Farm Life - December 2022

The weather was fabulous most of November/December on the farm, in the 70s and low 80s, creating lots of last minute growth for the year. Our trees were loaded with mulberries, loquats and papayas.
This papaya cultivar is our favorite. This died to the ground last year and came back with four prolific stems. We collected a lot of ripe fruit from these trees and froze them, which gives us enough fruit for the next few months. We’ve gotten into the rhythm of this and embrace not having papayas year around – we have plenty of other fruit in the late spring/early summer while they’re growing back. They’re super easy to harvest at this height!
Then the polar vortex came to visit us. We had three nights of bitter (for Florida) cold resulting in hard freezes, meaning the temperature was well below 32F for hours each night
A honeybee grabs the last bit of nectar from our tithonia before the freeze
We’ve been dealing with freezes yearly in USDA zone 9A, and experimenting with different ways of handling them. We have another freeze headed toward us and will likely have more, so it’s a good time to share what we do.

Our young avocados are our biggest concern in freezes. Last year, they were in full flower in January and we wanted the fruit, so we protected them with blankets thrown over the top of them and a low sprinkler system running all night beneath them. The water froze where it landed, but there is heat generated by the freezing of water – it takes more energy to freeze water than air, and that’s also why you water your plants before a freeze. The 60F water coming from the well kept the temperature of the area around 32F even though we hit 25F for several hours, which the flowers and tree could take.
This photo was taken after 10 AM the next day which shows how cold it was.
This year, the trees were bigger and harder to cover, so we covered two of them, but left one uncovered with just the sprinkler. All three of them did well!

Lesson: the trees are big enough at this point to not need the blankets, but the water still helps prevent freeze burn of tender flowers/buds especially.
This was what our tree looked like after the coldest night. These icicles are so beautiful!
We had other plants to protect too. We did this in two ways:
1. We gathered Spanish moss, pine needs, leaves, grass, whatever organic material was available and placed a mound by each frost sensitive plant. On the day of freezing, we covered the plants with this insulation.
2. For some plants, we also threw a blanket on top of the insulation.

What we found:

The plants with both insulation and blankets got significantly less freeze burn than the ones with just a blanket or just insulation. No surprise but it’s always good to test your hypothesis.

The organic insulation we gathered doubles as “chop and drop” fertilizer in the spring. We are always thinking about how to do less work by stacking functions. We accomplished several things by gathering the organic material:

1. Neatened up areas of the farm
2. Moved fertility from pathways where we don’t want a bunch of stuff to grow, to places where we want things to grow abundantly
3. Protected plants from frost
4. Prepared to feed the plants in the spring
5. The chop and drop will also suppress weeds around the plant when they start popping up in the spring

Before the freeze we harvested everything we could, and it was a lot! We have loads of delicious papaya in our freezer, both green and ripe along with mulberries, loquats and some beauty-berry syrup we haven’t made into jelly yet.
Our young Christmas loquat had its first bumper crop this year of delicious fruit with just the right mix of sweet and tart. We love Christmas loquat! Looking forward to tasting our Champagne variety too, in the spring.
We still have cassava and yams we haven’t harvested yet and while our perennial greens mostly died back, we have some delicious annual lettuce, mustard, and brassicas (kale, collard, etc) growing in our kitchen garden.
Purple yam or “ube” harvest. We call this one “Bigfoot.” We ate it, it was delicious.

What's next!

It’s our planting season! We’re still planting winter crops like broccoli but also starting spring/summer flowers and veggies.

We took a bunch of cuttings from flowers and perennial greens to get a jump start on things in the spring that we’re keeping in the greenhouse. We dug up some seminole pumpkin plants and saved them before the freeze, an experiment to see if we can get it going early in the season. We’ve been working on making the operation more efficient, so this didn’t take much time, nor does it take much time to water/care for them.

We’ll share what we’re growing in our winter garden in our next newsletter!
We keep a couple of surinam cherries in pots and move them into the greenhouse during freezes. There’s fruit showing up on this one so it did get pollinated before the freeze.

Permaculture Design Courses

Online Advanced Permaculture Design Course

“The information is so clear and relevant, yet in depth - it’s a great course. I feel like I can use the information right away. It has both practical information and plenty of creative inspiration as well.”

“I absolutely loved this section of the course. It was inspiring, informative, and covered things I never even dreamed of.”

“I appreciate the live sessions where I can get any of my questions answered and am looking forward to the sessions with other experts.”

Course starts on July 16, 2023 with a welcome session at Noon.
Course runs for one year, students move at their own pace and can finish earlier if they desire

We have gotten many requests to offer an online version from people whose schedules don’t match up with our in-person courses or who prefer to study online. This course can be studied at your own pace, with a focus on your own site design. Creating the opportunity for a participatory and hands-on experience is important to us, so we include practical exercises that you perform on your own site. In addition we will have live Q and A sessions (over Zoom) and personal mentoring with instructors and you will be able to share your experience with instructors and other students via photos, essays or videos.

We have added some exciting learning modules to the online version and other extras, including units with experts covering various topics. The course will address strategies for dry-lands, temperate, tropical and other climates based on the significant knowledge and experience of our instructors working in those climates and will also have bonus sections focused specifically on Florida/subtropical climate because of how unique the ecosystem is in Florida. Many of these techniques are very useful in multiple climates and we explain how and why.

Students will have an opportunity to self-test their knowledge, to join discussion groups with other students, to participate in question and answer sessions on Zoom (online video conference software) with instructors, and to get feedback from a personal mentor. In addition there are in-person modules for those who want that, and special sessions we normally can’t offer in person because of time and site constraints. We feel this exceeds the learning experience from an in-person course alone.

Teachers include Koreen Brennan, Steve Szmidt, Eric Toensmeier (Edible Forest Gardens, Perennial Vegetables, Carbon Farming), Laura Oldanie, Jenny Nazak (Deep Green) and others TBA.
Online Details

In-Person Permaculture Design Course

Course starts on September 9, 2023

(Early Bird Pricing increases monthly.)

In this course you will learn:
• How to apply permaculture techniques to design your life for more abundance and resilience.
• How to grow your own food abundantly and sustainably.
• How to increase your own quality of life while helping to heal the planet.
• How to create and deepen beneficial connections with nature and with other people.
• How to create or enhance your career using permaculture.

By cooperating with nature and her energies, we are able to design our lives, from backyard gardens and food forests to neighborhoods, farms or even cities to be more abundant, more sustainable, healthier, and more enjoyable. It is a cutting edge approach to living that helps both people and the environment. This course is life changing for many people.

This makes over 30 in-person courses we’ve taught. We’re the oldest continuous permaculture design school in Florida.

We so enjoy giving these classes and getting to know the students, creating community all the while, and watching the individual projects unfold. It’s been really exciting to see so many student projects become amazing realities that in turn inspire others!

This course unfolds over six months in St Petersburg and at Our Permaculture Farm in Brooksville. Certificate endorsed by Permaculture Institute of North America and recognized worldwide.
In-Person Details
Subscribe to our newsletter

Other events

Florida Right to Clean Water

Women’s Convergence
We’re planning this for some time in April – stay tuned!

Spring classes
We’ll have gardening, earth skills and other classes on our farm this spring, so stay tuned.
Copyright © 2006-2024 Grow Permaculture, LLC
envelopemenu-circlecross-circle linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram