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

NOTE: This list is geared toward USDA Growing Zones 9-11. If you are looking for the May Gardening List for Zones 3-8, click here.

We are officially past any dangers of frost and cold, and now the warm part of spring is certainly upon us! In many subtropical regions, this late spring season is often very dry, which can make it challenging in the garden and food forest. The rainy season, in places like Central Florida, is generally from the last week of May to the first week of October. So, for many folks, until rainy season arrives, our time is consumed with harvesting the last of the spring vegetables and daily checking gardens for watering needs.

Remember (especially in Florida), you cannot water gardens and fruit trees very well on a “perfect schedule”. Because of temperature fluctuations, wind, humidity, and other elements the length of time between watering can vary dramatically. Anyone who tells you to just water every day is going to have major issues as the season progresses.

Here is how to water properly

Use the “Finger Test” to see if your plants actually need water. Never just assume that they do. Put your finger in the soil down to the second knuckle. If it’s dry, then go ahead and water. However, if you feel coolness or moisture – then let it be. Generally speaking, most plants (especially fruit trees and berry bushes) actually like to dry out a bit between waterings.

“As a practice, it’s far better to water LESS frequently and MORE deeply.

Doing this will help establish a healthier root system and overall plant.”

-KRIS EDLER | PERMACULTUREFX FOUNDER

So, get ready for an exciting month! May is the time when our region makes the shift from “annual vegetable gardening” being the focus to a primary focus on perennial production from our fruit trees and berry bushes. So here is your May Gardening To-Do List to help you jumpstart your late-spring projects. For some, it may be helpful to print out this list and hang it somewhere to refer to it each week to check progress.

NOTE: This list is geared toward USDA Growing Zones 9-11. If you are looking for the May Gardening List for Zones 3-8, click here.

Tropic Beauty Peach
Tropic Beauty Peach | Self-pollinating, hardy to 20 degrees, low chill hours, deliciously sweet and juicy.

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

In the Garden & Greenhouse

  • Fertilizing the vegetable garden: If you have not applied a late spring probiotic to your soil or as a foliar spray, then now is the time to do that! This application will increase the health of your soil microbiome, give plants a better chance at fighting off disease and fungus, and is a proactive way to address garden pests before they do any damage. BioAg is my preferred spray for this.
  • To plant: Okra, potatoes, sweet potatoes, summer beans / peas, and Seminole pumpkin. The prime vegetable planting season is now almost over for sub-tropical zones, so it’s time to plant your cover crop. We recommend planting Sunn Hemp at the end of the month as a nitrogen-fixing cover-crop that can be tilled into the soil in August.
  • Tropical Spinaches: It’s time to plant tropical spinaches like longevity spinach, Okinawa, Surinam, Jewels of Opar, Brazilian Sisso, etc!
  • Salad Trees & Hibiscus: In this climate, some of the best edible greens actually grow as trees or bushes during the hot weather months. Some of our favorites include: South Sea Salad, Bele Hibiscus, Roselle (Jamaican Sorrel), Cranberry Hibiscus, and Katuk, and Kenaf.
  • To harvest: Salad greens, kale, tropical spinaches, last of the peas, beets, turnips, etc. Harvest tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc. When they start to struggle because of heat and/or powdery mildew – just put the garden to bed and cover crop it until after the rainy season. Focus on fruit trees, berry bushes, and edible tropical plants for the summer.
  • Compost: Turn pile 1x per week.
    • NOTE: For most people an outdoor compost pile doesn’t really generate a lot. However, using a worm bin (like the ones from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm), can provide worm tea which creates way more bang for your buck. For most families, composting worms are going to give you a better result than a mere compost pile.
  • Cover Crops: For garden beds that are being put to rest for the summer, this is a great time to plant a cover crop. Sunn Hemp is in the legume family and does an excellent job with this. Not only will it grow 8-10′ tall by August, but produces gorgeous blooms and actually repairs the soil. Sunn Hemp repairs the soil in two ways. First, it fixes atmospheric nitrogen into the soil with nodules on the roots, which interact with bacteria in the soil. Secondly, when you till it in (or bury it) in your garden later in August, it will add much needed biomass to your soil. It can be used as animal fodder, but must be fed to livestock before it flowers.
Sunn Hemp Cover Crop

In the Food Forest

  • Consider probiotics for your garden and yard (if you didn’t do it last month) FREE 11-minute talk on probiotics for the yard, click here.
  • Plant new fruit trees and berry bushes. Here is a step-by-step process (with diagram) of how to plant a fruit tree or berry bush. Some of the info may surprise you. This is a great time to plant avocado, mango, strawberry tree and other tropical trees. Planting this time of year gives them 7-8 months to root in and settle before winter. It should be noted that you will need to water more often until rainy season starts.
  • Ginger and Tumeric: Time to get those bad boys back into the ground! Remember, they love shade and LOTS of neglect. They also do much better in the ground (instead of pots), so plop them down, add some mulch on top, and walk away!
  • Harvest (and enjoy): peaches, nectarines, plums, mulberries, strawberry tree, moringa leaves / flowers, elderberry, blueberries, jaboticaba, cattleya guava (in some areas). Anyone else in food forest heaven, yet?!
  • Apply mulch (wood chips) to any areas that need it. Fruit trees like to have 4-6″ of wood chips around the base (extending all the way to the drip line). Remember to keep mulch a few inches back from the truck, because you don’t want the decomposing wood touching your tree.
  • Pruning: NO major pruning once trees flower. After they awaken for the spring, there is a lot of sap flowing, so you don’t want to cause a fungal or bacterial issue by pruning this time of year. Pruning should be done during late winter dormancy, so if you haven’t pruned fruit trees yet, it’s best to wait at this point. You can, however, still prune pines, decorative shrubs, and ornamental trees now.
The Strawberry Tree (or Jamaican cherry) is a new favorite! The fruit is low in sugar, high in vitamin-C, and (get this) it tastes like strawberry skittles or cotton candy. Grows best in Zones 9b-12 and produces fruit from April – Decemeber. (Photographer unknown)

In the Shed

  • Put out yellow jacket and fly traps
  • Reset mouse / rat traps (peppermint essential oil on a cotton ball in storage areas will also repel them)
  • Spring cleaning time: Go through a couple storage areas this month and recycle, donate, and reorganize. Steward what you have with excellence.

