The Survival Gardener Book of the Week #2: The Planet Whizbang Idea Book for Gardeners

gardening books

Last week I told you why you should get Gardening When it Counts by Steve Solomon.

This week, we’ll cover a book by another one of my mentors – a man I’m also lucky enough to call a friend.

Let’s face the dirty truth: gardening books are often boring. And good gardening ideas are few and far between.

Sure, there’s the occasional laughter-inducing tome, such as Ruth Stout’s epic Gardening Without Work… or the infectious enthusiasm for geometric horticultural engineering found in Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening.

But most gardening books do little to stir the mind.

How many time do we need to be told the proper C/N ratio of compost? Or the spacing of beans? Or the cold-tolerance of kale.

Yawn.

We Gooders are looking for more. We need the burning vision of a Sepp Holzer to stir us… or the green vistas of Geoff Lawton’s food forest Edens.

Today’s book nestles in the sweet spot somewhere between the down-to-earth and the skyward-reaching tendrils of imagination.

If you’re looking for gardening ideas, this is the book for you.

This book = pure idea generation

Herrick Kimball is the inventor of the Whizbang Chicken Plucker, the Whizbang Wheel Hoe, the Whizbang Cider Press the Whizbang Garden Cart and he’s the maker of Classic American Clothespins that are better than their high-strung ancestors.

He also runs the excellent blog Upland Gardener… and he’s now started a regular vlog on his YouTube channel titled This Agrarian Life.

But… on to this week’s book!

I first had the chance to read The Planet Whizbang Idea Book for Gardeners during the cold days of winter back in 2014 and found it to be a great inspiration for the upcoming gardens of 2015.

Planet Whizbang Idea Book for Gardeners Cover

This is truly a book of ideas. If you’re a DIY person, a dreamer, a tinkerer or an experimenter… Kimball sets forth a big batch of homemade and home-tested ideas and basically says “Here – take these gifts and build with them and on them!”

Gardening ideas covered include remarkably inexpensive and sturdy T-post trellises, tri-grown carrots, refurbishing antique garden hoes (which I have done myself with great success!), creating biochar, building solar pyramids, siphon-tube rain barrels and a lot more.

Along with the many ideas and profuse illustrations, Kimball includes snippets and essays from vintage gardening books, letters, almanacs and bulletins. The wisdom of the past twines through the pages, reflecting Kimball’s Christian Agrarian philosophy of working with his hands and caring for the land generationally.

Mineralization, tool design, insect control – the gardening ideas are introduced to the reader one after the other, daring him to set down the book and get out in the workshop or garden with a brilliant new plan.

The Planet Whizbang Idea Book for Gardeners is my kind of book – and I think you’ll like it too.

You can get a copy here.

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The Survival Gardener Book of the Week #1: Gardening When it Counts

gardening books

Today I’m announcing a new regular feature: The Survival Gardener Library!

Every Friday I’ll feature a book of the week worth adding to your library. We’ll focus on gardening, homesteading, food forests, permaculture and wild plant foraging and maybe even throw in the occasional book from out there in left field.

I’ve been a book collector since I was a child and those books shaped the man I am today. From the Animals Without Backbones to The Foundation Trilogy to Florida Gardening to The Lord of the Rings, books have uplifted and inspired me over the years.

And that doesn’t even count the book that has impacted me the most: The Holy Bible. If you don’t have that book yet, go get one.

This week we’ll start the series with the must-have book Scorpions of Medical Importance:

51TOPWMMjdL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_

Oh wait, no, that’s not it. I’m sorry.

This week we feature Steve Solomon’s classic:

Gardening When it Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times

Gardening When It Counts

I consider Steve Solomon my mentor.

We finally got the chance to meet via Skype a couple of months ago and he is brilliant in person as well. The man’s mind is a machine – yet his books are easy to read, accessible, and almost always practical.

Steve has gardened organically for years in a variety of climates. He’s farmed, run a seed company and written multiple books. I own them all, with the exception of Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades – though you can bet your broadfork I’d buy that one too if I lived within a thousand miles of the region.

