What To Do on Your Property in November (Zones 3-8)

November Garden Tasks

Home, Garden, & Food Forest To-Do List

The summer air is now officially crisp.  The mornings require jackets and scarves, and the evenings are perfect for snuggling under a blanket next to a campfire.  It’s time to finish cleaning up from the growing season and get ready for winter rest and planning.  This To-Do List is geared toward those in cooler climate areas (USDA Zones 3-8), but if you are looking for a list for this month for USDA Growing Zones 9-11, CLICK HERE.

For those of you enjoying “true fall”… here is your November property to-do list.  Be sure to share it with friends on social media and let’s get out into the garden together!

In the Garden

  • Things to Plant by Seed:  Garlic and spring bulbs.  For a list of what you can do all winter for spring bulbs…click here.  
  • Harvest:  The last of the winter veggies… kale, cabbage, fall turnips, swiss chard, and greens.
  • Mulch:  It’s time to cover those gardens for the winter.  NEVER leave soil exposed to the winter elements in the garden, food forest, or flower beds.  Add wood chips around fruit trees and berry bushes (wood chips create a fungal dominated soil, which trees prefer).  Keep the chips away from the stems and trucks though.   Add another layer of straw around garden veggies, because straw creates a bacterially dominated soil, which is preferred by annual veggies.  These will decompose slowly over the winter and make things nice and rich for you in the springtime. 

Enjoy the last blooms of the native asters before they go into dormancy. Save seed to spread other places too!

In the Greenhouse

  • Start taking cuttings: If you are planting in the ground, it’s time to start greens like radishes, turnips, and beets. If you are planting in raised beds or tray in the green house, you can do much of the same and even microgreens!
  • Clean and sterilize equipment and unused pots
  • Store pots in a shed or garage with cardboard between them
  • Set mouse traps to control critters in sheds and greenhouses
  • Stop fertilizing all houseplants until spring

Cold season flowers and cover crops can be grown in the greenhouse or hoop house all winter long! This calendula pic was from December in Kansas.

In the Food Forest

  • Harvest ripe fruit: Persimmon, last of the paw paw, acorns, nuts, and other final forest gifts.
  • Plant cold hardy fruit trees: Peach, plum, pear, nectarine, blueberry, elderberry, goji berry, lingonberry, aronia berry, hazelnut, pecan, persimmon, and appleUse our FREE GUIDE on “How to Plant a Fruit Tree or Berry Bush” as a quick tutorial.
  • Probiotic time! This is an excellent time to refresh the probiotic in your soil, spray fruit trees, berry bushes, and help activate compost piles before winter. We recommend using BioAg, by SCDProbiotics. Use the code: __________ for a 10% OFF your purchase.
  • 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.
  • Chop & Drop: Time to harvest the last of the legume trees (honeysuckle, Japanese pagoda, Siberian pea, Russian Olive, etc.) and drop them at the base of your fruit trees.
  • Watch for fungal issues on leaves and apply organic neem spray as needed. This time of year with cool air and moisture, fungal issues can pop-up overnight, so a nice fall application can help prevent this damage over the winter months.
  • Pastures: Fall sow wildflower seeds to improve pasture health.
  • TIP: When your neighbors rake their leaves and do their fall yard clean-up, ask for the bags of leaf litter (usually out at the road) to add to your compost pile. That’s free organic matter to help build your soil! Their trash is your treasure.

Persimmon are best when fully ripe or after falling from the tree.

In the Shed

  • After heavy fall use, give power tools a quick check (oil, air filters, and clean off exteriors). Use SeaFoam in each power tool to help clean things out a bit before fall storage.
  • 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 while they are stored for the winter.
  • Check for holes in the walls or along the floor to prevent mice from entering over the winter. Fill or patch accordingly.
  • Bleach all storage containers to sterilize them for the winter.
  • Plug in ultrasonic mouse deterrents to prevent nesting during winter months.