Livestock

  • Water rotations: In nature, animals don’t drink out of the purified, and chemically treatred tap. Sometimes their water is from a rain puddle, but other times from a stream or pond. To help mimic this and give their immune system a boost, try doing something different every time you refill their water.
    • Apple Cider Vinegar: 1 tsp per gallon
    • Honey: 1 TBSP per gallon
    • BioIivestock Probiotic: Dilution rate on bottle depending on species
    • Herbs: Add fresh oregano, thyme, rosemary, etc to their water to make a “tea”
    • Rainwater
  • Spring Chickens: This is a great time to add to the flock by either purchasing heritage breeds or hatching your own. Whatever you do, stay away from Cornish Rock or Cornish Cross “meat birds”… more on that to come. It’s also an ideal time to add rabbits, quail, or other animals into your system.
  • Dogs: It’s time for spring check-ups on the fur babies. Once they are up to date on their appointments, go support a local groomer and send them to the doggie spa for a day. NOTE: I’d give a tip on cats… but the only thing I can think of is how much I don’t like them. Sorry, not sorry.

In the Pasture

  • Plant: Last chance to plant Timothy grass, perennial peanut, wildflower mixes, tobacco, clover mixes, and alfalfa can still be planted in some regions. Due to the usual dry weather this time of year, supplemental watering may be needed.
  • Hay / Straw: Any rotting or wet bales can be used in the garden or food forest as deep mulch. It can be spread 5-7″ thick in areas that are going to be “future” garden beds in order to prep the soil. First, roll out contractor paper (usually found in the paint section of a hardware store) over the grass and then cover with the straw or other mulch. This is a great opportunity to do “layer mulching” if you have other materials available.
New food forest installation example. There are three 100′ long rows of fruit trees, berry bushes, and native pollinators with over 90 plants. These rows have been layered with contractor paper (for weed suppression), 1″ of compost, and 6″ deep of wood chip mulch. The rows are 3′ wide. Between the lanes, the grass has been removed and reseeded with a clover mix (and lightly covered with straw).

Around the House and Perennial Beds

  • Power washing time: Use an organic soap (like Basic H) to power-wash the house, sidewalks, and other recreational vehicles.
  • Cut back last years growth: Remove any dead material left over from last fall and add to the compost pile.
  • Fertilize flower beds: Use kelp, blood meal, and/or fish emulsion. I like to use blood meal in March/April and then in May/June use bone meal. Kelp and fish emulsion can be used anytime during the growing season. Alternatively, apply a 1/2″ layer of compost to flower beds or at the base of each flower. Keep away from the stems, so it doesn’t “burn”.
  • Perennial Flowers: Using native wildflowers is so much easier than annuals, not to mention will save you money because they come back every year. Here are some of our favorites!
  • Air out the house: On a day you are home, open up every window in the house and turn on fans to circulate fresh air into the house. Change the filters in the HVAC system for the spring months. This is also a great time to vacuum out floor vents and air returns.
  • Clean out the freezer and disinfect really well. It’s often best to do this the day before garbage day, so you can take old items directly to the road.
Bele Hibiscus (aka Mahoe Hibiscus Tree): Delicious, edible leaves that are great in soups, stews, salads, or used for dolmas. Flowers are also edible (fresh). Grows in zones 9-12 in part sun to full shade.

Kids & Family Ideas

  • Nature Hike: Create a mini-scavenger hunt before going on your nature hike. Have kids look for things like: a feather, a seed pod, a leaf bigger than their hand, a cool rock, a weird stick, etc.
  • Wild Bird Feeding
    • Set out orange halves and grape jelly for the arriving orioles
    • Put hummingbird feeders out on April 15th (never use the kind with red dye), and be sure to change the water in them every week.
    • Hang a new birdhouse for spring nesting season
    • Add white millet to feeders to attract indigo buntings (bright blue birds)
  • Local Farm Visit: Many local farms offer free tours, kids activities, etc. Look up a local farm to visit in your area and give your kiddos exposure to the animals, crops, and fruit trees.
April gardening list peaches
Tropic Beauty Peach in Central Florida

See you in the garden

As always, thanks for taking time to join on the gardening and permaculture journey. Be sure to check out the continual flow of content available via our social media channels. Remember, PermacultureFX also does both in person AND virtual consulting (using facetime, zoom, satellite images, etc.). We’d love to help you get a plan for your property and help you create abundance and wonder.

For those looking for on-going homestead mentorship, online permaculture classes, and access to our ever-growing library of resources – consider becoming a member of our Patreon Community. The Abundance Tier even has a FREE 7-Day Trial, so you can bing watch and see if it’s a good fit for you.

Lastly, if this article was helpful, consider sharing on social media (or with your garden groups) to help set others up to win on their property.

Happy spring, and I’ll see you in the Garden!

– Kristofer Edler

May Gardening To-Do List for Zones 3-8

NOTE: This list is geared toward USDA Growing Zones 3-8. If you are looking for the May Gardening List for Zones 9-11, click here.