Gardening When it Counts teaches you to grow food without breaking the bank or your back. It will open your eyes to the value of wide spacing, sharp tools and traditional methods.

Reading Steve is like learning from a wise grandfather who has been there, done that, and grown the potatoes.

If you don’t own this book and you are a gardener, you should.

Go get a copy. Read it. Learn from Steve – he knows his stuff.

You can learn more about Steve Solomon on his website.

 

*Original featured photo by my friend Jean.

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Help Needed: Gardening in Plant City

gardening-in-plant-city

Jonelle needs help gardening in Plant City:

 

“We have about 3.5 acres of lawn-ish, peppered with what we have been told is called bull grass. Our drain field for our septic is covered in Dog fennel, we have been told. It drives my husband crazy, so he has been hacking at it, but it is slow going. I’m not sure what to do about it, since I don’t really want to grow vegetables on my septic… But any ideas of how to get rid of it and prevent it returning would be great.

Our house front door faces west, and the South and East sides of the land are bordered by Lowlands, according to the property appraiser’s office. I would love to figure out if there is anything good already there, or if I can use it to do some food forestry.

I have bought some seeds, see attached, but now I am at a loss as to where to plant them. With lawn, I’m thinking raised beds might be fastest, since we are renting and just moved in Feb 1. I don’t have time to smother the lawn with all our moving boxes. I got a couple pots of herbs : stevia, and a combo pot of basil, oregano, thyme and Parsley. Oh, and I have Everglades tomato seeds on their way.

Any ideas would be welcome. This place has so much potential, I’m drowning. We are also thinking about chickens, (hubby also wants to do rabbits) since there are some kind of pens on the south side of the property, almost in the woods. And I’m considering red wigglers to help compost.”

 

Well, let’s see what we can do!

Gardening in Plant City

Plant City is the strawberry capital of the world, so there is definitely good agricultural potential there. The climate is mild and supports a wide range of fruit trees and vegetables; however, the summers are quite hot and freezes do sometimes occur in the winter.

Here’s an overhead view of the property:

gardening in plant city

All that bare ground makes for very hot conditions, but as it’s a rental it’s probably not worth adding in some more shade for now.

It’s definitely worth hunting through the woods for useful and edible species.

Chances are there are wild berries, smilax, edible cacti and maybe even some edible and medicinal mushrooms. You could also plant some species but be sure you don’t introduce anything that can mess up the native ecosystem.

Removing Weeds Without Herbicide

If dog fennel is driving you nuts, get yourself a machete and hack them down, then keep the area mowed. Personally, I leave wild patches of dog fennel and other “weeds” on purpose as they provide hiding spaces for beneficial insects as well as forage areas for birds and butterflies.

Lawn is a low-level ecosystem.

Scrubby prairie with a mix of species is better and will keep your nearby gardens healthier.

One way to kill down an area if you want to garden it later: just mow the area and put down some of this woven plastic weed barrier through the summer. In fall, you’ll have a great, clear place to plant. I love that material – it’s much better than regular black plastic and lasts for years and years. It also allows air and rain through but completely suppresses weeds. Put down a strip where you want a garden and let the sun do the rest.

Raised Beds in Florida

I simply loathe raised beds in Florida. They aren’t a good option. They get too hot too quickly, plus they need more watering than in-ground beds. You’re better off just digging a patch of ground to loosen it, then planting there. No borders required.

Like this:

GardensFebruary2015 GardensFebruary2015-5

I used cinder blocks to edge my perennial beds but if I had it to do again, I wouldn’t even do that.

What Will Grow

Here are the seeds Jonelle bought for 2017’s gardens:

gardening in plant city 2 gardening in plant city 3

It’s too late to plant most of those selections. The heat will kill almost all of them within the next month or so.

What you can plant now, though, is the long beans and the cowpeas. They’ll sail through the heat. Plant the Roselle as well – it should do fine. You can try Seminole pumpkins but my gut says it’s too late.

