Dave Bross

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since Oct 01, 2020
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North FL, in the high sandhills
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Recent posts by Dave Bross

I guess my best strategy is to spread my bets.

I have in ground stuff....more and more just root crops because of what Jeff was saying about Florida.
The sun eats up the organic matter, flooding can be an issue, and non root type crops just struggle no matter what.
I'm deliberately on fast draining land because of flooding issues otherwise.

I grow in containers. Mostly things like tomatoes peppers, edible gourds (regular squashes stand zero chance here) alpine strawberries etc.

the containers are all sitting in water, everything from those inexpensive plastic kiddie pools to hand dug  trenches lined with 10 mil plastic with landscape cloth over the plastic to minimize punctures..
the ones in the trenches have fertilizer added (Steve Solomon's DIY complete organic fertilizer ) to the potting soil and just water in the trenches because it would be quite expensive and time consuming to mix hydro solution for all of them.

The ones in kiddie pools are sitting in hydroponic solution like the Kratky method.

Watering is via overhead sprinklers where needed for the in ground stuff. Not automated but close enough, throw a valve for the particular section and go.

I have a greenhouse that is self watering/fertilizing via a dutch bucket setup with reservoirs and pumps below ground level so the solution can drain back.

I have every kind of low maintenance fruit tree or bush I can find space for. Mulberries, persimmons. eleagnus family like goumis, blueberries, blackberries, etc. etc.

I grow leaf lettuce and seedlings in my living room under lights.
currently planting the gone to seed lettuces from that in the gardens to see if they'll reseed every year.

Some neighbors moved off, abandoning a litter of kittens. My dog found them and insisted we rescue them.
Best decision ever. All rodent problems terminated (there were MAJOR problems) and even the birds stay away from the fruit trees.

They're also extremely entertaining.

So how's all that working?

The in ground stuff is a lot of labor hauling/placing compost but I dearly love a lot of the root crops that result.
Soon I may be too old to do it. I'm in my early 70s now but we'll see how that goes.

I suspect I will end up just doing the pools/trenches and the greenhouse in a few years.
Already experimenting with growing my root crops that way.

All the containers are a lot of work come time to replant them but minimal effort otherwise.
They offer some nice options in that you can move them for bad weather or a better spot to grow.

The kiddie pools and trenches for containers are working better than I dared hope for, just needing to watch the water and nutrient levels in the pools and just the water level in the trenches.

PH of the water has been stable in the mid sixes. I credit that to using a lot of fine pine bark in the soil mix for the containers.

When I first had the greenhouse going I was using perlite as the grow medium and fighting rising PH constantly.

Using straight pine bark instead of the perlite stabilized the PH and it's been no trouble since.
A side benefit was a lot of partially composted pine bark end of the grow season to mix up into potting mix for the regular containers after solarizing it.

Minimizing the effort required to water things has been priceless.

A lot of my efforts now are towards tinkering to find better methods and trying out as many cultivars of things I like to see if they'll survive Florida.

I also try to grow proven cultivars across a few of the different systems, weather permitting, and I grow a backup set of the ones I really like to have.

I'm fortunate in that I'm retired and have had enough time money to set these things up, although a lot of it was improvised inexpensively.

I'm nowhere near self sufficient, but, it's proving to fairly consistently provide something that's high quality food for most of my meals.

Long term goals are finding things that may eventually work together to turn  my little place here into a zero input self sufficient food forest, be that trees, bushes, perennials, or things that will re-seed themselves yearly or bi-annually.

1 week ago
Things that grow in the shade:


1:57 Rainbow Chard
2:36 Sweet Potato
3:36 Rocket
4:28 Lettuce
5:21 Tamarillo
6:58 Kale
7:22 Nasturtium
8:10 Alpine Strawberries
8:50 Radish
9:26 Blueberry
10:28 Celery
11:33 Parsley
12:21 Mint
13:29 Rhubarb
13:49 Bush beans
14:21 Monstera
15:20 Ginger
15:47 Cardamom Ginger
16:19 Chives
18:02 Mushrooms
18:54 Strawberry guava
19:54 Tips to Grow Food in the Shade


Brussels sprouts
Chinese cabbage
Fava beans

Hosta montana
New Zealand spinach
Sorrel (spinach dock)


Here's one to read.

