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Central Florida Introduction... looking for direction

 
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Alrighty... fair warning, I'm known to be long-winded...

Central Floridian checking in... first time poster, short time permie enthusiast.  Short-time as in, couldn't sleep a couple nights ago and rabbit holed permaculture stuff until my eyes hurt and my mind spun (in a good way).  I'm a dreamer... and have been dreaming of being self-sustained forever.  Been stuck in the rat race chasing money, but over the last few years I decided it sucks and I want out.  Been in my head about it for far too long and all the covid crap has motivated me beyond, "maybe some day"...

I have about 10 minutes of gardening experience ~8 years ago in which everything died except a pepper plant that produced like 6 peppers which were tiny, but delicious...   Kinda started messing with avocados about a year ago...  transplanted two willy nilly and both promptly died.  Apparently throwing a sapling in a hole with no regard isn't the best move...  Currently got a pineapple started in a pot on the back porch, an avocado tree in another pot, and two mangos just breaking through.  The pineapple will fruit, but the others are more experiments in "does it live?"...  Just bought some seeds online that looked easy so I can start a wall garden and grow something to eat (again, all experimenting).

My wife and I are looking to buy our 'forever home' next summer...  Our visions of perfection are quite different.  Me - cabin in the woods, tons of land, never see another person again forever.  Her - McMansion in the suburbs, pool and a little yard for the kids (5 & 2), around the corner from the grocery store.  We have decided to compromise as little as possible.  We'll do a half-McMansion in the outskirts of the suburbs, have a bit of land to play with (more on that later)... and the pool (not gonna lie, I miss our old place only because of the pool).

Off the top of my head, this is our ideal compromise:  2000-3000sq ft, largeish yard for the kiddos and toys, pool, no HOA nannies, mostly (if not completely) self-sustaining... well/septic, solar, and garden... or now, food forest.  

I'd love to spend a few years building a permaculture on the property that will feed our family.  Like, we'll still hit up the grocery store for some things (beer and ice cream heh), but it would always be optional.  I'd love to be able to give some things away to friends, family, and people in need too.  I love big, stressful, cumbersome projects that almost kill me and pay off over the long term...  I spent about 3 months renovating our home by myself (literally) - everything outside the drywall was redone... tile floors removed/replaced, full kitchen, full bathrooms, all new light fixtures, painted in/out, landscaping, etc.

We know the area we want/need to be in, the type of property we want, and the budget... the big question I have now is...  how much land do we actually need?  How much dedicated space is needed, given my climate, for me to grow/raise our own food?  We are not picky eaters and the lower maintenance the better... year round production with enough excess to give some away.  Of course I know the specific property will determine what/how much, but unfortunately Zillow doesn't have a, "can I grow a kickass garden here?" search option so just ballpark.

Other questions are a matter of resources...  particular threads or other resources to get me started on understanding the basics and help start my journey.  Ideally I'll be moving into our new property this time next year and will be ready to build out our permaculture.


Thanks in advance!



 
gardener
Posts: 410
Location: Monticello Florida zone 8a
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Welcome to Permies! Here is a mega list of info resources https://permies.com/wiki/105809/MEGA-List-Resources-Learning-Permaculture

Have fun!
 
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Location: C. Florida
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C FL here - we moved here >13 years ago, and have been planting ever since.  Despite our having naturally black thumbs, we've now got a banana forest, lots of papaya and pineapples, guavas, acerola cherries, limes, and more... Few veggies this year, as it was too soggy.  but we want to do more and better.  We're in a suburban HOA, of all things, but bc we're next to a forest, we've got privacy!   Good luch with your plans - NOW is the time to start planting food for the coming months. Clearly there's an overarching agenda to starve people out of their homes... FL is great for have food growing year-round, though!
 
author & steward
Posts: 2051
Location: Southeastern U.S. - Zone 7b
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Jack, welcome to Permies! Having lived in central Florida for about six months once upon a time, I know what a pretty area it is, and how nice it is to have such a long growing season.

It sounds like you have done some good thinking through of preliminary qualifiers for the potential property you want. One thing I can tell is that we all start at the same place---the beginning. And we all have to do a lot of research and experimenting to figure out what works on our particular property and what doesn't.

Jack Stuart wrote:the big question I have now is...  how much land do we actually need?  How much dedicated space is needed, given my climate, for me to grow/raise our own food?  We are not picky eaters and the lower maintenance the better... year round production with enough excess to give some away. Of course I know the specific property will determine what/how much, but unfortunately Zillow doesn't have a, "can I grow a kickass garden here?" search option so just ballpark.