Most everything else I would wait until October/November to plant as the heat goes down.

We get two main gardening seasons in Florida: Late winter through spring, then fall through early winter. Some winters you can grow peppers and cucumbers right through by throwing a few sheets over the gardens during the occasional freeze, but other winters get too cold and will kill things off. Plant City is very mild, though, so you can probably push those winters.

Basil and stevia should grow, but keep the stevia well-watered and in part shade. The summer heat really roasts it. Basil is a lot tougher.

I recommend digging some beds through the summer and planting them with cowpeas and peanuts as you finish them, then turning under the plants in fall and growing your gardens on them. Or you can just tarp areas with that landscape fabric and plant them. I am a fan of cover cropping, though, as it keeps the ground alive and adds nitrogen and organic matter.

Livestock

Rabbits2We tried rabbits and I gave up on them. Your husband may do better than we did, though. The maintenance, the random deaths and the infrastructure really was a mess – I was glad to see them go.

Chickens are also a pain in Florida as there are a lot of predators. That said, a good, strong coop can keep them safe and happy. I wouldn’t free-range them, though, as they will get killed. Dogs, hawks, owls, possums, foxes, coons, rats… everything likes to eat chicken. Here are my thoughts on housing chickens.

Most of my experiences with keeping livestock have been losses. The fresh eggs and meat are good, but the cost of feed, housing, losses through predation, etc., make the animals more expensive than they’re really worth. Plants have always yielded much better for me. A bed of sweet potatoes doesn’t need much babysitting!

Raising Worms

Now worms? Easy! Too bad they don’t make eggs or (good) meat!

I used to raise mine inside an old dishwasher – you can see how here.

The castings are great, though you need a lot of worms to get enough castings for serious gardening projects. I really enjoyed keeping worms, though, and having them turn kitchen waste into amazingly rich compost.

Final Thoughts

In order to succeed at Florida gardening, you need to learn proper timing for planting, plus make sure you keep the ground constantly fed.

This method works really well in Florida sand:

Just DON’T add any straw, hay or manure, or “garden soil,” or compost from off-site. You need to make your own. Florida is absolutely infested with commercial farmers using toxic long-term herbicides that will utterly destroy your garden for a couple of years. It’s in almost everything now, even bagged manures. Throw some on, and your garden dies. It’s insane. Just read this story from a fellow gardener. I read new reports of dead gardens all the time. It’s better to make your own compost, which is something you can do over the hot months of summer. Pile up all the grass clippings and leaves you get from your yard and let them rot down. If you can get some clay anywhere nearby, add it to your compost piles. It will make the compost “stick” and last a lot longer. Florida compost breaks down really fast without any clay in it.

Totally_Crazy_Easy_Florida_Gardening_350And, finally, have fun. If you don’t have my book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening, buy it. It will give you a huge head start.

As Jen wrote in a recent review:

Just received this book and have already begun going through it & David the Good is so right! So many Florida gardeners have the best of intentions when beginning their garden, but often don’t do as well & get discouraged along the way due to choosing the wrong fruiting/nut trees & plants. This book is well organized, and is a quick & easy read for those of you who don’t love reading. David makes Florida gardening so easy! He has taken the guess work out of gardening–and let’s face it–there’s a lot of guess work if you just go to your local nursery–as there are a lot of trees & plants that will survive in your area–but they won’t thrive–and they certainly won’t provide lots of food. David has done all the legwork for us! He has literally tried to grow just about everything–including trees & plants from other continents–some with much success! David’s book is all about sharing with you what works, to make Florida gardening easy–not a chore you dread! This book will recommend the fruits & veggies that not only survive, but thrive in Florida–with minimal care. If you want to be a successful Florida gardener, you need to get this book! I absolutely love it!

 

Good luck, Jonelle, and as always – if you need help, stop on by and ask questions. I’ll keep you growing as best as I can.

 

 

*Image at top adapted from a photo by WalterPro4755. CC License.