We are ALMOST THERE… almost past the dangers of frost. In zones 3-5, it could still frost as late as Memorial Day, however in zones 6-7 it’s probably safe by now (fingers crossed). This time of year can be tricky, so I usually try to not put all my eggs in one basket. Stagger your planting by a week or two for each type of crop. Maybe start putting out some of the more cold tolerant plants in batches and even sneak in one or two tomato plants (if you are in zones 6-7), but be patient and don’t plant everything all at once. This will give you a buffer crop in case there is another cold snap, but will also stagger your ripening times.

In the springtime, watering is important, especially as new plants are getting established. However, because the day-to-day temps fluctuate so much, it’s important to water properly (and only as needed)

Here is how to water properly

Use the “Finger Test” to see if your plants actually need water. Never just assume that they do. Put your finger in the soil down to the second knuckle. If it’s dry, then go ahead and water. However, if you feel coolness or moisture – then let it be. Generally speaking, most plants (especially fruit trees and berry bushes) actually like to dry out a bit between waterings.

“As a practice, it’s far better to water LESS frequently and MORE deeply.

Doing this will help establish a healthier root system and overall plant.”

-KRIS EDLER | PERMACULTUREFX FOUNDER

So, get ready for an exciting month. Gardening season is officially here. Here is your May Gardening To-Do List to help you jumpstart your spring projects.

NOTE: This list is geared toward USDA Growing Zones 3-8. If you are looking for the May Gardening List for Zones 9-11, click here.

Tropic Beauty Peach
Reminder: Be sure to dormant spray those fruit trees before the flowers get into full swing. At the very least, spray with neem, basic H, and a probiotic.

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

In the Garden & Greenhouse

  • Probiotics for the vegetable garden: If you have not applied a spring probiotic to your soil or as a foliar spray, then now is the time to do that! This application will increase the health of your soil microbiome, give plants a better chance at fighting off disease and fungus, and is a proactive way to address garden pests before they do any damage. BioAg is my preferred spray for this.
  • To plant: Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans, peas, corn, cucumbers, and other warm season crops.
  • To harvest: Salad greens, kale, radishes, beets, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas. You can also keep harvesting the asparagus until the spear size decreases. Then leave it to grow into a “fern” to feed the plant for next season.
  • Compost: Turn pile 1-2x per week.
    • NOTE: For most people an outdoor compost pile doesn’t really generate a lot. However, using a worm bin (like the ones from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm), can provide worm tea which creates way more bang for your buck. For most families, composting worms are going to give you a better result than a mere compost pile.
  • Cover Crops: For many food forest areas, it is a great time to plant cover crops in the lanes for grass and weed suppression. Here are some of our favorite for the Midwest: CLICK HERE
White Clover as a cover crop for food forests or “grass replacement”

In the Food Forest

  • Consider probiotics for your garden and yard (if you didn’t do it last month) FREE 11-minute talk on probiotics for the yard, click here.
  • Plant new fruit trees and berry bushes. Here is a step-by-step process (with diagram) of how to plant a fruit tree or berry bush. Some of the info may surprise you. This is a great time to plant peach, plum, apple, pear, persimmon, paw paw, etc. Planting this time of year gives them 7-8 months to root in and settle before winter. It should be noted that you will need to water more often until rainy season starts.
  • Harvest (and enjoy): Spring mushrooms (i.e. morels), fiddlehead ferns, wild ramps, lungwort.
  • Apply mulch (wood chips) to any areas that need it. Fruit trees like to have 6-8″ deep wood chips around the base (extending all the way to the drip line). Remember to keep mulch a few inches back from the truck, because you don’t want the decomposing wood touching your tree. Garden beds prefer straw as a mulch, because when it decomposes it’s a bacterially based structure.
  • Pruning: NO major pruning once trees flower. So if your trees are still dormant – get that pruning in NOW!
apple orchard care in kansas city
Apple Tree from The Giving Grove in Kansas City, MO

In the Shed

  • Clean off tools, re-oil, and remove rust
  • Reset mouse / rat traps (peppermint essential oil on a cotton ball in storage areas will also repel them)
  • Use leaf blower to clean out corners and dust piles from the winter months
  • Spring cleaning time: Go through a couple storage areas this month and recycle, donate, and reorganize. Steward what you have with excellence.

Livestock

  • Water rotations: In nature, animals don’t drink out of the purified, and chemically treatred tap. Sometimes their water is from a rain puddle, but other times from a stream or pond. To help mimic this and give their immune system a boost, try doing something different every time you refill their water.
    • Apple Cider Vinegar: 1 tsp per gallon
    • Honey: 1 TBSP per gallon
    • BioIivestock Probiotic: Dilution rate on bottle depending on species
    • Herbs: Add fresh oregano, thyme, rosemary, etc to their water to make a “tea”
    • Rainwater
  • Spring Chickens: This is a great time to add to the flock by either purchasing heritage breeds or hatching your own. Whatever you do, stay away from Cornish Rock or Cornish Cross “meat birds”… more on that to come. It’s also an ideal time to add rabbits, quail, or other animals into your system.
  • Dogs: It’s time for spring check-ups on the fur babies. Once they are up to date on their appointments, go support a local groomer and send them to the doggie spa for a day. NOTE: I’d give a tip on cats… but the only thing I can think of is how much I don’t like them. Sorry, not sorry.