Folks grow an amazing amount of food on some seemingly small properties. An entire suburban yard can be turned into a productive garden paradise. Especially with permaculture, where you're planting a variety of plants in one bed. How kickass the garden is will depend more on how well you build the soil than on how large it is. Understanding how to make compost and feed the soil is when gardening success happens. That's why it helps to start small and expand gradually. That will give you the best idea of exactly how much work is involved and how it fits into you work schedules and lifestyle.

Beyond garden veggies, the possibilities extend to fruit trees and bushes, which can be incorporated into a small (or large) food forest. Nut trees can make great shade for the kids' play area. Grains? Chickens? Ducks? Goats? Poultry can be incorporated into a small area, grain growing and anything that requires pasture, obviously more. When you find potential properties, look at county plat maps for aerial photos and have some fun mapping them out with the things you have in mind.

Permies is definitely the place you want to be as you explore options, have questions, and make your start. You have a huge community here to help and encourage.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3254
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7 AHS:4 GDD:3000 Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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I would get at least 1 acres up to 2.5 acres.

House = 1/4 acres
Fish Pond = 1/4 acres
Vegetable = 1/4 acres
Bee Hive/Chicken/Milk Goat = 1/4 acres
Orchard/Food Forest = 1acres
Total = 2 acres

https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1312-E-1st-St-Apopka-FL-32703/46098405_zpid/
Which metro region in particular are you interested in
 
Jack Stuart
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thanks for the replies guys, much appreciated...

Luckily I have a good amount of time to research as the property hunt won't even begin until next spring.  Great resources linked and just poking around here at some of the other Floridian's posts is very helpful.

As far as the area is concerned, we are looking at the east side, preferably NE - Oveido, Chuluota, maybe as far as the SW Geneva area.  We want to try to keep to Seminole schools as they're higher rated (though I suspect we'll end up going private)...  however, what's available and our level of patience will be a major factor so Bithlo, Christmas, even down into Wedgefield can be on the table.  If it weren't for the school situation, Bithlo/Christmas would be a no-brainer.  Also, we have friends who live on Lake Pickett and love that area... lakefront or even lake access is high on the desirability list and we're willing to pay for it.

Thanks for the breakdown of lot size.  Before even considering permaculture (or knowing what it was), I was set on 1 acre minimum.  Just to have some space to stretch our legs.  Also trying to have it all by backing up to a huntable preserve...  ~1 acre backed up to a nature preserve or 2+ acres somewhere else seems like the ticket, and right in line with what I was looking for already.

Something like this pops up today in my searches and has me frustrated that we aren't ready to pull the trigger:  https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/2670-Mills-Creek-Rd-Chuluota-FL-32766/47732553_zpid/

Of course, I'd prefer something more wooded, but hey a blank canvas is good too.



 
Posts: 4
Location: Orlando, FL, Zone 9b, 28N Latitude
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Afternoon Jack,
I'm down by Universal/Disney and am giving it a go in the backyard for the first time.  If you ever want to knock some ideas around, def message me.  

We started off just trying to keep a tomato and bell pepper alive for my son's college course, then worked on cocktail garnish (mint), ginger for syrups, threw the pineapple tops in the ground after making tiki drinks...  Now it's bag growing seeds saved from my son's first tomato, mustard, eggplants, and got sheet-mulched tomatillos, poblano, and jalapenos in the ground.  Lowe's banana and guava trees, Publix papayas, Etsy chaya and wild flowers, Beautiful Bamboo's stuff are out there too.  Can't bare to schwak the huge lemongrass for the teas we intended to make (a great buy at Lukas Nursery).  Now I'm 'inheriting' sick plants from neighbors- God knows how that avocado and mango snapped back.  At some point, permaculture came into the mix (in come the clover, sun hemp, and perenial peanut).  
Discovered gardener's/tennis elbow along the way digging it all in  Gotta figure out how to balance that out too.

It's been a wild ride and a lot of fun, relaxation, solace, and source of conversation with the neighbors.  Best of luck to you.  
Scott
 
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Hi Jack!

I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone.  I, too, was looking for exactly the type of property that you are.  Fortunately, I found it!  😊  

Although I was looking for the same setup as you, our situations are starkly different, I am sure.  I have been living and working in Morocco, Saudi, and Pakistan for close to a decade now.  I was actually on vacation in Romania when Covid started dancing on the world stage.  Pakistan, where I work, and where I am currently, immediately closed the borders, and Romania followed the following day.  I was lucky enough to get a flight back to the States the same day… which has NEVER happened to me before.  I am from Florida, and I actually have a house, in Green Cove Springs, that my son lives in.  (He is 35.)  I did not relish the thought of living with him for any length, so I set out to find my “forever home.”  I have a daughter in Ocala, and I wanted to be somewhere in between both.  My search was TOUGH!!!  Covid was just kicking into high gear and house hunting was definitely NOT the way I remembered it.  😊  After quite the search, I found a GREAT 5.3 acre property in Micanopy.  I was lucky enough to have found one with a house already in place.  