Some of the folks he worked with ran a variety of animals under the trees and there are other ideas.

2 weeks ago
I should have mentioned that both loquat and eleagnus here took about 5 years to start producing any fruit.

The loquats here have been without fruit for a few years due to serious freezes timed perfectly to destroy the flowers.
This year the loquats are making up for it.  heavy fruit set.
The autumn olive are flowering for the first time so fruit set remains to be seen...or not.

I have a layer of dense tightly packed sand about where your layer of limerock is.
Not much can push roots through it, or at least not quickly.
Even those big tillage radishes just push up out of the ground.

Fortunately, I'm not fighting what's probably a PH issue with your limerock layer.
My girlfriend has a similar limerock underlying her place and so far citrus trees and loquats have been the only things that seem to be able to break through it...or get around or above it somehow.
Apparently the PH of the limerock isn't an issue for them.

One more thought.....

How about mulberries? You can stick cuttings directly  in the ground here and if you keep them wet you get a tree.

maybe not within the parameters of what you're trying to do because even that is too much maintenance?

1 month ago
The eleagnus family might work for you.  Goumi, goji, Autumn olive etc. Nitrogen fixing + fruit

I'm trying a number of them and the only ones that have done really well are the Autumn Olive.
Goumis are struggling, the only surviving Goji is growing out of a compost pile, and the Silverberries/Eleagnus Ebbingi I planted as a hedge are struggling.

Autumn Olive has been outlawed in some states north of me because they do a little too well in a more temperate climate.

Way back when they were seed bombed by the local governments in some states to pretty up  the tailing piles and other mess left behind after strip mining. They were more than equal to the task.

In spite of the many bans, some US nurseries have some cultivars that were developed for improved flavor.
No telling how long that will be available.

One more that is quite bulletproof here, Loquats.

They stay evergreen all year, grow in some marginal places, and I really like the fruit. Mine are fruiting as we speak.

Loquats make a great hedge, which I'm in the process of doing all around my place. About a 3' spacing seems to work well for that.

They only grow from seed, cuttings don't work, but seeds sprout easily.

I spit them into a 1 gallon nursery container of soil, cover them a bit with the soil, and away they go.
1 month ago
Thanks Konstantinos,

I never knew there were a lot of different Mimosas.

The one you mention seems a bit too invasive for my tastes. I'm trying to set up my little plot to keep on putting out food long after I'm gone and I suspect that one would take over and wipe out a lot of other things. I have some things considered invasive like every kind of Eleagnus I can find (Goumi, Goji berries) but the harsh weather here seems to keep them in check, if not flat out kill them when little. Probably the only danger of spread might be via birds but I have a fleet of cats that seem quite good at keeping all the birds away.
I've caught flak from people for having invasives, but I think the right ones and some different strategies may be a critical link to avoiding the food problems coming down the pike from weather and the like.

I would HIGHLY recommend this book, as it opened my eyes to a lot of what's going on currently with failed attempts to bring land back to original species and some of the really horribly wrong tactics employed...like nuking everything with Roundup initially.
It also got me thinking thinking about which invasives may be critical to our future as conditions change.

The book:
Beyond the War on Invasive Species by Tao Orion

Found some interesting links on that mimosa:



Something else interesting that I hadn't heard about caught my eye on the micro farm guide site:


Definitely agree on the Golden Rain tree. we have some older ones nearby and they are just gorgeous.

1 month ago
From my notes copied from here and there:

these grow quite well with no inputs here in N FL.

Hardy Silk Tree Mimosa

Other common names
Pink siris, Lenkoran acacia, Bastard tamarind. Iranian: Shabkhosb. Nepali: Rato siris

Listed as hardy from zone 6-10.  In it's natural range temperatures of -13F in the winter are common.  We are testing this species here in Zone 4a.  We are very tuned into the temperature changes  and believe testing warmer zone plants is appropriate.