In the Pasture

  • Plant: Clovers, chicory, rye, turnips, radishes, wheat, oats, etc.
  • Hay / Straw: Any rotting or wet bales can be used in the garden or food forest as deep mulch. It can be spread 5-7″ thick in areas that are going to be “future” garden beds in order to prep the soil. First, roll out contractor paper (usually found in the paint section of a hardware store) over the grass and then cover with the straw or other mulch. This is a great opportunity to do “layer mulching” if you have other materials available.
New food forest installation example. There are three 100′ long rows of fruit trees, berry bushes, and native pollinators with over 90 plants. These rows have been layered with contractor paper (for weed suppression), 1″ of compost, and 6″ deep of wood chip mulch. The rows are 3′ wide. Between the lanes, the grass has been removed and reseeded with a clover mix (and lightly covered with straw).

Around the House and Perennial Beds

  • Power washing time: Use an organic soap (like Basic H) to power-wash the house, sidewalks, and other recreational vehicles.
  • Cut back last years growth: Remove any dead material left over from last fall and add to the compost pile.
  • Fertilize flower beds: Use kelp, blood meal, and/or fish emulsion. I like to use blood meal in March/April and then in May/June use bone meal. Kelp and fish emulsion can be used anytime during the growing season. Alternatively, apply a 1/2″ layer of compost to flower beds or at the base of each flower. Keep away from the stems, so it doesn’t “burn”.
  • Perennial Flowers: Using native wildflowers is so much easier than annuals, not to mention will save you money because they come back every year. Here are some of our favorites!
  • Annual Flowers: Plant annual flowers for pops of color. Limit the number of annuals, because most of them are ‘sterile’ and provide no benefit to native insects and butterflies. Consider doing 80%+ native perennials and wildflowers to better support the local ecosystem.
  • Air out the house: On a day you are home, open up every window in the house and turn on fans to circulate fresh air into the house. Change the filters in the HVAC system for the spring months. This is also a great time to vacuum out floor vents and air returns.
  • House Plants: Move houseplants outdoors once evening temps are above 50 degrees. Start in full shade and then gradually increase the sunlight exposure over a few weeks. Fertilize with fish emulsion and sea kelp once they are outside.
  • Clean out the freezer and disinfect really well. It’s often best to do this the day before garbage day, so you can take old items directly to the road.
Bele Hibiscus (aka Auntie Lilli’s South Sea Salad Tree): Delicious, edible leaves that are great in soups, stews, salads, or used for dolmas. Flowers are also edible (fresh). Grows in zones 9-12 in part sun to full shade as a perennial, but can be grown in zones 3-8 as an annual.

Kids & Family Ideas

  • Nature Hike: Create a mini-scavenger hunt before going on your nature hike. Have kids look for things like: a feather, a seed pod, a leaf bigger than their hand, a cool rock, a weird stick, etc.
  • Wild Bird Feeding
    • Set out orange halves and grape jelly for the arriving orioles
    • Put hummingbird feeders out on April 15th (never use the kind with red dye), and be sure to change the water in them every week.
    • Hang a new birdhouse for spring nesting season
    • Add white millet to feeders to attract indigo buntings (bright blue birds)
  • Local Farm Visit: Many local farms offer free tours, kids activities, etc. Look up a local farm to visit in your area and give your kiddos exposure to the animals, crops, and fruit trees.

See you in the garden

As always, thanks for taking time to join on the gardening and permaculture journey. Be sure to check out the continual flow of content available via our social media channels. Remember, PermacultureFX also does virtual consulting (using Facetime, zoom, satellite images, etc.). We’d love to help you get a plan for your property and help you create abundance and wonder.

Also, if you are looking for on-going property and homestead mentorship, online classes, and access to our resource library, be sure to check our our Patreon. The abundance tier even has a FREE 7-Day Trial, so you can bing watch and see if it’s a good fit for you.

If this article was helpful, consider sharing on social media (or with your garden groups) to help set others up to win on their property. Happy spring, and I’ll see you in the garden!

– Kristofer Edler

April Gardening To-Do List (Zones 9-11)

Spring is officially in motion and is showing off with all her glory. The flowers are blooming, the bees & butterflies have awakened from their slumber, and fruit is beginning to ripen in the food forest. Right now, the mango trees are finishing their blooming and have started to set fruit. Avocado trees are blooming and stone fruits are beginning to grow! One of my favorite things to do in the springtime is to visit local garden centers and see what is new for the coming growing season. Even though I usually gravitate toward native wildflowers and perennials, I often splurge on a few annual flowers or herbs to add splashes of color. Not to mention, I always seem to find one more place to hang a bird feeder or bird house. There is something about walking around a local (and independently owned) nursery that makes the gardeners heart come alive. Maybe it’s seeing others with the same plant addiction… I mean passion… yeah… passion. Or maybe it’s the plants themselves that make me feel alive on the inside. This is the season that my inner hobbit comes to life again and I start dreaming of the spring fruiting that is right around the corner.

In the midst of the busyness of the season though, it always helps to stay organized. So here is your April Gardening To-Do List to help you jumpstart your spring projects. For me it’s helpful to print out this list and hang it somewhere so I can refer to it each week to check my progress, but do whatever is best for you.

Be sure to comment below and give this article a share to other gardeners who might be interested.

NOTE: This list is geared toward USDA Growing Zones 9-11. If you are looking for the April Gardening List for Zones 3-8, click here.

