Improve Your Life with Panhandle E-Extension Newsletters and UF/IFAS EDIS Resources

Improve Your Life with Panhandle E-Extension Newsletters and UF/IFAS EDIS Resources

If you are a regular reader of Gardening in the Panhandle, you know that this e-newsletter covers many topics related to ornamental and vegetable gardening, Florida-friendly landscaping, pest management, and lawn and garden fertility.

But did you also know that UF/IFAS Extension in the Florida Panhandle has four other E-newsletters covering topics such as Florida agriculture, wildlife and natural resources, 4-H youth, economic well-being, health and nutrition, and overall life quality for individuals and families?

These other E-Extension in the Panhandle newsletters include Panhandle Agriculture , Panhandle Outdoors,  4-H in the Panhandle, and Living Well in the Panhandle.

[notice]Additionally, UF/IFAS also has an extensive collection of publications on many of these e-newsletter topics. If you haven’t already, check out the Extension Data Information Source (EDIS) website. It is a comprehensive, single-source repository of all current UF/IFAS numbered peer-reviewed publications. Visit EDIS for a complete listing.[/notice]

As a Gardening in the Panhandle enthusiast, here is a list of horticulture and gardening related EDIS publications you might find useful:

Vegetable Gardening

Home Lawns and Landscapes

Soil and Fertility

Pest Management

Backyard Sugarcane in the Panhandle

Backyard Sugarcane in the Panhandle

Do you want to add a little something different to your landscape? How about something edible, as well as a focal point in your garden? Backyard sugarcane may be just what you are looking for.

Sugarcane, genus Saccharum, is a tropical perennial grass that thrives in humid environments across the southern United States. Based on physical and chemical characteristics, there are 3 types of sugarcane. Chewing canes (Yellow Gal, Georgia Red varieties) are soft, with fibers that stick together when chewed. Many of these canes are also used for syrup production. Crystal canes, used mainly for commercial purposes, contain a high percentage of sucrose. This is the molecule that crystalizes into granular sugar. Syrup canes (Louisiana Ribbon, Green German varieties) contain less sucrose, therefore less crystallization, making for a more fluid product. Some varieties of each type are interchangeable. For example, some crystal canes are satisfactory for chewing cane.

Figure 1: Sugarcane Harvest. Credit: UF/IFAS Communications.



How does one plant sugarcane? Sugarcane is propagated by “seed cane”. Mature cane stalks have nodes, about every 6 inches, that produce buds. The stalks are cut into 2-3 foot segments and then planted. After the following harvest, the sugarcane sprouts from the buds of the old stalks, through a process known as “ratooning”. Be patient when growing sugarcane. It takes approximately 12-14 months for the original planting (seed cane) to produce mature cane, while another year to produce cane from the ratoon.

Seed cane should be planted from mid-August through November. Growth will occur in the spring. Sugarcane can be planted, 4 -10 feet apart, as a single row or multiple rows. A 3-7-inch furrow depth is optimum. Common practice regarding fertilizer is to apply 1 pound of 8-8-8 fertilizer per 10 feet of furrow. Plan ahead, as this crop makes a great windbreak for your vegetable garden.

Avoid planting sugarcane in areas of high traffic. The leaves of the cane are very sharp and some sugarcane varieties can fall and obstruct areas. Well drained soils in a sunny area is the perfect environment. Times of stress, such as lower temperatures for long periods of time, poor soil fertility and pH extremes (best range 5.5-6.5) will cause lower yields. Heavy watering with poor drainage conditions of newly planted seed cane can also disrupt bud germination.

Overtime, many varieties will succumb to disease and other environmental factors. To manage sugarcane against weeds, hand weeding and mulching are the best options. Soil inhabiting worms and grubs, stalk borers, termites and aphids are the biggest threats regarding insect pests. Sugarcane is rapidly growing plant and can tolerate most insect infestations and be productive.

Sugarcane is unique as many of the heirloom varieties are still available. So, where does one find seed cane? The classified ads section of the “Market Bulletin” published by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is a good start:

The Panhandle provides a favorable growing environment for this delightful backyard gardening focal point plant. Contact your local county extension office for more information.

Information for this article is from the UF/IFAS EDIS publication: Backyard Sugarcane” by L. Baucum, R.W. Rice, and L. Muralles.


UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Winterizer for North Florida Lawns?

Winterizer for North Florida Lawns?

Proper maintenance all year long is the best way to achieve a healthy lawn. Credit: Jim Stevenson

If you’ve been to a local garden center lately, there’s a good chance you’ve seen some displays marketing winterizer fertilizer for your lawn. Many of these displays are quite shiny and state all sorts of reasons why you should apply fertilizer to prepare your lawn for winter.

However, as with most purchases, a little consumer research is a good idea before being persuaded by those glossy ads. Where do you find such non-biased, evidence-based information on lawn and garden topics in Florida? UF/IFAS Extension, of course!

UF/IFAS research has found that for warm-season grass species used for North Florida lawns, the last application of fertilizer should occur no later than September. Why so? Well, similar to deciduous tree species, our warm-season grasses, including centipede, St. Augustine, bahia, and zoysia, are adapted to go dormant at the onset of cooler weather.

Once the transition into dormancy begins, the turf is not actively growing, therefore nutrient uptake slows down. Eventually, the turf becomes brown and will remain that way until warmer spring temperatures initiate active growth again.

What about all the glossy ad’s claims regarding improved root growth? When looking over the N-P-K values of winterizer fertilizers, you will notice that most have a high third number, indicating a greater proportion of potassium. Research does show that adequate potassium levels do make turf more resilient to stress. However, if the turf has been maintained properly throughout the year – proper mowing height, irrigation, and fertilization – then the lawn’s root systems are likely strong enough to get it through winter.

Winterizer fertilizers that contain a high proportion of nitrogen, say over a 5 on the N-P-K analysis, can actually cause your lawn harm. Nitrogen promotes leaf and shoot growth, which is tender to damage from cold weather. If these type products are applied late in the year, new growth is likely to be nipped by a cold snap, causing stress to the lawn, which can lead to greater pest pressure and poor growth the following spring.

For a healthy lawn, there’s no substitute for year-long good care. If you are having a lawn issue or would like more information on fertilizing lawns, please call your local Extension Office or check out some of UF/IFAS’s online resources!

Turfgrass Science Webpage

Florida Lawn Handbook Guide

He’s Bored, But He Didn’t Kill Your Tree

He’s Bored, But He Didn’t Kill Your Tree

Sometimes you don’t realize a tree is dying until it is dead.  A few weeks ago, we got a call from a client who said he had insects killing his trees.  Before having someone drive out to the property, our Master Gardener volunteer recommended that the client bring in some of the insects for us to take a look.  It turned out the insects invading his pine tree were a type of longhorned beetle, but more specimens were required for identification.  A site visit soon ensued.

There were a number of pine trees on the property, however only one was infested with the insects in question.  Upon closer investigation, we noticed a number of different sized holes in the tree.  The larger holes are nearly the size of a dime.

Arrowhead borer damage on a pine tree.

Arrowhead borer damage on a pine tree. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS Extension.

It turns out the insects making the larger holes are a type of longhorned beetle known as an arrowhead borer (Xylotrechus sagittatus).  The borers are brown to black in color with a reddish hue.  They are moderately hairy and some specimens contain arrowhead markings pointing toward their heads.  Adults feed on the bark of damaged or fire-killed pines.  The adults are attracted to lights and may be mistaken for crickets because they run very fast.  Eggs are laid in bark and larvae feed on sapwood, then tunnel deeper, often tunneling within a single annual ring.  The borers pupate inside the tree and the newly emerged adults chew their way out.

A picture of an arrowhead borer.

Arrowhead Borer. Photo Credit: Tom Murray

Given the fact that arrowhead borers are attracted to dead or dying trees, the killer of this particular tree is still in question.  The smaller holes in the bark picture above were created by a much smaller beetle, but we were unable to get a specimen.  We did see a couple of these beetles running around when we dug deeper into the bark.  The small beetles that we saw closely resembled a type of Ips engraver beetle.  Beetles in this genus have been known to kill trees, but most likely they weren’t the culprits either.  Based on the overall appearance of the tree and the fact that other trees in the area were not infested with beetles, it is believed the tree was killed by other means.  The tree was likely struck by lightening or suffered from poor genetics because it did not have a good form for a pine tree.

If you have a questionable looking tree on your property or if you have insects you would like identified, please feel free to stop by your local Extension Office and ask a Master Gardener!