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Eating Nutrient Dense Food

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Rachel and I have been conducting an experiment in health. We have greatly increased our consumption of vegetables and mostly eliminated grains, with the exception of the occasional beer.

This was a recent lunch:

nutrient-dense-food

Fresh local tuna, sauteed broccoli, garlic, onions and greens, plus lightly cooked fermented beets with carrots. All this food was grown or caught locally. The broccoli was grown organically by our pastor in his front-yard garden. Even the beer is locally brewed and has a slice of local lime in it.

Over the last couple of weeks I started working with my favorite gardening author on a book project, and something he wrote struck me as a good idea.

“Wait – WHAT? What favorite gardening author are you talking about, David???”

 

Ah, I have gotten ahead of myself. I am working with Steve Solomon on a new Florida gardening book that tailors his innovative and productive methods to the unique climate of the Sunshine state. This is a dream project for me as Steve has greatly influenced my thinking on growing vegetables and has continued to do so with each new book he publishes. Getting the chance to speak with him and collaborate is more than satisfying.

But – back to the point. Steve Solomon wrote the book The Intelligent Gardener which transformed my thinking on backyard gardening and nutrition. He writes in the as-of-yet unreleased book we are co-writing that he is a “vegetabletarian,” basing much of his nutrition on a base of vegetables, though it is not a vegetarian diet.

This vegetable rather than grain-based diet is tweaked for maximum nutrition by Dr. Terry Wahls*, author of The Wahls Protocol, which I have been reading off-and-on over the last couple of weeks.

I have been mostly Paleo for some years, but I admit: I haven’t tried to eat for maximum nutrition. I have eaten wild greens and berries, plus homegrown fruits and vegetables for years… but I’ve also eaten things just to fill me up. Bacon and eggs with cheese, for example. Sure, that gets me lots of nutrition in the eggs, but it doesn’t provide any good fiber or the many excellent enzymes and nutrients provided by a good serving of vegetables. It will keep you thin thanks to it being no-carb, but it won’t feed all your nutritional needs.

Dr. Wahls reversed the course of her rapidly progressing Multiple Sclerosis by greatly increasing the nutrition she received from vegetables, along with good fats and meat. She gave up vegetarianism but increased her vegetable consumption at the same time.

A dirty secret of vegetarianism is how many vegetarians aren’t really basing their diet on lots of vegetables. Instead, many rely on bread and other high-carb foods that are inflammatory and not nutrient dense, while missing important fats and proteins required for good health and muscle building.

The book recommends eating nine cups of vegetables and brightly colored fruits per day.

Nine cups!

It’s further divided into sub-categories:

3 cups of cruciferous or sulfur-rich vegetables such as cabbage, kale, radishes, onions and garlic
3 cups of brightly colored fruits and/or vegetables such as blueberries, beets, carrots, cherries, etc.
3 cups of leafy greens such as spinach, dandelion and wild greens

Starchy vegetables like potatoes and fruits not colored all the way through, such as bananas and most apples (Steven does have some red-fleshed ones that are the exception), don’t count towards the day’s totals but may still be consumed. Grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish are also part of the diet, along with organ meats and bone broth.

Beer is not allowed but I don’t care. I will still drink one now and again.

The idea of the diet is to provide your cells with abundant nutrition and let them heal your body. Though I am generally healthy, I do have some neck pain now and again, plus allergies. The idea of eating a lot more nutrition via vegetable consumption and some organ meat appeals to me. I can grow vegetables and wild forage for greens, so it’s not a tough sell – plus most of the meat here is grass-fed or wild-caught.

I’ve been eating this way for a couple of weeks now and feel good. Over time, I think I’ll feel even better. I do need to plant some larger gardens, though – we are eating a ton of vegetables right now.

 

*Do not read this post as my endorsement of Dr. Wahls’ personal life. I believe marriage is a sacred God-ordained covenant between a man and a woman – period. That said, she has some very intriguing ideas and I believe her research is helping a lot of people.

