October Permaculture

Written by Don Richardson

As the first day of October unfolds, there's a noticeable shift in the air, signaling the transition from the sweltering summer to the more temperate fall season in Florida's Planting Zone 9. This change in weather beckons gardeners to adapt their practices to continue fostering a thriving garden ecosystem. Through a blend of observation, soil care, water conservation, and community engagement among other practices, here is some information to use as a guide on how to harmoniously align our gardening endeavors with the natural ebb and flow of Zone 9’s unique environment.
Observation and Interaction: It's really about paying attention. In Zone 9, as the hot summer eases into a milder fall, observing the changes in sunlight and temperature is key. It helps to note which areas get the most sunlight, as that's where you'd want to plant your crops, trees and other plants that need a lot of sun.
Soil Care: Moving on to soil care, here in Florida, in a lot of people’s yards, the soil tends to be sandy, and it benefits from a good layer of mulch to retain moisture. Composting is another way to enrich the soil. It’s also smart to get a soil test to understand what nutrients might be lacking. Even if your yard is not very sandy, it can still benefit from mulch and composting in order to have all the benefits of a thriving system.
Water Conservation: Water is essential, and conserving it is crucial. Collecting rainwater in barrels is a simple way to have a supply for drier days. Also, drip irrigation or soaker hoses are efficient ways to ensure water reaches the plant roots with minimal waste.
Planting and Propagation: October is a favorable time for sowing cool-season crops like broccoli, spinach, and root vegetables like garlic and onions. But it’s also a prime time for propagation. You can take cuttings from healthy perennial herbs and plants. Things like rosemary, lavender, and other native perennials respond well to propagation this time of year. It’s a cost-effective way to expand your garden and share plants with others in the community. And don’t forget cover crops like clover; they protect and enrich the soil, providing a great base for next season’s planting. Planting and propagation is an important step in establishing a resilient garden, offering a bounty of produce and a healthy, self-sustaining ecosystem as we move into the cooler months of the year.
Integrated Pest Management: Pests can be a challenge, but nature has its own control mechanisms. Planting a variety of crops and adding plants that attract beneficial insects can help keep pest populations in check. For example, marigolds, dill, and fennel can invite helpful insects like ladybugs.

Recycling and Upcycling:
In permaculture, we see the potential in what others might consider waste. Old wood, for instance, can find a new life as raised beds, trellises, or even garden benches. Those fallen leaves, pruned branches, and kitchen scraps? They're future compost that will nourish the garden. Upcycling materials like using old containers for planters or repurposing pallets into compost bins are smart ways to reduce waste and save money. Another good idea is to create a composting area or a worm bin to recycle kitchen waste into valuable compost and vermicompost. It’s about being resourceful and creative. These practices not only reduce our environmental footprint but also contribute to creating a sustainable, thriving garden ecosystem. Each item recycled or upcycled is a step towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly gardening practice.

Community Engagement: “Getting involved in the local gardening community can be rewarding. Local garden clubs, permaculture groups, or community gardens are great places to exchange ideas, seeds, and learn from others.
Holistic Management: Holistic management is about viewing the garden as a whole system, where each element, be it plants, soil, water or wildlife, interacts with each other. It’s about making informed decisions that take into account the long-term impacts on the garden ecosystem. Reflecting on the past seasons, understanding what worked and what didn’t, and planning for the upcoming seasons is a big part of this. For instance, as we approach winter, considering the needs of your garden like frost protection, soil nourishment, and water management is crucial. It also includes having a planting plan that ensures a continuous harvest and promotes soil health. It is important to have a well-thought-out plan that aligns with the natural cycles. As we look forward to the spring, preparing the soil, selecting the right crops, and ensuring the garden has a balanced ecosystem will set a solid foundation for a prosperous growing season ahead. Through holistic management, we can create a resilient garden that is well-prepared for the changing seasons, while promoting a sustainable and harmonious relationship with nature.
In conclusion, embracing the gentle transition into October in Florida's Planting Zone 9 unfolds a canvas of opportunities to delve deeper into permaculture practices. The shift in weather is not merely a change in temperature but a call to align our gardening endeavors with the rhythm of nature.
As we thread the path of permaculture, each step taken, from observing the subtle changes in sunlight to repurposing materials for garden use, contributes to nurturing a sustainable, self-sustaining garden ecosystem. The ripple effect of these practices extends beyond the garden borders, fostering a community of mindful gardeners, enriching the local ecosystem, and inching closer to a sustainable, harmonious relationship with nature.
So, as the first day of October beckons, let's applying these permaculture practices to create a garden that thrives and resonates with the natural cadence of Florida’s Zone 9. Through a blend of knowledge, observation, and respect for nature’s intricacies, we’re not merely gardening; we’re cultivating a bond with the earth, reaping bounties that extend far beyond the harvest.

