Salvaging Fall Vegetable Garden After Hurricane Michael

Salvaging Fall Vegetable Garden After Hurricane Michael

After hurricane Michael many fall vegetable gardens were uprooted, wind whipped or destroyed. All is not lost. The fall and winter vegetable season can recover before cold temperatures set in.

The first step is to assess the condition of the garden. Have plants been uprooted, blown over, or just superficially damaged? If they have been irreparably there is still time to set out transplants or direct seed the garden. Several radish cultivars are able to produce a crop in about 30 days from seed. Many different types of radishes, from Cherry Belle to Watermelon, are available which will offer quick results in this area.  It is still prime time to set out Swiss chard plants and other Cole crops such as kale, collards, turnips and mustard. Broccoli could be grown throughout the winter if given frost protection from a low tunnel structure.

Strawberries may also be planted now, to establish themselves from spring production. Carrots are another good option for this time of year.

Please refer to the chart below to assess production timelines:

Broccoli neglected for 2 weeks following hurricane Michael. Fertilizer to follow. Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF / IFAS

Sometimes plants have suffered wind damage. Remove damaged or dead leaves to discourage fungal disease and encourage new growth. Oftentimes excessive rain has washed fertilizer out of the garden bed and additional applications of nutrients may be needed.

The good news is this fall vegetable season is still salvageable. Even if you are busy with recovery efforts, plant a small container or a few square feet of vegetables for this fall and winter season. Your efforts will be rewarded with a table of fresh produce!  For additional information about home vegetable production please refer to this UF / IFAS Publication: Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide .

Broccoli trimmed after being neglected for 2 weeks following hurricane Michael. Fertilizer to follow. Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF / IFAS



Peanut Butter Challenge in the Panhandle

Peanut Butter Challenge in the Panhandle

Feed the hungry and meet a challenge; donate peanut butter to UF/IFAS Extension ! 

If you want to help feed the hungry in Florida’s Panhandle this year, you can donate peanut butter during the annual Peanut Butter Challenge, coordinated by UF/IFAS Extension.



Thanks to a partnership of UF/IFAS Extension and the Florida Peanut Producers Association, food pantries from Pensacola to Monticello will receive thousands of jars of donated peanut butter this December.

From Oct. 1 through Nov. 21, you can donate unopened jars of peanut butter at your UF/IFAS Extension county office. Each year, one or more UF/IFAS Extension agents at your local county extension office collect unopened peanut butter jars.

Since 2012, the volunteers and UF/IFAS Extension faculty have collected jars of peanut butter from residents, volunteer groups and businesses in 16 northwest Florida counties. Last year, UF/IFAS Extension county offices received 6,222 jars of peanut butter, said Libbie Johnson, agricultural agent for UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County and co-organizer of the Challenge.

In addition to these donations, the Florida Peanut Producers Association also contributes, supplying more than 3,000 jars each Challenge, Johnson said.

They hope to surpass that total this year with your support and contributions.

“The Peanut Butter Challenge not only raises awareness about the important contribution of North Florida’s peanut growers to the state peanut industry, but also helps provide a healthy, locally produced product to food-insecure families in northwest Florida,” Johnson said.

Visit your local county extension office today and donate some peanut butter to support nutrition in your local panhandle community! (Press Release authored by UF / IFAS Communications)


What is that Web in my Tree ?

What is that Web in my Tree ?

Bare limb tips and clusters of webbing in pecan trees are often the first sign that fall is right around the corner.

This webbing is caused by clusters of the larvae of the Fall Webworm (Hyphantria cunea (Drury)) which is often also called Pecan Webworm. “Fall Webworm” is a bit of a misnomer in our region since they are able to strike in spring and summer thanks to our long growing season. They are most noticeable in the fall thanks to cumulative effects of earlier feeding.

The adult form of the fall webworm is a solid white or white and brown spotted moth that emerges in late March through August in southern climates. After mating they lay orderly clusters of green eggs, usually May through August. Soon after emergence, the larvae begin creating silk webs to protect themselves as they voraciously feed on their various host plants, of which Pecan is most common in Northwest Florida gardens.

Although they are capable of defoliating complete trees, especially smaller ones, most seasons they are kept in check by beneficial insects such as the paper wasp. It is beneficial for small orchards or home growers to scout their trees from June through August. If small webs are observed in young trees, it is best to prune them out with a pole saw or pole pruner and dispose of the branch. Pruning of small branches does not harm the tree, but it may be of no benefit to remove small webs in larger trees, if they are being controlled by natural enemies.