David-the-good-books-revised

A Great Review of “Push the Zone”

Snow-outside

A fellow Gabber sent me a link last week to a good and well-balanced review he wrote after reading Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics:

 

“…the practicality of Grow or Die necessarily came at the expense of the insanity of Compost Everything. However, his newest book, Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Outside the Tropics arrives at a nice compromise between the two positions of his prior work. Some of the concepts contained make good fodder for worrying my fiancee, others I will actually implement in my own gardens this week as I start some plants slightly earlier than anticipated.

Push-the-Zone-cover-webThe central concern I imagine people have is one of whether the book is worth the five dollar cover price and handful of hours it will take to read it.  If you don’t garden at all, and you aren’t particularly intellectually curious, shame on you. However, the book is worth the price and effort of reading it, even for a cretin like you, because you will pick up a few new strange and interesting anecdotes. Acquiring interesting anecdotes will make you seem like a more interesting person, which will lead to business and personal success. That’s well worth the cover price.

Now suppose you still aren’t a gardener, but you are the intellectually curious type. Push the Zone teaches practical applications for thermodynamics that I bet you haven’t thought of before. You will have added breadth and depth to your knowledge of a seemingly everyday subject matter that some spend a lifetime studying. For the intellectually curious, that should be enough to warrant picking it up.

If you’re like me and do a little gardening where we get days at a time below freezing, and some years we get two feet of snow in a day, you’re not going to be “growing tropical plants beyond the tropics” while keeping them outside. No matter how many of David’s bag of tricks I use, I think growing citrus or Papaya along the banks of the Chesapeake is asking a bit much. However, that doesn’t mean the techniques described in the book are useless to me. On the contrary, the techniques described in the book are exactly the sorts of things that will help to extend my growing season by a few weeks. That means more productivity from my gardens, and a longer amount of time that we can eat homegrown produce.

If you’re living in the southeast US and love to try new things in your garden, this book is simply an indispensable guide. You will not only learn helpful techniques to apply to your own gardens, but you’ll learn about the author’s specific experiences with growing tropical plants in North Florida and Tennessee. That kind of first hand knowledge and experience is invaluable to help in trying new things in your own garden…”

 

Click here to read the rest.

When I was working on the book, I knew I was limited in my zone-pushing experience by only having done so in North Florida and Central Tennessee. Both locations aren’t super cold. Yet my publisher urged me to write the book anyway, as he felt the concepts were sound enough that they could be adapted far beyond where I conducted my experiments. I agree.

If you live in New York, this book could help you grow something like peaches which might otherwise be considered impossible. You might not be able to grow coffee like I did (a few hundred miles north of its “proper” range, I must add), but there will be things you can grow with these techniques that previously seemed impossible.

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Nice Shout-Out for my Books on YouTube

shout-out

Over on YouTube, imasurvivornthriver gives Grow or Die and Compost Everything a nice shout out in a recent video:

I agree with her thought that food may get more expensive as illegals leave the US.

Farms should have been hiring Americans to begin with, of course, and I’m sure things will adjust over time… but right now is a good time to take control of your own food supply no matter how everything pans out.

Plant those gardens!

Get Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening here.

And get Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting here.

David-the-good-books-revised

Tropical Gardening in Vero Beach

vero_beach

Don wonders about tropical gardening in Vero Beach:

“Hi David,

I recently moved to Vero Beach, and was delighted to find that we are in a 10a climate zone. I heard that Vero is in a microclimate area. You;d you consider this to be a tropical zone? or one that may be open to setting up a system where we may be able to push toward a 10b or even an 11a depending on how we set up our garden?

I am currently on 5 acres, and I am mulching over about 2 1/2 acres of it. I plan on planting fruit trees in just about 3 weeks.”

You are in a great place, Don. Gardening in Vero Beach is life on the easy setting.

Vero’s climate is close enough to the tropics that you’ll be able to plant an abundance of species that people an hour inland from you would struggle to grow.

2.5 acres is a ton of space, too. With Vero Beach’s mild, year-round growing season you’ll be raking in produce if you plan well. Even if you don’t, it will be hard to fail.