The Firebush: A Beautiful and Versatile Plant for Your Landscape

Written by Don Richardson

Firebush (Hamelia patens)

Any reference to medicinal or culinary use of plants or plant parts should in no way be considered an endorsement by The Ocala Food Forest or its staff. Research is crucial in safe and proper consumption or experimentational use of any plant.

Hamelia Patens, also known as firebush, is a stunning plant that adds color and beauty to any landscape. This evergreen shrub belongs to the family of Rubiaceae and is native to the tropical regions of Central and South America. However, it is also commonly grown in the southern parts of the United States, particularly in Florida, where it is used as an ornamental plant. Hamelia Patens is popular for its brilliant red-orange flowers that bloom all year round and attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators.
Florida Native Plant
  • Family: Rubiaceae
  • Plant type: Evergreen shrub
  • Growth habit and mature size: Multi-stemmed shrub that can reach a height of 8 to 15 feet and a width of 4 to 8 feet.
  • Sun exposure requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil type: This plant prefers well-draining soils that are rich in organic matter. It can tolerate a wide range of soil types, including sandy, loamy, and clay soils.
  • pH range: pH 6.0 to 7.5
  • Moisture needs: Moist but well drained soil.
  • Seasons of bloom: Spring to fall
  • Native plant in: Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean
  • Native range in the USA: Florida, Texas, and other southern states.
  • Hardiness zone: 8b to 11
  • Temperature tolerance: Can tolerate temperatures down to 15°F
  • Self-pollinating: Yes
  • Edible plant: No
  • Medicinal plant: Yes
Landscape uses: Hamelia Patens is a versatile plant that can be used in a variety of ways. It is an excellent choice for adding color to borders, hedges, and mass plantings. It can also be used as a specimen plant or in mixed borders with other shrubs and perennials.

Growing tips: To keep your Hamelia Patens healthy and thriving, ensure that it is planted in well-draining soil, and receives adequate water and sunlight. Pruning is not necessary, but it can help maintain the shape of the plant.

What the plant attracts: Hamelia patens attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators.

Pest & diseases: The plant is relatively pest and disease-free. However, it may be susceptible to spider mites and mealybugs, especially in hot and dry weather conditions.

Cautions: Hamelia Patens may attract some pests, including spider mites and whiteflies. Regular monitoring and treatment may be required to keep these pests under control.

Other Important information: Hamelia Patens is deciduous in areas where temperatures drop below freezing. However, it will grow back from its roots if it dies back in cold winter temperatures.
In conclusion, Hamelia Patens is a stunning plant that is easy to grow and maintain. It is a great choice for gardeners who want to add color and vibrancy to their landscape. With its bright red-orange flowers and ability to attract pollinators, this plant is a must-have for any garden. So why not give it a try and add a touch of tropical beauty to your landscape today?

Pineapple Sage: A Fragrant and Flavorful Addition to Your Garden

Written by Don Richardson


Any reference to medicinal or culinary use of plants or plant parts should in no way be considered an endorsement by The Ocala Food Forest or its staff. Research is crucial in safe and proper consumption or experimentational use of any plant.

