October Gardening To-Do List

Blue River Forest Experience in Overland Park, KS

Here is a list of things you should be doing in your yard in the month of October. Pay attention to the garden, house, shed, orchard, animals, and of course… the kiddos! This is your Kansas City October Gardening To-Do list.

In the garden

  • Harvest late season veggies that you planted in August, including: kale, lettuce, cucumbers, swiss chard, brassicas, etc.
  • Harvest and process the last of your late summer veggies (especially nightshades) like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, etc. Watch the weather carefully for early frosts, so you can cover plants with sheets or poly-tunnels to extend your growing season.
  • Harvest and dry herbs (rosemary, holy basil, oregano, etc.)
  • Plant garlic for next year.
  • Save seeds and store in a cool, dry place.
  • Store winter veggies like squash and pumpkins.
  • Plant cover crop mixes for the winter (clover, legumes, vetch, winter wheat, etc) OR cover your soil with 4-6″ of straw or woodchips. Never leave garden soil exposed to the elements, especially in the winter.
  • Apply winter probiotic spray (I use BioAg by SCD Probiotics) to all gardens, flower beds, and orchard soil. I use this both as a foliar and soil spray to help keep microflora healthy and the soil biome in pristine condition.
  • Test garden soil and make fall amendments. In Kansas City, we have a lot of clay and limestone, so we should ALL be adding compost to your soil every fall.
BioAg Probiotic Concentrate

In the Greenhouse

  • Plant another round of: kale, cabbage, Swiss chard, radishes, Diakon, mixed greens, snow peas, etc.
  • Spray soil with probiotic spray
  • Plant seeds that need winter stratification, like Paw Paw, so they get a jumpstart in the springtime.
  • Bring all outdoor pots inside the greenhouse to extend growing season.
  • Start cleaning tools. All metal should to cleaned with steel wool and then rubbed down with oil to protect them over the winter. Store in a dry place to prevent rusting.
October Gardening To-Do List | Plant Diakon Radishes

In the Food Forest

  • Harvest apples, paw paw, persimmons, blackberries, and any remaining fruit.
  • Spray all fruit trees with probiotic spray, neam 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 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.
  • Plant cover crops for the winter in any lanes or open spaces.
  • Plant new trees in the orchard and food forest once leaves have dropped. Fall is perfect for planting!

In the Shed

  • Empty and store flower pots
  • Clean and oil all tools
  • Empty gas from machines that are finished for the season
  • 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.
  • Add a small amount of corn to their diet to help with caloric intake before winter.
  • 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).
  • Make plans for water freezing over the winter (more next month). Add probiotics to your water to get birds healthy for 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.
  • 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 as part of your preventative maintenance regime.
October Gardening To-Do List
October Gardening To-Do List

Around the House

  • Clean out gutters on 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.
  • Prune dead branches and chop for burning
  • Power wash sidewalks, sides of house, etc
  • Drain and store hoses if the weather starts freezing
  • 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
  • Put up any winter window treatments (shrink film on thin windows)
  • Check batteries on carbon monoxide detectors (replace every three years) and check batteries on smoke detectors.
  • Chimney maintenance and fire place testing
cut back spent perennials

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 spring bulbs. Rule of thumb… buy 2-3x as much as you THINK you want, because you’ll always want more.
  • Remove and compost faded annuals. Don’t throw them away – definitely compost them!
  • Divide large perennials and multiply in your garden OR share with friends.
  • Store tender bulbs like cannas, elephant ears, and dahlias.
  • 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

  • Make a fort with sticks and branches and then cover in leaves
  • Have at least a few times where you rake piles of leaves and let the kids jump and play
  • Make fall bird feeders and put them around the yard
  • 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 green house 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”.
Suburban Lawn and Garden
Fall hay rides at Suburban Lawn and Garden in Martin City, MO

Feel free to add comments below as to what is on your October Gardening To-Do List

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March Gardening To-Do List

Here’s a list of what you should do in your garden in March, if you live in the Midwest (specifically in the Kansas City area). Granted, we get it, weather isn’t exactly a science… well it is… it’s just not an exact science. So, that being said, here’s the list of chores we are doing in the month of March in our Kansas City food forests and permaculture gardens.