April gardening list turmeric
curcuma zedoaria (Spicy White)

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

In the Garden & Greenhouse

  • Fertilizing the vegetable garden: Remember, we are what we eat, so stay away from both chemical and synthetic fertilizers. My top choice to fertilize is always to apply compost (regular for veggies and mushroom based for fruit trees and berry bushes). If you do not have access to organic compost, then my second choice for this time of year is usually a rotation of worm tea, blood meal, azomite, fish emulsion, kelp, or other “whole ingredient” fertilizers that are high in NITROGEN. Unfortunately, even some name brand organic fertilizers are hiding things like MSG under the name “soy protein hydrolysate”. So, use wisdom when picking out the best fertilizers for you and your family.
  • To plant: Cabbage, sweet potatoes, potatoes, Swiss chard, beans (all kinds), corn, squash, watermelon, okra, tomatoes (up to zone 9a only), herbs (all zones), nasturtiums, edible flowers. You can also plant cosmos, zinnia, sunflowers, etc.
  • To harvest: Salad greens, kale, tropical spinaches, snow peas, daikon, radishes, beets, herbs.
  • Compost: Turn pile 1-2x per week.
    • NOTE: For most people an outdoor compost pile doesn’t really generate a lot. However, using a worm bin (like the ones from The Worm Nerd online), can provide worm tea which creates way more bang for your buck. For most families, composting worms are going to give you a better result.
April gardening list raised beds
Raised beds being planted at Empower School and Farm

In the Food Forest

  • Prune back brambles (raspberries and blackberries)
  • Apply a late spring foliar spray.
  • Consider probiotics for your garden and yard. FREE 11-minute talk on probiotics for the yard, click here.
  • Plant new fruit trees and berry bushes. Here is a step-by-step process (with diagram) of how to plant a fruit tree or berry bush. Some of the info may surprise you. This is a great time to plant avocado, mango, strawberry tree and other tropical trees. Planting this time of year gives them 7-8 months to root in and settle before winter.
  • Pinch off “first year fruit”. Never let a fruit tree produce fruit the first year that it is in the ground. Remove any fruit so all the energy goes to establishing a heathy root system. Even leaving a single fruit will cause the nutrient requirements of the tree to change, so make sure to remove all fruit the first year it’s in the ground. This is soooo hard to do, but it will help create a much healthier tree in the long-run.
  • Apply mulch (wood chips) to any areas that need it. Fruit trees like to have 4-6″ of wood chips around the base (extending all the way to the drip line). This helps conserve moisture, but also creates a rich fungal compost at the base of the tree. Remember, keep mulch a few inches back from the truck, because you don’t want the decomposing wood touching your tree.
  • Pruning: NO pruning once trees flower. After they awaken for the spring, there is a lot of sap flowing. You don’t want to cause a fungal or bacterial issue by pruning this time of year. Pruning should be done during late winter dormancy, so if you haven’t pruned fruit trees yet, it’s best to wait. You can, however, still prune pines, decorative shrubs, and ornamental trees now.
April gardening list foliar spray
Spring foliar spray being applied by a permaculture design course participant in 2021 at Empower School and Farm.

In the Shed

  • Use Seafoam in the gas tank of all small engines as you start them for the first time this year. Seafoam will help clean out all the lines and help things run more smoothly as you enter the gardening season.
  • Check hand tools: If you oiled your garden tools before winter, everything should be ready to rock. However, if you forgot, you might need to use sandpaper to clean the rust off. Oil them up when you are finished to protect them. This is a great time to sharpen shovels and other tools with a grinder or dremel tool. Use linseed oil on handles to give everything a fresh look for the season.
  • Check for mold: Winter months and bad airflow can often result in a bit of mold. Look inside totes and stored items in the shed to make sure there is no mold or off-smelling areas. Open up the garage and shed on a day you are there to let things air out.
Cattley Guava – tart strawberry flavor, very hardy.

Livestock

  • Water rotations: In nature, animals don’t drink out of the purified tap. Sometimes their water is from a rain puddle, but other times from a stream or pond. To help mimic this and give their immune system a boost, try doing something different every time you refill their water.
    • Apple Cider Vinegar: 1 tsp per gallon
    • Honey: 1 TBSP per gallon
    • BioIivestock Probiotic: Dilution rate on bottle depending on species
    • Herbs: Add fresh oregano, thyme, rosemary, etc to their water to make a “tea”
    • Rainwater
  • Deworming Cattle / Horses: 1-1.5 cups of Basic H per 100 gallon watering container OR 1TBSP per gallon for chickens, goats, lamb.
  • Nesting box boosters: For a little treat in your nesting boxes, consider adding fresh or dried flower petals and herbs. Fennel, cilantro, and parsley are great laying stimulants. Remember, with spring rains, it is important to change bedding frequently and make sure everything remains dry and clean.

In the Pasture

  • Plant: Timothy grass, perennial peanut, wildflower mixes, tobacco, clovers, alfalfa.
  • Hay / Straw: Any rotting or wet bales can be used in the garden or food forest as deep mulch. It can be spread 5-7″ thick in areas that are going to be “future” garden beds in order to prep the soil. First, roll out contractor paper (usually found in the paint section of a hardware store) over the grass and then cover with the straw or other mulch. This is a great opportunity to do “layer mulching” if you have other materials available.
pond and pasture

Around the House and Perennial Beds

  • Flower pots from last year should be emptied and refreshed. Old soil can be put in a wheel barrow and have new compost mixed in. You can also empty old soil directly onto the compost pile to let it refresh over the next month or so. Wash flower pots well with an organic soap to kill any remaining bacteria before adding new soil and planting fresh plants.
  • Cut back last years growth: Remove any dead material left over from last fall and add to the compost pile.
  • Clean up bananas: It’s finally time to cut back the dead leaves and branches from bananas and other fruit trees. Removing dead leaves this time of year will help prevent rot and fungal issues. Not to mention, getting rid of the dead makes everything look a lot better.
  • Fertilize flower beds: Use kelp, bone meal, blood meal, and/or fish emulsion. I like to use blood meal in March/April and then in May/June use bone meal. Kelp and fish emulsion can be used anytime during the growing season. Alternatively, apply a 1/2″ layer of compost to flower beds or at the base of each flower. Keep away from the stems, so it doesn’t “burn”.
  • Annual Flowers: Plant some pops of color around the garden. Use as many native wildflowers and perennials as possible, because the vast majority of annuals do NOT provide nectar for bees and butterflies. However, using them sparingly can still give lasting bursts of color. Some annual flowers (nasturtiums, marigolds, calendula, etc.) are also edible and medicinal and can even be used as vegetable companion plants.
  • Air out the house: On a day you are home, open up every window in the house and turn on fans to circulate fresh air into the house. Change the filters in the HVAC system for the spring months. This is also a great time to vacuum out floor vents and air returns.
  • Check / replace smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries
  • Clean out the refrigerator and disinfect shelves. It’s often best to do this the day before garbage day, so you can take old items directly to the road.
dill herb
Dill – used for culinary purposes, as a pollinator, and in chicken nesting areas as a laying stimulant.