I spent the next 2.5 months rehabbing the things that needed fix’n.  I bought a beater work truck and headed to Home Depot... A LOT!  LOL!  The property already had a 500-gallon propane tank, a Rennai tankless water heater, and a GREAT well.  It is a unique property, in that it is sloped and actually has a workshop under the house.  Totally cool.  However, it didn’t have a pool, which, with two grandkids (4 and 6), I had to remedy.  I went to the pool people and entered a contract to install one.  The funny thing about it is that the pool folks are 10 to 11 months out on installs.  Covid is NOT hurting them at all!  😊  The time frame was great for me, because I am coming home in May, 2021, and they will start about June.  This point is actually why I am writing.  

As soon as I get home, I am going to start to transform the property into a permaculture homestead… or try.  You know the old saying, “Misery LOVES company.”  I figure since I know NOTHING about chickens, goats, farming, canning, or anything to do with that lifestyle, I will be LOST… lost, lost, lost.  LOL!  I read copious amounts of information on all the above, but life doesn’t always pan out like the books.  So, I decided I would chime in here and say, “Hello.”  Since you are also in Central Florida, I figured, “Why not?!?!”

I have been reading this sight for some time now and am very optimistic that the fine people on here will help us both navigate the SUPER EXCITING road ahead.  So, while I still have 7 months, 3 days, 13 hours, and 43, 42, 41, 40… seconds left here, I am planning and learning as much as I can.  (Sunny Karachi is STILL in the mid 90’s!)  If there is anything that I can do for you, just reach out!  

The rest of you WONDERFUL folks here… please take pity on me and be kind when I come crawling in here bruised and banged up from my inexperience.  😊

Anyway, like you, I am longwinded as well… I bet you didn’t notice! 😉

Cheers!

Clay

P.S.  Forgot to mention, in the works for solar now.
 
Jack Stuart
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Good stuff guys...  Might be a good thread to share resources, unless there's another more fitting for the area.  I'm sure you're all researching as I am, but if you haven't already - David the Good, Green Dreams FL (Pete Kanaris), and FLgardening.com have been my go to's for my starter info...
 
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Good news is there are a bunch of us in Central Florida that like to grow everything.  In the area you're looking you have The Reid Farm in Deland, Flying Fox Fruits in Sanford, and tons of other nurseries specializing in edibles.  My advice is just start putting stuff in the ground, if it thrives leave it if not move it somewhere else. I'm lucky to have picked up 5 acres a while back and I have space to do a lot of experimentation but nothing happens until you start planting.  Start putting things in pots now before you move. Everything you buy from the store, plant the seeds. Get cuttings from everything...so many things grow from cuttings.  Hit the latin markets and buy things you've never considered eating and figure out how to propogate it.  Push the envelope and try growing things that shouldn't grow here.  We are on the edge of being tropical and can grow some amazing things very quickly. Once you start producing your own food it becomes addicting. Next thing you know you're buying chickens, ducks and goats...
 
pollinator
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I am in Summerfield Florida.

Tree Spinach is one of those you just grow because it takes zero effort here and produces.

Beans are a good bet they survive the nematodes.

Get some everglade tomatoes they are tough and give you grape size tomatoes.
 
Jack Stuart
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Here we go... 11 months later...  We bought a house.  Still a long way off, but we closed a month ago and have been doing renovations ever since.  Move-in is end of September.  

Ended up with an acre and I've had a little time this week to sketch out the first tentative plan for the food forest.  I tried to make everything to scale-ish.  See attached.

A little key for those interested:

Green - new fence. box on south side is a dog run  Fence then connects to neighbors existing fences on the SW side and N side of the property (N side to be completed after garage).
Blue - new construction, adding on to the patio with new screen room attached to pool enclosure and roofed, but open grilling area in the dog run all going in this fall (currently drawing up the plans).  Box on the N side is big workshop/garage that I'm looking to do early next year.
Light Brown is mulch.
Red - existing trees that I'm keeping (others are around the property that will be removed (not doing well and/or majorly in the way).  Two biggest dots are pines and the smaller dots are palms.  Might have to ditch some of the palms cause they're really close to the house, but I'm gonna hack 'em back and we'll see.
Orange - canopy through shrub level stuff, all labeled (fixers are mexican sunflower and fakahatchee grass - probably technically herbaceous, but whatever).  Stuff in front is just thrown in, no clue what I'm going to do there, but ornamental edibles are in order - pineapples for sure, who knows what else at this point.
Yellow - herbaceous/groundcover level stuff (don't mind my spelling on the illustration).  Herbs off the screen room is a small herb garden - perhaps raised.  Flowers/groundcover is just to cover the raised septic drainfield (approx septic tank location is wrong, it's actually right about where the 'Equip' is in 'Pool Equipment')
Pink - firepit area... may or may not gravel that area.
Purple - kids swingset lol