In the Chicken Coop

  • Chickens:  Feed extra protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and B-vitamins this month. Birds are finishing with their fall molting season, so they need the extra boost to help replenish their feathers and energy reserves. You can help them out by feeding them live minnows, meal worms, canned tuna, etc. Do NOT heat your coops over the winter. Instead, follow this guide on “How to Help Chickens Stay Warm in the Winter.
  • 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.
  • Add wood ash to the dustbath to help prevent and treat lice and mites.
  • Add BioLiveStock (probiotics) to all animal waterers this month to help their microbiome and gut health as they enter the winter months.
  • Feed spent pumpkins and fall gourds to the chickens and goats. They might need to be cut open first, but this highly nutritious snack is perfect for the barnyard friends!
Chickens eating a ground cover of wheatgrass, radish, and clover.

Around the House

  • Open up the windows on warmer days to help air out the house and let in fresh air
  • Check batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Have chimney cleaned and inspected before starting for the first time in the winter
  • Spray tire shine and protectant on vehicle and trailer tires to prevent winter damage
  • Slow down or stop fertilization from November – February (especially nitrogen). Instead, use kelp to help stimulate uptake of remaining minerals and stimulate root growth.
Bring gourds, pumpkins, and squash indoors are “store” on your table as an edible decoration until you are ready to eat them. Collect dried grasses and branches while out on nature walks, but always ask for permission if you don’t own the land yourself.

In the Perennial Flower Beds

  • Dead-heading: Only cut back perennials with “soft stems” that will rot over the winter. Leave as many seed heads and spent flowers as you can for winter homes for insects and food sources for wild birds. Wait until early spring to cut them back.
  • Add extra wood chips to areas that are in full sun in order to protect soil health and microbial activity
  • Before a rainy day, add probiotics to your soil for the winter months. This is a great way to help balance out nematodes in the soil, build soil structure, and improve overall soil health. You can purchase organic products like BioAG (that’s what we have used for over a decade), which will store on the shelf for years and has a fantastic probiotic blend.

Fall is a great time to plant native wild flower seed mixes

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.

March Gardening To-Do List (zones 3-8)

Here’s a list of what you should do in your garden in March, if you live in the Midwest (specifically in USDA zones 3-8). Granted, weather isn’t exactly a science… well it is… it’s just not an exact science. Just keep a close watch on your weather and plan your planting accordingly. If you are not sure what your growing zone is (or how to use it), watch this tutorial video. If you are in a warmer climate, don’t worry, you can CLICK HERE for the Zone 9-11 March To-Do List.

Without further delay, ladies and gentlemen, here is your completely arbitrary March Gardening To-Do List!

crocus bulbs in bloom
Crocus in the spring garden

In the Garden

  • Take soil tests and send to your local extension office. Take samples from each area of your yard and make sure to get the detailed report. The most important part for me is not the NPK… it’s the amount of organic matter! Generally speaking if you have a higher percentage of organic material in your soil, the rest of the soil health will follow suit.
  • Make minor amendments before the spring rains (add bone meal, blood meal, etc.).
  • Spread chicken poop and hay from the nesting boxes on the compost pile and get it working before it’s warm.
  • Start planting some frost friendly veggies (radish, Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli, some lettuces, etc.)  We recommend direct sowing a little every week, so that way your harvest is staggered.  It also helps to insure a diversified crop and give extra insurance that if one round dies… another one will do just fine!

In the Greenhouse

  • Plant seed trays: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, kale, broccoli, cabbage, etc. Start perennial seeds for food forest planting: goji berries, gooseberries, trees from seed, etc.
  • Add black 5-gallon buckets of water (with lids) for radiant heat source, if you do not have a heated greenhouse.
  • TIP: Always plants more than what you think you’ll need. The worst case scenario is that you have some to share with neighbors, friends, or gorilla plant in a local park.

