on how to maintain your food forest. Click here to read about our new property consultation types! We also offer drive thru consultations now, which are ideal for follow-up visits from folks who already have an existing plan in place.
  • Plant fruit trees and berry bushes: This month, think about planting avocados (there are so many great varieties), mangos, strawberry trees, tropical cherries, guava, and other tropical trees. This will allow them to have 7 months to “root in” and establish themselves before it gets cold. Summer is a perfect time to start that food forest… just make sure you have a plan first.
  • Compost and wood chips! In places like Florida, the rule of thumb is to fertilize (especially via compost or manure) every March, (early) 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.
  • Important Fertilization Tips: Only fertilize at the beginning of this month using compost, bone meal, kelp, or composted manure (like black kow). Do NOT use chemical or synthetic fertilizers under any circumstances and absolutely STOP fertilizing your yard for the summer. Adding nitrogen heavy and synthetic fertilizers are known to highly increase the risk of toxic algae blooms. So, please do your part and only fertilize this month using whole ingredients, like those listed above. Do NOT fertilize the second half of the month – no exceptions. Though it might be “permissible” for your trees, it has a much more damaging effect on our local ecosystems – so compost ASAP or wait until September.
  • Ground cherry seedlings (or Cape Cod 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. Reoil your metal tools to prevent rust.
  • 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.

Ideas for Kids

  1. Take a food forest tour: Visit places like A Natural Farm, Momma G Farms, Bamboo Leaf Tea, or the Reid Farm. Bring the kids for an amazing hands on experience.
  2. Visit a botanical garden: Some of our favorites include Bok Tower and the Harry P. Leu Gardens.
  3. Make Butterfly Pea Flower tea! Google it… because it’s a magical color changing experience that tastes like Kool Aid. Seeds are available on Etsy from a company called “Seed the Stars”.
  4. Plant a sweet almond bush. This is (by far) one of the best smelling pollinating plants in all of Florida. Though it’s not native here, it’s a butterfly hit and performs very well in our climate. The almond smelling flowers produce year round, and the large bush needs NO winter protection.

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.

How to Plant a Food Forest | Part 3 – Selecting Species and Planting

Once the soil has been prepared, you can begin selecting species and planting trees for your site. There are several options for this:

  1. Do online research to see which trees, bushes, and wildflowers are hardy in your area.
  2. Visit a locally owned greenhouse or nursery to see which ones may do well for you. Big box stores are something we recommend avoiding when it comes to fruit trees and berry bushes. They generally sell the same varieties nation wide (which means they may not work in your area) and their quality often suffers. Find a local nursery and build a relationship with one that you respect their growing methods (hopefully organic).
  3. Get a permaculture consultation to help you determine what your site can handle. These can be done in person OR virtually.

There are many things to consider when putting fruit trees and berry bushes in the ground. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as merely deciding what you like to eat and planting it. If you live in Michigan, no matter how much you like avocados, they just won’t survive without a heated greenhouse. Likewise, if you live in Florida, the traditional Haas avocado that you buy in the grocery store hates the humidity. So, there are other varieties that will do better in that region. Learning what does best in your area is an important step and also a lifelong journey. Enjoy that learning process.

Here are some important things to keep in mind when selecting species and planting your new food forest

  1. Understand the cold hardiness zone for where you live. More important than the higher temps, it’s critical to know your minimum temps. Freezing is generally more likely to harm a sensitive plant than higher temperatures. If you want to learn more about your growing zone, click here.
  2. Know your sun exposure. If your yard is mostly shade, you are unlikely to do well planting tree species that prefer full sun. Though a mis-planted tree may “survive”, it may not do well or produce fruit. Keep in mind that there is full sun and full shade in every USDA growing zone, so regardless of where you live – there is something that will grow and thrive on your site. Choose well and work in harmony with your site.
  3. Plant during the right season. Depending on where you live, the ideal time for planting fruit trees may GREATLY vary. Don’t assume that just because a nursery tells you to plant it that it is the ideal time to do so. Remember, their job is to get you the plant – it’s your job to steward it well.
  4. Understand the differences in varieties. Within each type of tree (peach, pear, mango, etc.) there are hundreds and even thousands of different varieties to choose from. A peach is simply NOT a peach. For example, those peaching grown in Georgia are bred for that specific growing zone and will not produce fruit in Central Florida. However, varieties of peaches like Tropic Beauty (our staff favorite), Tropic Snow, and Florida prince are bred to require less “chill hours”, so they will bare fruit much better in zone 9 and 10. Likewise, avocados have a WIDE range in their varieties. Some (like “Fantastic” or “Joey”) are cold hardy down to 15 degrees. Some avocados are better for slicing and dicing (like Winter Mexican or Wurtz), while other avocados are more ideal for guacamole (like Brogdon, Oro Negro, or Mexicola). The benefit of having someone to consult with is that you are more likely to get a variety that meets your preferences in flavor, but also one that will THRIVE on your particular site.
  5. Think in layers. Don’t just plant one height of trees all over the property. Think about creating production at various heights and levels. What can you grow as a root crop? A smaller perennial? A bush layer? A dwarf tree? Top story tree? Vine? By choosing to plant multiple layers in your system, you not only maximize your space, but create a scenario where various plants can work in synergy with one another. One might provide the needed shade for another. Or, better yet, one might actually fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil to fertilize another plant.
New Food Forest Installation

Now, it’s time to get planting

  1. Plant away! Use something to suppress weeds. Apply compost. Layer up 4-6″ of wood chip mulch. For more in-depth planting instructions, CLICK HERE.
  2. Finish a smaller area before moving on to the next. This is one of the most common mistakes that new food foresters make… they want to just put the tree in the ground and walk away. However, one of the worst things you can do for your new tree is leave it to fight with the grass around the base. Cover the soil properly, using the method above and completely finish one area before moving on. This will not only give your tree its best chance at thriving, but it will also give you a sense of completion.
  3. Know when to water. There is no possible way to simply say, “water your plants three times a week.” Differences in heat, sun exposure, wind, and humidity all vary so much that it’s impossible to set a specific watering schedule. So, to know when to water, put your finger in the soil down to your big knuckle. If you feel moisture, do NOT water. Plants actually need to dry out between watering. This not only causes their roots to expand and grow deeper into the soil, but also helps prevent root rot.
  4. Maintain your food forest and garden by checking back on the blog for our free monthly To-Do Lists. We will help remind you when to fertilize, when to plant the next crops, and when to prune.

So, now that you’ve read the theories and have done some research – it’s time to get outside and plant. Remember, you can always find more help, information, and inspiration on our social media account.

See you in the Garden!