Kids & Family Ideas

  • Visit a local arboretum or community garden: Often these will have special programs for kids and families.
  • Wild Bird Feeding
    • Set out orange halves and grape jelly for the arriving orioles
    • Put hummingbird feeders out on April 15th (never use the kind with red dye), and be sure to change the water in them every week.
    • Hang a new birdhouse for spring nesting season
    • Add white millet to feeders to attract indigo buntings (bright blue birds)
  • Decorate a garden corner and create a gnome or fairy garden. Personally, I can’t get enough garden gnomes hidden in the flower beds or at the base of fruit trees.
  • Spring flower drawing or painting: Pick a flower or two for each kid and have them draw or paint it. When they finish, frame the artwork and hang for seasonal decorations in the house.
April gardening list peaches
Tropic Beauty Peach in Central Florida

See you in the garden

As always, thanks for taking time to join on the gardening and permaculture journey. Be sure to check out the continual flow of content available via our social media channels.

Remember, we also do personal farm and property consultations and this is the PERECT time of year for this! We’d love to help you get a proactive plan for your property and help you create abundance and wonder.

And for those wanting longer-term property mentorship, training, and online classes – we now offer a Patreon Community with an ever-growing library of resources with varying membership levels.

If this article was helpful, consider sharing on social media (or with your garden groups) to help set others up to win on their property. Happy spring, and I’ll see you in the garden!

– Kristofer Edler

April Gardening To-Do List (Zones 3-8)

Spring is officially in motion and is showing off with all her glory. The flowers are blooming, the bees have awakened from their slumber, and the gardening season is upon us. It seems like the winter snow was both yesterday and three months ago, all at the same time. One of my favorite things to do in the springtime is to visit local garden centers and see what is new for the coming growing season. Even though I usually gravitate toward native wildflowers and perennials, I often splurge on a few annual flowers or herbs to add splashes of color. Not to mention, I always seem to find one more place to hang a bird feeder or bird house. There is something about walking around a local (and independently owned) nursery that makes the gardeners heart come alive. Maybe it’s seeing others with the same plant addiction… I mean passion… yeah… passion. Or maybe it’s the plants themselves that make me feel alive on the inside. This is the season that my inner hobbit comes to life again after the winter slumber.

In the midst of the busyness of the season though, it always helps to stay organized. So here is your April Gardening To-Do List to help you jumpstart your spring projects. For me it’s helpful to print out this list and hang it somewhere so I can refer to it each week to check my progress, but do whatever is best for you.

Be sure to comment below and give this article a share to other gardeners who might be interested.

NOTE: This list is geared toward USDA Growing Zones 3-8. If you are looking for the April Gardening List for Zones 9-11, click here.

April gardening list spring flowers
Hyacinth, hosta, lungwort, bleeding heart

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

In the Garden & Greenhouse

  • Fertilizing the vegetable garden: Remember, we are what we eat, so stay away from both chemical and synthetic fertilizers. My top choice to fertilize is always to apply compost (regular for veggies and mushroom based for fruit trees and berry bushes). If you do not have access to organic compost, then my second choice for this time of year is usually a rotation of worm tea, blood meal, azomite, fish emulsion, or kelp. Unfortunately, even some name brand organic fertilizers are hiding things like MSG under the name “soy protein hydrolysate”. So, use wisdom when picking out the best fertilizers for you and your family.
  • To plant: carrots, radishes, beets, onions, asparagus, rhubarb, a few nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants). Wait to plant the majority of nightshades until after the last frost date in your region, but sometimes you can get a buffer crop if you stagger planting and the weather stays warm.
  • To harvest: Salad greens, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, mustards, peas, asparagus, and rhubarb
  • Compost: Turn pile 1-2x per week.
    • NOTE: For most people an outdoor compost pile doesn’t really generate a lot. However, using a worm bin (like the ones from the Worm Nerd online), can provide worm tea which creates way more bang for your buck. For most families, composting worms are going to give you a better result.
April gardening list raised beds
Raised beds being planted at Empower School and Farm

In the Food Forest

  • Prune back brambles (raspberries and blackberries)
  • Apply a late spring foliar spray.
  • Consider probiotics for your garden and yard. FREE 11-minute talk on probiotics for the yard, click here.
  • Plant new fruit trees and berry bushes. Here is a step-by-step process (with diagram) of how to plant a fruit tree or berry bush. Some of the info may surprise you.
  • Pinch off “first year fruit”. Never let a fruit tree produce fruit the first year that it is in the ground. Remove any fruit so all the energy goes to establishing a heathy root system. Even leaving a single fruit will cause the nutrient requirements of the tree to change, so make sure to remove all fruit the first year it’s in the ground. This is soooo hard to do, but it will help create a much healthier tree in the long-run.
  • Apply mulch (wood chips) to any areas that need it. Fruit trees like to have 4-6″ of wood chips around the base (extending all the way to the drip line). This helps conserve moisture, but also creates a rich fungal compost at the base of the tree. Remember, keep mulch a few inches back from the truck, because you don’t want the decomposing wood touching your tree.
  • Pruning: NO pruning once trees flower. After they awaken for the spring, there is a lot of sap flowing. You don’t want to cause a fungal or bacterial issue by pruning this time of year. Pruning should be done during late winter dormancy, so if you haven’t pruned fruit trees yet, it’s best to wait. You can, however, still prune pines, decorative shrubs, and ornamental trees now.
April gardening list foliar spray
Spring foliar spray being applied by a permaculture design course participant in 2021 at Empower School and Farm.