The tree's flower heads have been used for a wide range of digestive, sedative and tonic medicinal purposes. The bark is used to cure bruises and as a vermicide for intestinal worms. The seeds are used as a food for livestock. The sweetly-scented flowers are a good nectar source for honeybees. The timber is used for furniture making.

The stem bark has been used as a sedative for hundreds of years as recorded in the Pharmacopeia of the People's Republic of China, and as an anti-inflammatory agent for swelling and pain in the lungs and to treat skin ulcers, wounds, bruises, abscesses, boils, hemorrhoids, and fractures, as well as to remove carbuncles. The dried stem bark is used as a tonic in China and Japan. Indigenous people living in the southern mountainous region of Korea prepare the root as an infusion for bone diseases. In India, a chloroform and methanol seed extract has been used to treat bronchitis, asthma, leprosy, and glands infected by tuberculous.A bark extract to treat insomnia, diuresis, asthenia, and confusion has been used in Asia. The plant's flowers have been used to treat symptoms associated with palpitations, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

How to grow:

Soak seed 24 hours in hot water and sow in a warm area.  Seeds prefer 66°F so an indoor late winter or early spring location is ideal.  Keep soil moist but not drenched. Germinates in 2 - 3 months(can be much sooner). Scarification helps speed this process.  Before soaking, take seed and rub between a folded sheet of medium sandpaper.  Do not rub through the seed coat.  You just want to roughen the exterior seed shell. Expect about 25 - 33% germination. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of fairly rich soil when they are large enough to handle and grow them in a protected area the first year.   Plant out in late spring or early summer and consider giving them some protection from the cold for their first winter or two outdoors

Some folks don't like them:




Like a legume, they fix nitrogen in the soil, so they can grow in some pretty devastated areas.

I like them a lot.
1 month ago

Yes, I do think oak forests (and the humans near them)  need controlled burns if for no other reason than to not let flammable underbrush pile up.

Manual clean up is an option on small spaces but no fert/PH benefit.

The fertility and PH are a nice side benefit to a burn. Soil here is quite poor but old time farmers would let the few tough grasses that will grow easily grow in a field planned for future planting, then burn them off for the fert/PH benefit. They were too poor to afford the chemicals to do that which in hindsight was maybe a plus.

You would want to burn oak forest sooner rather than later, as the oaks won't tolerate a really hot fire without dying and, in contrast,  if the oaks get too big/thick they shade out everything else.
1 month ago
The history of burning off pine forest here in FL may give some insights.

The original natives would deliberately burn off the pine savannas long before the underbrush became dense because that encouraged open space for easier hunting and the pines seemed to do better.

Fast forward to the age of science research and same discovery, the pines love an occasional fire, some of them even need it to reseed, the pine cones not opening unless burned.

The caveat is that if they've been left to build up a lot of underbrush and litter you'll get a fire with 100 foot walls of fast travelling  fire destroying everything, mature pines and all, not to mention the danger to humans.

The natural succession if left unburnt/unattended is oak with dense scrub and lots of litter beneath and the risk of fatal large fires.

Pines are problematic  on small plots of land here (die young, lightning rods, shed lots of highly flammable parts and pieces into the under story, likely to tip over on your home in high winds  etc. etc. ) so I've always been a fan of bringing on the oaks and eliminating the flammable stuff under them via whatever route makes the most sense. The old 8 acre place I had was best/easiest burnt off regularly, even though it required permits and other hassles from ag and forestry departments.  As I've condensed to 1 acre it's manageable to keep things clear by hand and putting in more growing beds for other things. I don't get the fertilizing/ PH alkalizing benefits of burning but I make that up otherwise.

This is high sandhills here, so perhaps quite similar to the island you're working on.
Definitely major drought for months spring and fall every year.


1 month ago
Second that on Martin Crawfords stuff.

I've gone deep down the rabbit hole reading on forest gardens and nobody has as much practical, hands on info as he does. You can also see his results, which counts for a lot with me.His youtube channel is great but the books have much more of the how-to info. Had I known about him early on I would have avoided a few big overall planning mistakes.

here's an interesting article on how he got started:


As always, when considering trees, J Russel Smith's  tree crops is an incredible resource for low maintenance tree uses:


2 months ago