Though zone 10a suffers through occasional freezes, the close proximity of the ocean keeps them rare and brief.

The Power of the Ocean

As I write in Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics:

“If you live near the coast, consider yourself blessed. The climate of Jacksonville (Northeastern Florida) is comparable to that of Groveland, despite the former being located farther north. This is why there are coconut palms growing inside Tampa bay but not in Orlando.

Like the barrels of water in my greenhouse, the ocean functions as a huge repository of warmth on chilly nights. The farther you get away from the ocean, the worse the overnight lows become—and the hotter the summer highs. The center of the state of Florida is a ridge with rolling hills and little to moderate the heat of summer or the cold of winter. In my previous location south of Gainesville, I could drive an hour east or an hour west and see a lot more tropical foliage growing than would survive on my homestead.

More than one person in the Ocala area told me “I could never live in South Florida—it would be way too hot.” I’d just laugh. I grew up in Ft. Lauderdale and I can tell you from experience: it never, ever gets as hot there as it does during the middle of a Central Florida summer. The ocean keeps it both cooler and warmer. Where I currently live in the tropics is even milder. Temperatures normally range between 74 and 87 degrees, even though you’d think its equatorial location would lead to sweltering misery.

tropical gardening in vero beach

If you’re not tied to a particular location, you have a few options in finding a place where you can grow warmer climate plants outside with little or no protection. You can move southwards towards the equator… you can move into a warm, urban area… or you can move towards the coast. Heck, you could combine all three and move to Miami; however, the crime rate down there takes some of the fun out of gardening. There’s nothing that dampens horticultural enthusiasm like having some hoodlums steal all your mangoes or break into your tool shed three times in one week. No fun.

Getting close to the ocean or into the city is more expensive than living in the country, unfortunately, which is part of why we moved into the middle of my home state. Land is abundant and the soil can be pretty decent by Florida standards, depending on where you settle.

If you already live in the city, I recommend trying some trees and plants from farther south. Patios and pool areas are excellent for planting small fruit trees. If you’re in an apartment, try growing some tropical plants in large pots on your deck or garden area.

I’ve seen queen palms growing in North Florida between an apartment wall and a pool. If those palms were planted out in the open, they would be toasted by frost. By the building, in that urban heat sink along with the additional thermal mass of a big swimming pool they looked as happy as if they were in Tahiti.

The way to find out what works is to plant a lot of things and see how they do in your area. I’ll bet there are places in your yard right now that are warmer because of their location.

I once visited a friend about seventy miles east of my old house in Marion County. He lives in Ormond Beach, right near the ocean, which was actually a little north of me. In his neighborhood people were growing royal poinciana trees and sea grapes—both decidedly tropical species. The ocean made all the difference.”

Mangoes: The Tropical Canary

One of the species I look for to determine if an area is tropical enough to grow plenty of tropical fruit is the mango.

So – can mangoes grow in Vero Beach?

Yep!

Though the frosts will remove fruit from mango trees in some years, you will have great success in other years.

If the property you are developing has established trees – no matter what the species – they will help moderate the climate. If it is a wide open space, I recommend planting fast-growing species as quickly as possible to help moderate the climate and protect your tropical trees from the cold.

One of my favorites is the guanacaste tree, AKA enterolobium.

You don’t have to let them get huge, you just want to get some canopy edges that will help hold in warmth on a frosty night. Slowing the movement of cold air helps as well, so hedges, fences, buildings – think about where they are or where they could be. South-facing walls will create fully tropical microclimates along their sides.

But… as mangoes already grow in Vero Beach, your work is much easier than mine was in North/Central Florida.

Tropical Fruit for Vero Beach

Here are some species I would definitely hunt down and plant:

Chocolate Pudding Fruit / Black Sapote

Starfruit

Lychee

Papaya (easy to grow from seed)

Mulberry

Loquat

Cashew

Cattley Guava

Tropical Guava

Cherry of the Rio Grande

Jaboticaba

Canistel

Bananas (many types!)