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

crocus bulbs in bloom
Crocus in the spring garden

In the Garden

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

In the Greenhouse

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

In the Food Forest

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

In the Shed

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

In the Chicken Coop

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

Around the House

  • Clean out the gutters from any winter debris.
  • Remove winter window treatments and wash windows (inside and out).
  • Power-wash the sides of the house, cement, and garage doors.
  • Oil doors (interior and exterior).
  • Prune any trees around the yard before leaf buds begin to open.
  • Get hoses ready to bring outside.

In the Perennial Flower Beds

  • Finish cutting back any dead growth from last year.
  • Trim back winter ferns and greens (holly, lenten roses, etc.)
  • Remove leaves or debris from the top of bulb areas, leaving only compost or wood chips. The debris should be composted and added back to the beds later.
  • Start planning mulch and compost deliveries now. Look for sales or companies to bring it to you in bulk.
  • You can also plant cold season annual flowers at this time as well. Snap dragons, violas, pansies, and calendulas do great this time of year.
  • TIP: Never use mulch that has been colored or dyed (red or black). Let’s just use our heads on why that’s a bad idea.
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How to Create a Food Forest in the Midwest – Part 1

Why a Food Forest?

In a culture that encourages us to have more money, bigger toys, larger savings, new cloths, and an endless supply of technological gadgets, we should be stepping back and asking, “why?”  Do we really need one more gadget?  Do we need another nick-knack?  Do we need the latest cell phone or computer?  Do we actually need the new shirt or pair of shoes or could we just simply wear the ones we already have?  We have been trained by a consumer-based culture that more is better.

The reality is that most of these items we are collecting have a short shelf-life.  Even our savings accounts, retirement funds, and inheritances we will fade in a relatively short time.  Maybe they will last a few years, a few decades, or if we are are extremely wealthy they might last a generation or two.  In the context of a century… our stuff will be gone in a heartbeat.  But, what if we could pass on a legacy that would last 50-100 years or more?  What if our legacy could provide food, shelter, and play areas for your children or grandchildren?  What if our legacy provide pollination for wildlife, shelter for birds and animals, and purified the air?  What if we could leave a legacy that actually provided a source of LIFE?

In my humble opinion, one of the most practical ways to accomplish a legacy of this caliber is to plant a midwest food forest.  In permaculture, we use this phrase to describe a forest of edible and restorative plants working in harmony with one another.

Food Forest Design

What is a Food Forest?

Generally speaking, every forest is jam packed with edible fruit trees, nuts, berries, and fungi.  Over hundreds of years, natural succession helps establish these systems and create a healthy and balanced growing environment.  Using permaculture, we are essentially designing a system that works in tandem with nature to speed up the process.  Instead of productive abundance taking 100 years to be established, we can design it to take only a handful of years.  A food forest uses intelligent design to restore and remediate land that would otherwise take centuries to return to a normal state.  Instead of working against nature to maintain a mono crop, perfectly green lawn, or a patterned landscape of tropical annuals, we use perennial species that will last foe year.  This is especially useful in areas that have suburban forests, because in most cities our forested areas are only 50-70 years old (at best).  Historically speaking, many wooded areas were harvested between 1940-1975 for lumber and then either naturally regrew or were replanted.  Even the city land behind my house in Kansas City, MO is a fairly young forest and only has a handful of old growth oak trees that are older than 100 years.

Food forest summary

A note on removal of invasive species:

Most of the forests in the Midwestern city areas are in similar shape and are nearly all facing the invasive honeysuckle bush invasion.  Amur honeysuckle, or Lonicera maackii, was introduced to gardens in New York in the late 1800’s and by 1924 was already labeled as “weedy species”.  Since then, it has spread throughout the east coast and midwest and it’s shrub-like structure shades out low growing species in younger forests.  It’s red berries are generally ingested by bird species and the seed spread in their stool to other areas.  Removing this species is often the first step for Midwesterners starting a food forest.

Once the invasive species has been removed, the land is ready for replanting and reforestation.

Invasive Amur Honeysuckle

How to Plant the Food Forest – Part 1

1 – Land Preparation:  In our recent project, we had a great deal of invasive honeysuckle to remove, which was obviously very time consuming.  Digging it up is the most effective way, but you can also use a chain saw and cut it off at the ground. When you cut it, you will have to use chemicals to kill the root or it will simply grow back.  Obviously, I prefer NOT using herbicides, but there are some natural alternatives that contain orange oil, agricultural grade vinegar (15-30%), and epsom salts.