In the Shed

  • Use Seafoam in the gas tank of all small engines as you start them for the first time this year. Seafoam will help clean out all the lines and help things run more smoothly as you enter the gardening season.
  • Check hand tools: If you oiled your garden tools before winter, everything should be ready to rock. However, if you forgot, you might need to use sandpaper to clean the rust off. Oil them up when you are finished to protect them. This is a great time to sharpen shovels and other tools with a grinder or dremel tool. Use linseed oil on handles to give everything a fresh look for the season.
  • Check for mold: Winter months and bad airflow can often result in a bit of mold. Look inside totes and stored items in the shed to make sure there is no mold or off-smelling areas. Open up the garage and shed on a day you are there to let things air out.
April gardening list lungwort
Lungwort – this spring flower has leaves that can be used fresh as a tea to break up congestion and help lung health.

Livestock

  • Water rotations: In nature, animals don’t drink out of the purified tap. Sometimes their water is from a rain puddle, but other times from a stream or pond. To help mimic this and give their immune system a boost, try doing something different every time you refill their water.
    • Apple Cider Vinegar: 1 tsp per gallon
    • Honey: 1 TBSP per gallon
    • BioIivestock Probiotic: Dilution rate on bottle depending on species
    • Herbs: Add fresh oregano, thyme, rosemary, etc to their water to make a “tea”
    • Rainwater
  • Deworming Cattle / Horses: 1-1.5 cups of Basic H per 100 gallon watering container OR 1TBSP per gallon for chickens, goats, lamb.
  • Nesting box boosters: For a little treat in your nesting boxes, consider adding fresh or dried flower petals and herbs. Fennel, cilantro, and parsley are great laying stimulants. Remember, with spring rains, it is important to change bedding frequently and make sure everything remains dry and clean.
April gardening list currant flowers
Red Currant flowers in Kansas City, MO

In the Pasture

  • Plant: Timothy grass, perennial peanut, wildflower mixes, tobacco, clovers, alfalfa.
  • Hay / Straw: Any rotting or wet bales can be used in the garden or food forest as deep mulch. It can be spread 5-7″ thick in areas that are going to be “future” garden beds in order to prep the soil. First, roll out contractor paper (usually found in the paint section of a hardware store) over the grass and then cover with the straw or other mulch. This is a great opportunity to do “layer mulching” if you have other materials available.
April gardening list mushrooms
Morel mushrooms found in April in Kansas City, MO

Around the House and Perennial Beds

  • Flower pots from last year should be emptied and refreshed. Old soil can be put in a wheel barrow and have new compost mixed in. You can also empty old soil directly onto the compost pile to let it refresh over the next month or so. Wash flower pots well with an organic soap to kill any remaining bacteria before adding new soil and planting fresh plants.
  • Cut back last years growth: Remove any dead material left over from last fall and add to the compost pile.
  • Fertilize flower beds: Use kelp, bone meal, blood meal, and/or fish emulsion. I like to use blood meal in April and then in May or June use bone meal. Kelp and fish emulsion can be used anytime during the growing season. Alternatively, apply a 1/2″ layer of compost to flower beds or at the base of each flower. Keep away from the stems, so it doesn’t “burn”.
  • Spring bulb care: Remove flower / seed heads, but leave the green growth until they naturally die back. This green will help feed the bulb for next year.
  • Annual Flowers: Plant some pops of color around the garden. Use as many native wildflowers and perennials as possible, because the vast majority of annuals do NOT provide nectar for bees and butterflies. However, using them sparingly can still give lasting bursts of color. Some annual flowers (nasturtiums, marigolds, calendula, etc.) are also edible and medicinal and can even be used as vegetable companion plants.
  • Air out the house: On a day you are home, open up every window in the house and turn on fans to circulate fresh air into the house. Change the filters in the HVAC system for the spring months. This is also a great time to vacuum out floor vents and air returns.
  • Check / replace smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries
  • Clean out the refrigerator and disinfect shelves. It’s often best to do this the day before garbage day, so you can take old items directly to the road.
April gardening list spring flowers
Edible spring flowers: Violas, pansies, and snapdragons.

Kids & Family Ideas

  • Visit a local arboretum or community garden: Often these will have special programs for kids and families.
  • Wild Bird Feeding
    • Set out orange halves and grape jelly for the arriving orioles
    • Put hummingbird feeders out on April 15th (never use the kind with red dye), and be sure to change the water in them every week.
    • Hang a new birdhouse for spring nesting season
    • Add white millet to feeders to attract indigo buntings (bright blue birds)
  • Decorate a garden corner and create a gnome or fairy garden. Personally, I can’t get enough garden gnomes hidden in the flower beds or at the base of fruit trees.
  • Spring flower drawing or painting: Pick a flower or two for each kid and have them draw or paint it. When they finish, frame the artwork and hang for seasonal decorations in the house.
April gardening list turmeric
curcuma zedoaria (Spicy White)

See you in the garden

As always, thanks for taking time to join on the gardening and permaculture journey. Be sure to check out the continual flow of content available via our social media channels.

Remember, PermacultureFX also does virtual consulting (using facetime, zoom, satellite images, etc.). We’d love to help you get a plan for your property and help you create abundance and wonder.

And if you are looking for longer-term property mentorship, training, online classes… we now offer a Permaculture Patreon Community. We have multiple tiers of membership to help suit various levels of connection.

If this article was helpful, consider sharing on social media (or with your garden groups) to help set others up to win on their property. Happy spring, and I’ll see you in the garden!

– Kristofer Edler

What Plants Should Be Protected in a Freeze

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

1. What plants should be protected during a freeze?

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

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

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

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

What Plants Should Be Protected During a Freeze

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

No Protection Needed

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

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

How to Protect Tropical Plants During a Freeze

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

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

What NOT To Do During the Cold Snap

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

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

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

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

Final Notes

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

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

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

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

January Garden To-Do List for Zones 9-11

january garden calendar
Winter campfires with farm friends and fam.
In the food forest, it can really vary depending on the winter, so in the south we really have to be willing to flex from year-to-year, but that’s what makes it interesting and keeps us on our toes. If you are reading this from a cold climate zone, however, please CLICK HERE for your January Garden to-do list. Now, without further rambling… Here are some our hit list items on the January Gardening To-Do List for Zones 9-11.

In the Garden & Greenhouse

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

In the Food Forest

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

In the Shed

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

In the Chicken Coop

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

Around the House & Perennial Beds

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

In the Pasture

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

Winter Bird-feeding for the Entire Family

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

Time to Plan

During these winter months while the fruit trees are mainly dormant, it’s the perfect time to plan for the spring. So make a cup of nice winter tea, open up your sketch book, and start brainstorming. But please reach out if we can help you in the process! If you are interested in a personalized permaculture consultation for your property, we do both in-person visits to your site AND virtual consultations (for those out of our area). These come with varying levels of property designs, maintenance plans, and even recipes for using the items in your food forest! CLICK HERE to learn more. We offer a wide variety of consultation types to fit an array of budgets and project sizes.
Winter Foraged Tea
Winter Foraged Tea: White pine needles, roselle calyx, and olive leaves. Great for anti-oxidants and immune health.

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

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

january garden calendar

how to get ready for an ice storm

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

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

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

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

In the Garden & Greenhouse

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

In the Food Forest

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

In the Shed

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

In the Chicken Coop

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

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

Around the House & Perennial Beds

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

Winter Ideas for Kids

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

Time to Plan

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

What’s included with your Patreon Membership

  • On-going permaculture / property mentorship
  • 1st Week of the Month LIVE Q&A
  • 2nd Week of the Month Practical Permaculture PDF
  • 3rd Week of the Month Permaculture Class
  • 4th Week of the Month Farm Interview & Spotlight
  • Ad-free videos
  • Behind-the-scenes content
  • Digital downloads
  • Exclusive content
  • Earlybird ticket pricing for in-person events
  • Early access to all events
  • Live event VIP
  • Live Q&As
  • Livestreams
  • Video tutorials & lessons
  • Private community
  • Exclusive voting power
  • Quarterly Online Classes – EXCLUSIVE
  • Monthly Practical Permaculture PDF

NOTE: Membership offerings vary depending on the level of patron support.

December Garden To-Do List for Zones 9-11

december gardening calendar

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

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

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

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

In the Garden & Greenhouse

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

In the Food Forest

  • Plant: Peaches, plums, pears, nectarines, mulberries, blueberries, elderberries, figs, persimmons, and other cold hardy trees.
  • Prune existing peaches, plums, pears, nectarines, mulberries, etc. Remove branches that are preventing light from getting to other branches. Open and airy scaffold structure is best to promote fruiting.
  • Harvest: Enjoy the last hurrahs from your tropical spinach trees. Save seeds and cuttings.
  • Make sure that every fruit tree and berry bush has 6-8″ of wood chips around the base (from the truck area to the edge of the drip-line). Keep wood chips a few inches from the trunk (to prevent rot), and never allow the soil to be bare or covered in grass.
  • Do NOT fertilize (fruit trees) again until the end of February or early March.
  • Order organic orchard supplies for the coming season – be sure to look for holiday sales! Include seaweed extract, BioAg, neem oil, Basic H (for all foliar applications), and fish emulsion.
Jamacan Sorrel / Roselle Calyx. Seeds will be saved and the red part will be dried for winter tea.

In the Shed

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

In the Chicken Coop

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

Around the House & Perennial Beds

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

In the Pasture

  • Plant Rough Pea (Lathyrus hirsutus), which is a high quality protein (especially for beef cows), helps maintain a healthy gut microflora.  High quality digestible fiber.
  • Plant bamboo, Napier (elephant) grass, or mulberry, or hibiscus on pasture edges for animal fodder and forage. Watch our two part teaching on this, filmed by Ad Astra Gardens on their YouTube!

Winter Ideas for Kids

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

Time to Plan

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

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

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

I’ll see you in the Garden!

October Garden To-Do List for Zones 9-11

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

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

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

In the garden

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

In the Greenhouse

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

In the Food Forest

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

• Avocado
• Barbados cherry

• Carambola • Citrus
• Dragon Fruit • Fig

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

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

In the Shed

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

In the Chicken Coop for October

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

Around the House

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

Perennial Flower Beds in October

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

Ideas for Kids

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

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 Central Florida. Otherwise, they may not have time to root in properly before winter months. Anything uber tropical planted after this month are a risk. But most tother things (plum, peaches, etc.) are still fine to plant.
  • 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. Technically you can plant them now, but it’s not really ideal.
  • 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 45-60%. 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!

Thanks for sharing this article with those who may find it helpful (like people within your gardening groups).