In the Food Forest

This hori hori tool, from Barebones Living is one of my new favorite gardening tools.
  • Break up any large sticks and twigs. They will decompose much faster if they are in direct contact with the soil.
  • Remove leaf cover from the soil and use as a mulch around the base of trees / bushes (cover the sticks). You can chop it up a bit with the mower if the leaves are still crispy.
  • Plant alley crops between rows and plantings. In our area I often use a blend of red clover, white dutch, yellow closer, and crimson clover. I plant this between the rows.
  • Plant living mulches around the base of the trees (turnips, bocking 14 comfrey root, berries, herb roots, etc.).
  • Feed native wild birds before nesting season starts in order to encourage them to live in your area. They are fantastic bug control and leave behind little bits of birdie poo.
  • Hang wild bird houses and bat houses before nesting season begins.
  • Set out orange halves and grape jelly to attract early migrating orioles.
  • Last chance to prune apple trees (before buds open)!
  • Spray your spring foliar spray on every perennial in the food forest! Get our recipe here.
  • Add fresh mulch to trees and shrubs (up to 5″ thick). Remember to always keep the mulch away from the trunks of the trees.
  • Get a permaculture consultation to help you come up with a game plan for your overall property, garden, and food forest. PermacultureFX now offers both in-person and digital consultations (at a reduced rate).

In the Shed

  • Sharpen mower blades and all cutting tools.
  • Oil any metal that rusted over the winter. Remove tarnish with steel wool. Ax heads should be treated with bees wax.
  • Check for broken pots from winter cold.
  • Set a few extra mouse traps in the shed, greenhouse, and garage.
  • Start up the mower, weed whipper, and other tools for the first time. If you have difficulty starting them, you can always use a bit of Sea Foam to get things moving. Use two ounces per gallon of gas. It will work wonders!

In the Chicken Coop

  • Remove winter bedding, if you used the deep bedding method.
  • Deep clean…deep clean…deep clean! We use Shaklee’s Basic H2, because it’s organic and will also take care of mites, lice, etc.
  • Lower fat content (corn) and increase protein sources. If you are doing a mealworm farm, it’s a great time to give the girls an extra boost!
  • Feed extra omega-3’s. Get some feeder fish (minnows) from a local pet store and put them in a shallow pan. Watch your chooks go nuts for them!
  • Use honey, garlic, and ACV in their water once per week to give them an extra immune boost before the springtime. I also add a product for livestock by SCD Probiotics based out of KCMO.

Around the House

  • Clean out the gutters from any winter debris.
  • Remove winter window treatments and wash windows (inside and out).
  • Power-wash the sides of the house, cement, and garage doors. We use Basic H2 for this as well, because it organically takes care of mold and mildew easily.
  • Oil doors (interior and exterior).
  • Prune any trees around the yard before leaf buds begin to open.
  • Get hoses ready to bring outside.

In the Perennial Flower Beds

  • Finish cutting back any dead growth from last year.
  • Trim back winter ferns and greens (holly, lenten roses, etc.)
  • Remove leaves or debris from the top of bulb areas, leaving only compost or wood chips. The debris should be composted and added back to the beds later.
  • Start planning mulch and compost deliveries now. Look for sales or companies to bring it to you in bulk.
  • You can also plant cold season annual flowers at this time as well. Snap dragons, violas, pansies, and calendulas do great this time of year.
  • Spring sow any native wildflowers. One of my favorite Midwest companies for this is Prairie Moon Nursery (online), because they do seed mixes geared toward your specific sun exposure and soil type.

  • TIP: Never use mulch that has been colored or dyed (red or black). Let’s just use our heads on why that’s a bad idea.

How to Select a Location for a Food Forest

food forest planning
food forest planning
Food forest planning

Knowing how to select the location for a food forest or perennial garden is possibly just as important as knowing what to plant. Before you start digging, take time to examine your site. Study. Watch. Learn from the environment around you. Take notes on some of the topics below to help you decide which location will be most suitable for your new food forest or perennial garden.