It’s imperative to properly rid the area of the invasive species, because skipping this step will allow the old species to return and choke out all of your design work. When removing undergrowth species, I prefer to do it in early spring so it’s warm enough to work and you don’t have to worry about ticks or fighting through the leaf growth.  If you are fortunate enough to have goats, they will take care of the leaves and branches, but you’ll still need to dig out the root or it will grow back quickly.

The second step in preparing the land is to examine your soil and structure.  This is your time to consider amendments.  You can bring in compost from a local company, collect fallen leaves from your fall clean-up, add bone or blood meal, or sulphur for acid loving areas.  Before adding anything to the soil itself, make sure you are testing and observing your site.  Get to know the land you are working with and begin with the end in mind.  Know the type of soil your plants will prefer, so you can create the right environment for them.

midwest food forest
Cleared plot for a newly planted food forest in Kansas City, MO

2 – Plan out your design:  For every project, I generally need about 10-15 hours of preparation and research before I even begin planting.  Winter months are a great time to do this, because we often are not outside as much.  Research species according to your soil type (acidity, organic matter, etc.) and carefully consider how much water will be retained in that area.  Factor in sun exposure both in it’s current state, but also imagine the area once the plants have reached their mature sizes.  How might this change your design?

Once I have the basic questions answered, I can then start looking at individual species and seeing what looks good together on paper.  I will go through 3-5 different designs and purposely make myself change out some of the species in order to think outside of the box.  Here are a few factors to consider:

  • What is my top story tree?  Will it produce nut or fruit? Will that impact my soil acidity over time?  How tall will my center piece trees get?  Will that impact my shade?
  • Do my understory trees or shrubs have compatible soil requirements?
  • How it my spacing? What will this look like in 3 years?  In 10 years?
  • Do I have at least 4 layers in my food forest?
  • Have I including at least one nitrogen fixing plant in my system (legume, locust tree, clover, etc.)?
  • Is there multi-seasonal interest for the eye?  For nature?
  • Have I considered season-long pollination?
  • Do the plants that I have selected require a male and female plant for fruiting?
  • Do my colors and leaf textures work well together?

Finalizing Your Midwest Food Forest Design

Once you have created a few different drawings of your layout, I would recommend sitting on it for a few days and then coming back to it later.  Run the ideas by a friend and get their feedback.  When I was initially planning my layout, I incorporated too many alkaline loving plants next to my blue berries, which do best with slightly acidic soils.  I was so focused on the fruit and berries that I liked, and the way they would look together, that I missed a pretty big piece of the puzzle.  The result would have been an environment where likely neither would have thrived, so I was relieved to have the insight from another permaculture eye.

Before planting, plant on spending at least 10 hours of researching and planning out your design.  As you plan, research various species, their growing zones, and read the reviews of others online.  Often plants will say they will work in certain zones, but after a few years of consumer reviews, they change the rating on the species.  For this reason, I tend to stay away from varieties that have not been tested in my region or ones that I am unable to find adequate reviews.

Personally, I like to order plants from places with one zone colder climate, so I know they can take the various types of weather we experience in the Midwest (KCMO).

The second part of this article will be available next week, including a few options in planting species for a wood-edge (sun/shade) area with clay soil structure.  In the upcoming article you’ll learn how to amend the soil, perform bio-remediation for areas that may have had pollutants, and how to space the plants appropriately.  The next article will include pictures of a newly planted food forest and close up pictures of the various species used in it’s design.

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Permaculture Test Site and Case Study | The Daniel Academy

permaculture test site

The Daniel Academy (TDA), a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade private school in South Kansas City, is an active permaculture test site and case study.  This site began using permaculture design methods to transition their existing commercial landscape around 2010, and has been on a fast-track course to pioneering the use of permaculture in midwest education.

Permaculture at The Daniel Academy

ji garden 2As a permaculture test site, TDA has been hosting yearly gardening courses for 7-12th grade students, and in 2016 hosted its first Permaculture Design Certification Course (PDC).  As a test site, there are several models of permaculture related designs taking place on one property.  Each of these has a direct connection to the students, classrooms, and families that the school serves.

The downloadable document below gives an example of a permaculture design project focused on the educational sphere.  This design was developed by Kris Edler in 2014 and presented to the school for adaptation and implementation.  It gives a historical summary of the 18.5 acre property, a current site analysis, and a few project ideas to launch them into 3, 5, and 20 year planning.  The project proposal includes everything from the use of late spring foliar spray methods to long-term building proposals and capital investments.