I laid it out with a few things in mind...  all mulch beds will be properly curved so I don't have to get off the mower when doing the lawn.  Might throw some mulch around that pine on the SW side, but didn't sketch it in.  The trees lining the drive will not be mulched so I will need to use the trimmer to clean up around them - already have to do that for the ditch off the sides of the driveway anyway.  

Trees are sort of haphazardly thrown in there, so that's probably going to change.  Suggestions welcome.  SW neighbor had some trees that shade my property a bit, but I tried to make everything get ample sun.  Bananas are in that area specifically because it's lower lying and retains a bit of water (doesn't puddle or anything, but is soggy longest after rain).

Dog run fence can't go in until I tear out some misc trees/shrubbery and there's another massive grouping of that stuff where the fig and the misc herbaceous area is.  I'm going to do that in a couple of weeks while they're installing our tile floor.  At the same time I'm going to throw in the bamboo on the N and W sides to provide a quick privacy barrier.  Then I'll paint the exterior.  After we're settled in, I'm going to build out the SW corner - mulch and get trees started.  I'll take care of the front yard at that point (pulling a couple of palms, maybe trying to move them to the SE corner of the dog run, on the outside.  Then mulch around the pool area after the screen room is completed, ending at the herb garden.  The rest on the N side will be implemented when the garage is finished next year.  I'll be mixing in the herbaceous/groundcover stuff next spring and shoehorn in the fire pit project at some point in time - probably right in time for summer so we don't use it lol.



 
Jack Stuart
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Well that image ended up a lot smaller than I thought...  Oh well, you get the idea.
 
Jack Stuart
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Probably going to be posting elsewhere regarding this, but solid response from my first couple of posts from people nearby so I figured I'd ask here.  

We have deer.  Lotsa deer.  I see 'em multiple times per week as I'm coming and going from the house to work on it.  Seen as many as NINE in the yard at any one time.  I know they're gonna wanna eat all my stuff.  Doubt a fence is enough, but that's the first line of defense.  What else should I do?
 
master steward
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Deer will do what deer do.  They can jump an 8-foot fence before you can blink an eye.

A lot of thread here with all kinds of suggestions. The cheapest is probably the string fence or the fishing line fence.

Maybe the people who use the double fence or an electric fence have the best luck.

We use the electric fence for us this is the cheapest route.
 
Posts: 2
Location: Central FL
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I'm in a similar position as you, central FL, new house and big garden dreams! I grew up in the area, and one huge thing you really need to do from the start is look at your soil. Where I am, its pure sugar sand. My mother had a garden off and on as I was growing up, similar sand, and after about 5 years of adding compost, manure, etc. it was still mainly just....sand. The only thing it would really support with any vigor was sweet potatoes.
I'm probably going to have to go raised beds, or maybe something like hügelkultur. In any case, I'm going to start amassing compost first before I try anything in ground, because its really going to need it.
The second thing I would say is to have a chat with the neighbors. When I was in the process of purchasing this house, the yard was absolutely infested with lubber grasshoppers. I mean, thousands of them. More than my real estate agent had ever seen on a property in over 10 years working in the area. More than the home inspector had ever seen, etc. By the time I moved in about a month ish later, they were already dying off, and there were way way way less around. I would not have believed the amount that were here initially based on what I saw by move in time. Speaking with the neighbors, it is apparently a common issue for this neighborhood. Maybe your neighbors are in the know about other seasonal pests.
Good luck with your garden!
 
Jack Stuart
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Yeah, already chatted up one of our neighbors about it.  Deer.  Deer are the only pest worth talking about.  She had cultivated her garden for several months and everything was doing great...  one day she went to work and came home and the deer had destroyed everything.  Luckily our soil is pretty solid.  Dark and healthy.  Lawn grows like crazy, as does everything else.  That said, I'm still going to mulch the entire area and let it ride for several months before looking to plant anything other than trees and maybe some shrubbery type plants.  Might even let it roll for a full year - we'll see how it goes.

From what I've read, you could use a lot of mulch and rebuild your soil.  I know several counties provide it for free and there's also a myriad of private tree services that are dying to get rid of it too.  They can either drop it at your house or pay to dispose of it...  so free.99 to you is better for them.
 
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