Salvia Elegans, commonly known as pineapple sage, is a beautiful and fragrant plant that can add a pop of color and texture to any garden. This herbaceous perennial plant belongs to the mint family, Lamiaceae, and is native to Mexico and Guatemala. The plant is named after its distinctive pineapple scent and flavor, which makes it a popular addition to many culinary dishes.
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Native Plant In: Mexico and Guatemala
  • Native Range In the USA: Salvia Elegans is native to Southern Mexico and Central America but is commonly grown throughout the United States. The Florida native Salvia is the Tropical Sage or Scarlet Sage (Salvia Coccinea)
  • Food Forest Plant
  • Hardiness Zone: 8 to 11, it can tolerate minimum temperatures of around 10 to 20°F.
  • Seasons of Bloom: Blooms in late summer to early fall, usually from September to October, But in some areas it can bloom all year long.
  • Soil Type and pH Range: The plant prefers well-draining, fertile soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, but it can also tolerate partial shade.
  • Growth Habit: The plant has an upright growth habit and can reach a mature size of 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide.
  • Moisture Needs: Prefers moderate moisture levels and can withstand short periods of drought.
  • Pollination: Is not self-pollinating and requires pollinators, such as bees and hummingbirds, for reproduction.
  • Edible Plant: Pineapple sage is an edible plant, and its leaves can be used to flavor teas, salads, and desserts.
  • Medicinal Plant: Salvia Elegans is not considered a medicinal plant, but it has been used traditionally to treat colds, coughs, and fever.
Landscape Uses: Is an excellent choice for adding color and fragrance to gardens, borders, and containers. It can also attract pollinators and beneficial insects to the garden.
Growing Tips: Pineapple sage is a low-maintenance plant and requires little care once established. However, it benefits from regular pruning to maintain its shape and encourage bushier growth. The plant also benefits from occasional fertilization to promote healthy growth.
Cautions: Salvia Elegans is generally considered a safe plant, but its leaves and flowers can cause skin irritation in some people. Additionally, the plant is not recommended for consumption by pregnant or breastfeeding women.
What the plant attracts: Salvia Elegans is a pollinator magnet, attracting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to your garden.
Pest & Diseases: Salvia Elegans is relatively pest and disease-free. However, it can be susceptible to powdery mildew in humid conditions.
Cautions: Salvia Elegans may be toxic to cats and dogs if ingested, so it's best to keep the plant out of reach of pets.

In conclusion, Salvia Elegans, or pineapple sage, is a beautiful and fragrant plant that can add a tropical touch to any garden. Its attractive foliage and bright red flowers make it an excellent choice for gardens, borders, and containers. However, gardeners should be aware of its growing requirements and potential hazards before adding it to their landscape.

Growing and Caring for society Garlic

Written by Don Richardson


Any reference to medicinal or culinary use of plants or plant parts should in no way be considered an endorsement by The Ocala Food Forest or its staff. Research is crucial in safe and proper consumption or experimentational use of any plant.

Tulbaghia Violacea, also known as society garlic or wild garlic, is a beautiful flowering plant that belongs to the Amaryllidaceae family. This plant is native to southern Africa and has become popular in gardens worldwide due to its striking purple-pink flowers, attractive foliage, and ease of care.
Here's what you need to know about growing and caring for Tulbaghia Violacea:
  • Family: Amaryllidaceae
  • Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Food Forest Plant
  • Growth habit and mature size: Clumping habit, reaches 1 to 2 feet in height and width.
  • Sun exposure requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Soil type and pH range: Well-draining soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5
  • Moisture needs: Moderate, avoid overwatering.
  • Seasons of bloom: Blooms in summer to fall.
  • Native plant to: Southern Africa
  • Native range in the USA: Not native to the USA, but widely cultivated in many states.
  • Hardiness zone: 7a to 10b
  • Temperature tolerance: Tolerates heat and drought, but may die back in winter temperatures below 10°F
  • Does it self-pollinate? Yes
  • Is it an edible plant? Yes, the leaves and flowers have a mild garlic flavor and can be used in cooking.
  • Is it a medicinal plant? Yes, Tulbaghia Violacea has been used in traditional medicine for various ailments including coughs, colds, and stomach problems.
Landscape uses: Tulbaghia Violacea is a great addition to any garden due to its beautiful flowers and foliage. It can be planted in garden borders, rock gardens, and containers. It also attracts pollinators such as bees, butterflies and moths.
Growing tips: Tulbaghia Violacea prefers well-draining soil and moderate watering. It can be propagated through division, seeds, or cuttings. It's important to avoid overwatering and to protect the plant from winter temperatures below 20°F. May die back in cold winter temperatures. However, it will usually regrow from the roots in the spring.
Pest & diseases: Tulbaghia Violacea is relatively pest and disease-free. However, it may be susceptible to fungal diseases in humid conditions.
Cautions: While Tulbaghia Violacea is generally considered safe for consumption, some people may experience allergic reactions. It's always important to test a small amount of any new food before consuming it in larger quantities.