Barbados Cherry

Pineapples

Tamarind

Fig

Olive (Arbequina)

 

There are many more options as well. More “tender” trees could be planted after these somewhat frost-tolerant trees get established. The collective canopies will create a warmer microclimate in your yard over time.

Covering the Area

One mistake I made at the beginning of my food forest process was not planting enough nitrogen fixers and plants to keep the ground covered.

Most of Florida wants to be forest. If you put down that mulch – plant more species in it that will keep life in the soil and provide you with new mulch material. If you have pain-in-the-neck invasive species, like Brazilian pepper, I would chop and drop it, but not kill it right away. If you keep it cut it won’t seed and you can use the limbs and leaves as mulch around other trees.

For quick ground-covering species I like cassava, Tithonia diversifolia, pigeon peas, black-eyed peas and big crazy seed mixes.

Coverseedmix3

The more life you get going on the sand, the better.

Perennial peanut is also a very nice ground cover for orchards and food forests.

Frost Protection

Little trees are very susceptible to overnight lows. Go to the local thrift store and buy cheap blankets and sheets and be prepared to cover those trees for at least the first few winters. If you keep them fed and watered well during their first few years, they’ll soon get big enough to live through a cold night, usually with minor damage. I have a lot more ideas in Push the Zone, but the bare bones of it is: baby young tropicals and they’ll take care of themselves in adulthood.

Vegetable Gardening in Vero Beach

My recommendations for top crops as shared in Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening hold firm for Vero Beach. Start with tough stuff that handles the humidity and the sand and move out from there.

African Yams

Sweet Potatoes

Cassava

Pigeon Peas

Yard-long Beans

Black-eye Peas

Seminole Pumpkin

Mexican Tree Spinach

Longevity Spinach

Malanga

Those will get you started and will do great – and there are many more options as well. Beefsteak tomatoes are tough, but Everglades tomatoes are easy. Get the forgiving plants growing first and making you food, then branch out.

I also encourage you to hunt down tropical fruit growers and enthusiasts in your area. Visit the local agricultural extension. Drive around town and any time you spot a tropical fruit tree, see if you can meet the owner and talk to him about how it has done over the years.

Good luck, Don, and if you have any more questions – shoot them my way and I’ll help as best as I can.

 

*Map image via Google Maps

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Push the Zone Still in the Gardening Top 10!

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This is nice to see:

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Still selling well – and the paperback isn’t even out yet.

Eliminate the Weight Watchers and cooking books and I’d be winning a bronze medal right now. I have no idea why those other books are in the “Gardening and Horticulture” section, but Amazon doesn’t pick the categories – the publishers do.

William Horvath of the excellent Permaculture Apprentice site gave me a nice plug in his newsletter today:

“My friend David the Good, the Survival Gardener just wrote a book Push the Zone. In the book, David reveals the methods for growing tropical edibles outside their “natural” range.

Now, even if you’re far much north or south to even think about tropical edibles, you’ll still find this book useful if you want to add a growing zone or two to your own backyard.”

Some nice reviews of Push the Zone have been rolling in on Amazon, too.

I liked this one by R. Williams:

“David the Good, I hate you. I’ve always put off starting a garden because what I really want to grow “won’t grow” in my range – now you’ve gone and destroyed that excuse. Furthermore, don’t you know that gardening books aren’t supposed to be fun to read? Come on, man – get it together.

“Push the Zone” is the 3rd book of a series but can be read as a stand alone. I won’t give any spoilers, but Mr. the Good describes many methods that he has researched or attempted to grow plants outside of their recommended range. Since he approaches gardening as an experimenter, he also gives examples of what didn’t work so well for him, and along the way he discusses ideas that he thinks might work but hasn’t personally attempted yet. He gives suggestions on how to improve conditions within a greenhouse for zone pushing, as well as discussing the conditions to look for when deciding where in your property to prepare and plant warmer-zone plants for the best chance of success. The final chapter provides a discussion of how to care for a lengthy list of particular plants.

