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Planning to be in Florida this winter... where should I visit?

Posts: 211
Location: Northern California
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Hi, folks,

My dad had a brainstorm when he came out here to California to visit me last month, and he actually invited me to come permaculture the heck out of their back yard (well, he actually said "help me put in a garden" but I'm interpreting loosely).

The goals are: to get fresh organic produce into their diets, to trim their food budget, and to set up a system that is easy-care for two older people who don't have a lot of excitement about physical work and can't tolerate much bending and squatting.

What I'd like to do—and I'm not sure how much of this they'll be on board for, but I'll try—is to set up laundry to landscape greywater into some bananas, probably through a constructed wetland to filter out most of the detergent, and get some low-chill hardy kiwis on arbors over their two side gates. Other than that I'll probably be trying to set up some raised beds with mostly familiar annuals that they can take care of and use without too much of a learning curve. They like zucchini, broccoli, peas, green beans, tomatoes, etc. My dad has fantasies about a mango tree. They'll use sweet potatoes if I can get them to grow. But mostly they don't like to eat "weird stuff" so it's no sense me trying to get them to grow malabar spinach or anything. And it's too small a yard for many tree crops, and too close to contentious neighbors for livestock.

If I had my way they'd convert their disused pool to rice, crayfish, and tilapia culture, but my dad is making noises about getting it cleaned and using it for physical therapy. I also want to get them a solar hot water system, but my dad thinks it would be too expensive, and I'm not sure they could keep up with a homemade system. My mom could fix one, easily, she's mechanical like that—but I hate to think of her up on the roof all the time if there are problems.

Would anyone in Florida, preferably near Tampa Bay or Sarasota, be willing to invite me to your site so I can get some good ideas? I'm thinking about an afternoon tour, not about a long term visit or a work-trade situation, although if you're looking for the help I'd be open. I'll be in town, I think, November through March. (I've become one of the detested snowbirds, I guess, at least for this year.)

My questions include—

  • [li]what does best on the gulf coast of Florida?[/li]
    [li]What composting systems would be most appropriate for the local climate and conditions?[/li]
    [li]What cover crops and green manures make the most sense in this area, assuming I can get them to keep one up? (I hear velvet beans can help prevent soil nematodes, for instance.)[/li]
    [li]Does anyone have a good local source for topsoil, straw, and clay?[/li]

  • Thanks in advance for any help and advice you can offer me. It's been a few years since I've been in Florida and I didn't have any permaculture training or experience then, so I didn't know what to look for, and I feel like I need an overhaul if I'm going to do this right!
    Posts: 488
    Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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    Sweet potatoes do fine here.  I have vines that have been kept alive in containers for 5 years or more.  (japanese variety).

    Don't bother trying to grow familiar annuals in the summer.  Winter is the season for all the normal garden varieties.  April to September is tropicals only. 
    When people don't understand what you are doing they call you crazy. But this tiny ad just doesn't care:
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