  1. Sun and soil requirements:  What pH will be needed for those plants?  How much organic matter exists on site already?  Does the site meet the sun requirements for the species selected?
  2. Identify precursor species:  Knowing what plants are already thriving will tell you about the site, soil, and environment.  For example, if there are a lot of dandelions or tap root plants, the soil is trying to rebuild minerals and nutrients.  If there are signs of plants with shallow, hair-hair-like roots, the soil may be trying to stabilize itself from erosion or drying out.  Do you see acid or alkaline loving plants growing native?  
  3. Space to grow and fill out:  Do the plants have room to thrive and have airflow at their mature size?  Do you have room to move among the plants or rows?  Do you need extra or protected space to make allowance for animals or livestock?
  4. Ease of watering:  Is there water access?  The first 30 days are often the most important as the plants establish, so you will want to have easy water access points.
  5. Ease of maintenance:  Is the area something that you frequently visit or drive by?  Is this area one that can be easily maintained or get tools and equipment to as needed?  Will you need truck or tractor access?
  6. What is the long-term use for this area?  Consider mapping out 3-5-10+ years.  Is your current use of the space preparing the site adequately for those goals?
  7. Ease of Harvesting:  Will you or others be able to quickly and successfully harvest?  Are there rows or adequate spacing between key areas?  Are 90% of the crops within arms reach?  Will you see and be able to easily use the crops you have planted when the harvest time arrives?

Three Foundations of Permaculture | Matthew Capps

permaculture destination addiction

Three Foundations of Permaculture

The word “permaculture” is a portmandeau word, which combines the sounds nad meanings of two distinct words, in order to create a new word. In this case, the words ‘permanent’ and ‘agriculture’ are blended to create a design system that utilizes the cultivation of earth and community in a way that brings about long-term abundance. Permaculturists, over the years, have identified three veins running through this central idea. The three foundations of permaculture have supplied life and provided boundaries to the wild growth of the permaculture movement over the past fifty years. These foundations are Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share. Coined and popularized by David Holmgren, these foundations balance and invigorate each other, and are essential to the purpose and spirit of the practice.


The First Foundation: Earth Care

Earth Care is probably the most prominent and easily recognizable foundation of permaculture, but perhaps as little understood for the light of its popularity. People sometimes think of Earth Care as a secret method, or a set of strings to pull, that will unlock the wealth of the earth for human use. This is the antithesis of Earth Care, and a harmful mindset to carry. Earth Care is the unselfish cultivation of the planet, so that it may live and be abundant for its own sake. As stewards of this beautiful and intricate creation, we are responsible to bring it to fullness. First we study the design so masterfully laid in every aspect of the natural system, then we order and channel every element into that design until life and energy flow as they were meant to. Practitioners of permaculture design are not changing the trajectory of nature, but instead are helping it along the path to speed up bioremediation and the healing of the land.


people careThe Second Foundation: People Care

The second foundation of permaculture is the notion of People Care, which emphasizes personal wellness, physically and spiritually, and relational wellness between individuals. As with the first foundation, People Care is not interested with the indulgence of the body in excess or unhealthy food, but in eating which brings wellness and strength. In the same way, greed and pride are denied and the community is cultivated by a supernatural spirit of giving, love, and hope. These internal realities and codes of living help cultivate a mindset of wellness that impacts the minds, bodies, and spirits of the individuals. In such a community, independence and self-reliance are exchanged for responsibility and the willingness to help. This atmosphere of selfless service and goodwill provides for the long-term needs of individuals as well as the health of an interdependent community.


The Third Foundation: Fair Share

This third foundation puts boundaries in place, ensuring that the abundance produced by the first two foundations is not abused or misused. In many cases, kindly permaculturists give away most or all of their produce, and are forced to look beyond their own land for livelihood. Though well intended, it’s important for us to receive fair return on our labor. In other cases opportunists use the principles of permaculture to increase their own wealth, giving only when necessary, holding back from earth and man alike. Neither of these extremes is in line with permanent agriculture, because they destroy balance and cut off life and energy from a part of the system. The foundation of Fair Share is meant to ensure that the permaculturist retains just enough to meet his own needs, pay his workers, and sow the surplus back into the earth and the community. Fair share, however is not merely about financial or monetary gain, but also about the productive abundance that is sown back into the individuals participating.

The three foundations of permaculture are like elements in nature, are interdependent and from them flow all the designs and techniques within permaculture. It’s the goal of each of these elements to create a healthy and thriving community that cares for it’s residents and the land they dwell on. When properly in balance, it creates an environment conducive to health and wellness of people, land, and economy. The community, family, or individual who practices them will find fresh meaning and vigor in the pursuit of peaceful and productive life.