If a gardening book can be said to be hard to put down, well this one makes that list. Even if you never had the urge to pick up a shovel, you will probably still enjoy reading it. If for no other reason, David is an encourager, exhorting us to go out and try something even when we’ve been told that it’s impossible. Maybe it is, but maybe it’s just improbable instead.

After some reflection, David, I take it back. I don’t “hate” you, I just don’t like that you’ve left me with this guilt complex for not doing what God put Adam on earth originally to do. And how could I dislike a brother-in-arms in the fight to keep our pies free of meringue. You, sir, are a pie patriot, and for that I salute you.”

Thank you.

If you don’t have your own copy of Push the Zone yet, you can get one here.

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Turning Weeds into Fertilizer

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I’ve been making anaerobic liquid fertilizer for years now.

It’s become such a normal part of my gardening that I sometimes forget how rabid people get about aerobic compost tea and composting with “good” bacteria as opposed to “bad” bacteria.

My experiments with anaerobic composting in barrels of water started with weed and manure tea left to steep, then kept expanding from there until they hit the fully fledged corn-feeding uber-corn-boosting method I describe in Compost Everything: The Good Guide to Extreme Composting.

For a long time I felt like I was standing alone on a high and solitary peak of knowledge, isolated from the rest of the gardening and farming world… until I came across JADAM Organic Farming, also known as Korean Natural Farming.

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I just finished reading that book, which you can find here on Amazon.

A sizeable part of the JADAM method relies on – you guessed it – barrels of anaerobic organic liquid fertilizer, based on ancient methods of farming.

It turns out I was sharing my lofty promontory with a band of Koreans who staked it out centuries ago.

It’s nice to have company!

In my most recent video, I demonstrate how I am turning wild cucumber vines into fertilizer for my garden:

If life gives you weeds, feed them to your plants!

God provides what we need – we often just miss it.

Have a wonderful Sunday everyone.

 

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Save Me, O My God

Psalm 3: A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. (ESV)

 

3 O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;

2 many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah

3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.

4 I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

5 I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.

6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.

7 Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.

8 Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people! Selah

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I don’t delve into academic gobbledegook!

Mad_Scientist_Bela_Lugosi

Push-the-Zone-cover-webThis is a very nice review of Push the Zone from Mars Is:

“So the other night I was on Facebook and I noticed that my favorite mad gardener, David the Good was looking for folks to give honest reviews of his new book “Push the Zone”. In exchange he was willing to provide a review copy, given that it had not yet gone on sale and by definition a review can’t be honest if the reviewer aint yet read the book. Now as a fan of David’s youtube channel, but someone who had not yet read any of his books, I figured I’d throw my hat in the ring, especially since it meant free book, and he wasn’t attaching any of them stringy things.

I was definitely glad I did. Though I knew his video style was irreverent, wacky, and entertaining as hell it wasn’t until I was reading his book that I realized he wrote the same way. Now many of you might think I’m a bit dumb for not realizing that all the products of a mind as twisted and tweaked as his is would share certain uniform characteristics, but I was actually a little worried that the book would be as dry as his videos aren’t. Fortunately my worries were most definitely in vain. His unique sense of humor most assuredly shines through in his prose.

The information contained in the book, which primarily pertains to ways in which one can grow tropical plants outside of tropical regions (Hence the title) is top notch, very easy for even a complete noob of a gardener like myself to understand, and provides both practical advice as well the underlying theory on which his advice is based, without delving so far into the theory as to be academic gobbledegook to someone whose thumb is far more often black than green.”

CLICK HERE and read the rest.

 

If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, you can do so here. It’s a gardening book unlike any other you’ll find. And the reviews on Amazon keep coming in.

I have enjoyed my new found hobby but also find myself missing some of my old tropical favorites. This book explains that you can actually grow some of my southern tropical favorites here even though they are indeed outside of my current zone. I am so excited to start experimenting more with some of these methods! I highly recommend this book. It is written with clever humor and David must know a thing or two if he realized bananas plants are not actually trees 😉

Yes indeed.

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