There are a number of plants that are adapted to the climate in the Florida Panhandle. Some can be grown in your yard to provide fresh, nutritious food for your family. In this episode of Home Grown Food, County Agent Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS Extension in Jackson County, Florida shares the rabbit-eye blueberries and satsuma citrus that he grows on the edge of his yard.
During these unusual times, the Gardening in the Panhandle Team has been working to bring you quality remote content through this online newsletter. In that vein, we have developed some new educational programming for our loyal readers.
Our next Gardening in the Panhandle Live is on July 23th and will continue every two weeks throughout the months of July and August. We are providing one hour “Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE!” sessions on Zoom. These will occur during lunch hour, from 12:00 to 1:00 CDT. They will also be hosted on the Gardening in the Panhandle Facebook page and recorded if you can’t participate live. So, whether you are at home or work, bring your lunch up to your desk (or smart device) and enjoy Gardening in the Panhandle Live!
Click on the topic below to pre-register and submit your questions one week in advance.
Archived videos with closed captioning are linked to topics about one week after event airs.
The schedule follows below:
||Matt Lollar, Evan Anderson, Matt Orwat
||Lawn and Turfgrass
||Larry Williams, Daniel Leonard, Beth Bolles, Daniel Leonard
||Ornamental & Landscape
||Sheila Dunning, Matt Lollar, Stephen Greer, Matt Orwat
||Mary Salinas, Julie McConnell, Beth Bolles
||Prepping for the Fall Garden
||Matt Lollar, Danielle Sprague, Molly Jameson
||Open Ended Q&A
||Mary Salinas, Evan Anderson, Beth Bolles, Matt Orwat
||Gardening for Pollinators
||Dr. Gary Knox, Mark Tancig, Mary Salinas
||Fruiting Trees and Shrubs
||Dr. Xavier Martini, Danielle Sprague, Trevor Hylton
||Gardening in Florida Soils
||Ray Bodrey, Matt Lollar, Pat Williams
||Planting Trees and Shrubs
||Larry Williams, Ray Bodrey, Beth Bolles, Stephen Greer
||Cool Season Gardening/Cold Protection
||Mary Salinas, Matt Lollar, Larry Williams
||Landscape Pests (insect & disease)
||Matt Orwat, Evan Anderson, Dr. Adam Dale
||Selection and Care of Holiday Plants
||Matt Orwat, Larry Williams, Sheila Dunning, Stephen Greer
‘Early Pride’ Tangerine. Photo courtesy of Danielle Sprague.
Citrus is not only a vital part of our economy in Florida but it’s also a major component in our landscapes. Having grown up in the major grapefruit producing region of Florida, the citrus industry is near to my heart. So for me, it is very exciting to see all of the interest in the citrus industry in North Florida despite the devastation the industry is facing in South Florida. With many folks spending more time outdoors and working in the landscape, I wanted to share some ways homeowners can enjoy citrus in their landscape all while protecting the future of the citrus industry in North Florida!
First thing’s first…identification!
It’s important to be aware of some of the major pests and diseases affecting citrus. Fortunately for us in the Panhandle, many of the major pests and diseases troubling citrus to the south haven’t become quite as widespread in our area, and with your help we can keep it that way! Regularly scouting the citrus in your landscape and detecting any major pests or diseases early will be very important to prevent it from spreading.
The first major disease all Floridians should be aware of is citrus greening. Citrus greening or huanglongbing (HLB) is the major disease affecting the citrus industry worldwide. It is a bacterial disease caused by the bacteria Candidatus Liberibacter. The bacterium is spread from tree to tree by a tiny insect known as the Asian citrus psyllid. Psyllids spread the disease by feeding on infected trees and moving on to non-infected trees. Once the tree is infected, there’s little hope for survival as there is no cure for citrus greening.
Citrus greening can be difficult to diagnose as it can be easily confused with nutrient deficiency. Symptoms of citrus greening include yellowing of the veins and a blotchy mottle pattern. Nutrient deficiencies tend to have a symmetrical pattern on each side of the leaf vein whereas citrus greening is asymmetrical. Overall, a tree infected with citrus greening will appear unhealthy with discolored leaves, a thin canopy, and reduced fruit production.
Citrus Canker presenting on a leaf. Photo courtesy of Danielle Sprague.