Download the FREE PDC Proposal Below

This permaculture test site and case study is a great way to find out what works in Kansas City with our extreme weather fluctuations, as well as provide inspiration for other local projects.  For those interested in implementing permaculture into education, it serves as an excellent case study to use for adaptation in your own systems.  Finally, the document below is one possible approach to how to do a permaculture design project for your own PDC.  If you know of other test sites for permaculture in Kansas City, or would like your own site to be featured our website, please email permaculturekc@gmail.com

 

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD The Daniel Academy Permaculture Design Proposal

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June Gardening To-Do List for Kansas City

backyard chickens in kansas city

June Gardening To-Do List for Kansas City

What should I be doing in my garden in the month of June if I live in Kansas City?  Have you ever wondered what other organic urban gardeners are doing right now in their yards or on their properties?  This little collection on tasks will help boost your brain to start on own June Gardening To-Do List.  Add a comment below with what additional tasks are on your radar for June.

Veggies

  • Kale, lettuce, cucumbers, summer/winter squash: Plant another round of them, if you have room in your gardens.  These are also great to plug into open spaced in your flower beds.
  • Tomatoes: Plant another round of them to diversify harvest throughout the season.  In Kansas City, where we have hard clay soil, you can actually increase your root systems for greater water intake by following these easy steps.  First, pinch off the bottom layers of leaves, only leaving 2 – 3 sets on the top of the seedling.  Second, plant the seedling all the way up to the top of the plant leaving only the remaining leaves above the ground.  Because tomatoes will grow roots from the hairs on the stem, the entire stem under the soil will produce roots.  This should only be done with seedlings up to 6-8″ tall.  Lastly, be sure to give it a good watering from your rain barrel when you finish.
  • Plant extra bean seedlings everywhere you can.  Yes, everywhere you can.  The bush beans are excellent off the plant (raw), can be cooked, and some can be dried.  The best part, in my humble opinion, is that the green beans are nitrogen fixers and help repair the soil.

Perennial Flowers

  • Transplanting:  It’s the chance to move perennials for a few months.  Once Kansas City summers get hot, it’s really a challenge to transplant your perennials without over stressing them too much.  Now is a GREAT time to transplant coneflowers, yarrow, black-eyed Susans, penstemons, etc.
  • Cut back mums:  Yeah, go to town. Cut them back quite a bit.  Leave only about 1/3 of the plant.  You do NOT want this to ever develop buds, so if you see them forming again – give it a hair cut.

Fruit Trees and Food Forests

  • apple orchard care in kansas cityGround Cherry seedlings can go into the ground.  Plant them around the base of trees to provide shade for the root systems, but allow enough light to get through to produce a harvest.  These will often self-seed, so plant in an area where you are ok with them spreading.  However, the taste of these berries is incredible, you will not regret planting them.
  • Herbs around fruit trees:  Woody and smelly herbs are great at two things:  keeping pests away (deer and bad bugs) and attracting native bees for pollination.  Wait, I lied… three things.  They are also a great ground cover under the young fruit trees.  Plant yarrow, bronze fennel, dill, oregano, thyme, chives, or garlic chives in clusters around the base of each fruit tree.  Let them spread and grow wild.
  • Harvest elderberry flowers:  If you are making elderflower tinctures, teas, or wine – now is your time to harvest!  Make the good stuff when flowers are at their peak.

Chickens, Quail, and Critters

  • June Gardening To-Do List for Kansas CityChickens:  Many folks who bought the spring chickens are now free ranging their birds. They are not laying yet, so do NOT give the calcium.  Stay on a great grower feed until the first eggs arrive.  My preference is a high protein feed with lots of seed varieties.  Around here, we have a company called Thayer feed, which makes organic / non-gmo feeds at a really great price.  There are some tips I can give you later on how to make that feed go WAY farther to get more bang for your buck.
  • Quail:  It’s starting to get hot, to be sure to keep their water filled at all times.  It helps (once a week) to add a tsp of apple cider vinegar to their waterer.  It will keep them healthy and active.  As you weed the garden, you can also give them an occasional worm for additional protein in their diet.  Their cooing and songs will be as nice of a reward as the healthy eggs they will produce.

 

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

Be sure to let us know your city / state so we know your growing region.  Check back soon for items to do next week… bookmark this page for referencing this month and keep checking back.  We’ll keep you updated on a weekly basis.

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