In conclusion, Tulbaghia Violacea is a beautiful and easy-to-care-for plant that will add color and fragrance to any garden. With proper care and attention, it will thrive and reward gardeners with its stunning blooms and versatile uses.

Anise Hyssop: Everything You Need to Know

Written by Don Richardson
Anise Hyssop (Agastache Foeniculum)
Plant Type
Herbaceous Perennial
24-36″ tall, 18″-36″ wide
Sun Exposure
Full sun to partial shade
Soil Type
Sandy Loam to Clay Loam – Must drain well
Soil pH
6.0 to 7.5
Bloom Time
Late Spring to Late Summer
Hardiness Zones
4-8 (USDA)
Cold Hardiness 
-20° F
Upper USA
Self pollinates
Edible Plant
Yes - Flavoring
Medicinal Plant
Any reference to medicinal or culinary use of plants or plant parts should in no way be considered an endorsement by The Ocala Food Forest or its staff. Research is crucial in safe and proper consumption or experimentational use of any plant.

   The Agastache Foeniculum plant is a member of the Lamiaceae family and is also known as anise hyssop. This hardy perennial herb has been used in gardens and landscapes for many years due to its attractive blue-green foliage and showy purple flowers. Let's take a closer look at this beautiful plant, including its characteristics, uses, and care instructions. 

Characteristics of the Agastache Foeniculum Plant
This plant grows in a clump form and can reach heights of up to two feet tall. Its leaves are lanceolate in shape with jagged edges and are typically blue-green in color. The flowers of the Agastache Foeniculum plant are tubular-shaped and come in shades of lavender or pink. The blooms appear from mid-summer through early fall, attracting pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. As the blossoms fade away, they leave behind small seed heads that resemble pinecones for added visual interest during winter months.
Uses of the Agastache Foeniculum Plant
The Agastache Foeniculum plant is not only aesthetically pleasing but it is also highly functional. It can be used as an edible herb; its leaves have a sweet licorice flavor that makes them great for adding to salads or teas, while its flowers can be used as a garnish or decoration on cakes or other desserts. Additionally, it can be planted near vegetables or fruit trees as a natural pesticide due to its strong scent which repels certain pests like aphids. In addition to being pest deterrents, these plants also attract friendly insects such as ladybugs who feed on destructive garden pests like aphids and spider mites. Finally, this herb is known for its medicinal properties; it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to treat conditions such as headaches, nausea, and digestive issues.  
Caring for the Agastache Foeniculum Plant
The Agastache Foeniculum plant is easy to care for once established but does require some attention when first planted. It prefers full sun or partial shade with well-draining soil; if your soil tends towards clay or sandiness consider amending it with compost before planting your new herbaceous friend! Water regularly during dry spells; however be careful not to overwater as too much water can cause root rot which will kill your plants quickly! Finally provide regular fertilization throughout the growing season using organic fertilizer specifically formulated for herbs like these; this will help keep your plants healthy and happy all season long!                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
The Agastache Foeniculum plant offers plenty of beauty along with practical benefits that make it ideal for any garden setting! With its attractive foliage, vibrant purple flowers, ability to repel pests naturally without harsh chemicals, plus its delicious licorice flavor—it’s no wonder why this perennial herb has been popular among gardeners since ancient times! By following proper care instructions such as providing adequate sunlight exposure, well-draining soil, regular watering during dry spells, plus occasional fertilization—you’ll be able to enjoy this stunning addition to your landscape year after year!

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