Most home gardens don’t have a practical ability to spray for this insect. For homeowners it is difficult to spray for control, due to the cost of the equipment required to get the spray into the tree canopy. If spraying is an option, many insecticides containing spinosad or Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) exist. Both of these products target caterpillars while not harming beneficial insect predators that feed on these worm populations. Several more toxic insecticide products exist that will control fall webworm, but they often exacerbate insect problems by killing off beneficial insects that might be controlling other insect pests.

Fall webworm is not usually a serious problem for home gardens. Let natural enemies take care of the problem in most cases.

Supplemental Material:

Insect Management in Pecans

Learn more about the fall webworm’s life cycle at the UF/IFAS Entomology Department’s Featured Creature website.

Perdue University: Fall Webworms

The Heat Won’t Last: Plan Now for Fall Greens

The Heat Won’t Last: Plan Now for Fall Greens

The heat and humidity of August is upon us, the cool of fall seems very far away, but is it? Believe it or not, now is the time to start planning fall vegetable gardens.

One of the most popular fall vegetables throughout the lower southern states are greens. There are old stand-bys such as cabbage, mustard, turnip and collard, but also more novel selections such as kale, and rainbow Swiss chard.  One technique to extend the cropping season of collards and kale, is harvesting only lower leaves while allowing plants to continue to grow, instead of harvesting entire plants. If several plants of each are planted, there will be enough for a family to have a continuous supply of greens through the season.

Most greens prefer a pH of 6.0 to 6.5, but will tolerate pH in the range of 5.5 to 7.0.   If pH is too low, the rate of dolomitic per hundred square feet to raise pH one point is 2-3 lbs. Dolomitic lime must be added at least two months before planting to be effective.  Greens may be fertilized with a variety of products from compost (at the rate of 20 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.) to 10-10-10 (at the rate of 2-3 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.) balanced fertilizer with micronutrients.  Two to three light repeat applications in the soil at the leaf’s edge may be warranted if plants show a need.

Starting in late August, if the weather is not blisteringly hot, collards may be started by direct seeding. If hot days are excessive, it may be necessary to drop a shade cloth on young plants until weather cools. This will improve development in the event of extended heat in early September. It is also necessary to water regularly and thoroughly while making sure plants are well-drained.

In mid-September, kale, Swiss chard, turnip greens, mustard greens and cabbage may be planted. It is often an advantage to stagger plantings from September through December to extend the season.

Greens can be planted by either direct seeding or transplanting. I have found that if starting greens when it is still very warm, direct seeding is desirable since more transplant shock occurs when temperatures are higher. When it is cooler, transplanting may be more advantageous since the plants will be more developed and ready to harvest sooner.

Greens make a delightful addition to any meal so why not grow your own and experiment with novel types that cannot be found in store shelves. The video below details some novel techniques used to maximize greens’ harvest. Happy Gardening.

Video: Greens and Lettuce for Fall Gardening

Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide 



Oak Galls Can Fool Us All

Oak Galls Can Fool Us All

Gall caused by a wasp in the Cynipidae on Water Oak.


Humans usually believe that we have a mastery of the natural world, and know everything about it. More often than not, nature tricks us with illusions that play on our pre-conceived notions about plant life.  We are conditioned to believe that everything hanging from a tree must be a fruit or nut of some sort, so much so that a wasp gall hanging from a common water oak can change our perception of that plant, making us think that it is a rare or unusual species of plant we have never seen before.

Several different species of wasps in the family Cynipidae (at least 50 different species in the continent of North America)  produce fruit-like galls on various species of oaks, which are also known as oak apples. They are green or brown, depending on the species that created them, and largely hollow inside.


Galls on an immature Water Oak

When the wasp lays eggs on oak leaves, the eggs hatch and larvae cause the leaf tissue to be altered for their purposes. These galls provide shelter and nourishment for the developing larvae until they are ready to emerge and fly out of the center of the gall. It demonstrates a great survival strategy for an otherwise defenseless insect.  The adult form of these wasps is no larger in diameter than the thickness of an old fashioned silver coin.

So, the next time you are out in nature and notice something unusual or out of place, it might be an insect gall!!

For additional information please read this excellent article “Oak Apples and the Gall Making Process”, by Joe Boggs at Ohio State University Extension