August Gardening To-Do List fo Zones 9-11

august to do list florida

What to do on your property in August

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

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

In the Garden

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

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

In the Greenhouse

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

In the Food Forest

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

Reminder: Elderberry must be cooked before eating.

In the Shed

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

In the Chicken Coop

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

Around the House

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

In the Perennial Flower Beds

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

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

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

LOOKING FOR THE AUGUST LIST FOR COOLER CLIMATES? CLICK HERE

How to Build a Banana Circle

how to build a banana circle

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

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

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

Diagram of How to Building Build a Banana Circle

how to build a banana circle

Simple Steps to Building a Banana Circle

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

Banana Circle Maintenance

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

Banana Circles as a Gray Water Run-off Catchment System

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

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

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

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

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

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

What specific varieties have worked well for you?

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

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