Another disease to be on the lookout for is citrus canker. Citrus is also caused by a bacterial pathogen but is spread primarily though wind, rain and human movement. Citrus canker is highly contagious and can spread very rapidly. Transporting infected plant material from an area where canker is present is the primary means of spreading the pathogen.
Purchase from a certified nursery!
One of the absolute most important things you can do if you are planting citrus is to purchase your trees from a certified citrus nursery! A certified nursery has been inspected by the state to confirm that the nursery is producing clean, disease free trees. Citrus trees grown in a certified nursery will have a tag with the name of the nursery, registration number, the tree variety, and rootstock.
When buying a tree from a secondary retailer, you will want to be sure to examine the tree for any signs and symptoms of pests and diseases. A healthy tree will have dark green leaves, a smooth trunk and show no signs of wilt.
Certified nursery label. Photo courtesy of Danielle Sprague.
Other ways to protect citrus:
- Learn how to properly care for citrus trees. Proper watering an fertilization will make them less susceptible to pest and disease.
- Report any suspected pest and diseases to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Division of Plant Industry by calling 1-888-397-1517
- Don’t bring back plants or fruit into Florida! They could introduce new pests and diseases.
Keeping the Panhandle free of citrus greening and citrus canker will play a major role in the success of the citrus industry in North Florida. For assistance with pest and disease identification or for more information, contact your local Extension agent.
One of the things to do while stuck at home due to COVID-19 restrictions, is to look for caterpillars and butterflies in your landscape. I’ve noticed giant swallowtail butterflies (Papilio cresphontes) a little early this year. The giant swallowtail is one of the largest and most beautiful butterflies in our area. Its larval stage is known as the orangedog caterpillar. This unusual name comes from the fact that it feeds on young foliage of citrus trees.
Orangedog caterpillar. Photo credit: Donald Hall, University of Florida
The orangedog caterpillar is mostly brown with some white blotches, resembling bird droppings more than a caterpillar. When disturbed, it may try to scare you off by extruding two orange horns that produce a pungent odor hard to wash off.
I’ve had some minor feeding on citrus trees in my landscape from orangedog caterpillars. But I tolerate them. I’m not growing the citrus to sell. Sure the caterpillars eat a few leaves but my citrus trees have thousands of leaves. New leaves eventually replace the eaten ones. I leave the caterpillars alone. They eat a few leaves, develop into chrysalises and then emerge as beautiful giant swallowtail butterflies. The whole experience is a great life lesson for my two teenagers. And, we get to enjoy beautiful giant swallowtail butterflies flying around in our landscape and still get plenty of fruit from the citrus trees. It is a win, win, win.
In some cases, the caterpillars can cause widespread defoliation of citrus. A few orangedog caterpillars can defoliate small, potted citrus trees. Where you cannot tolerate their feeding habits, remove them from the plant. But consider relocating the caterpillars to another area. In addition to citrus, the orangedog caterpillars will use the herb fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and rue (Ruta graveolens) as a food source. Some butterfly gardens plant citrus trees to provide food for orangedog caterpillars so that they will have giant swallowtail butterflies. So you could plan ahead and grow some fennel, rue or find a butterfly garden in your area for the purpose of relocating the larvae.
Yellow giant swallowtail butterfly on pink garden phlox flowers. Photo credit: Larry Williams
The adult butterflies feed on nectar from many flowers, including azalea, bougainvillea, Japanese honeysuckle, goldenrod, dame’s rocket, bouncing Bet and swamp milkweed. Some plants in this list might be invasive.
Keep in mind that mature citrus trees can easily withstand the loss of a few leaves. If you find and allow a few orangedog caterpillars to feed on a few leaves of a mature citrus tree in your landscape, you and your neighbors might get to enjoy the spectacular giant swallowtail butterfly.
More information on the giant swallowtail butterfly is available online at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in134.
Register today for the 2018 Panhandle Fruit & Vegetable Conference! The Panhandle Fruit & Vegetable Conference is scheduled for February 19th & 20th. On the 19th we will go on an afternoon farm tour in Baldwin County, AL that will end with dinner (included) at Auburn University’s Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center in Fairhope. Educational sessions with guest speakers from University of Florida, Auburn University, and Texas A&M University will be held on February 20th where topics will include Citrus Production, Vegetable Production, Protected Ag Production, Marketing/Business, Food Safety, and Fruit & Nut Production. A full list of topics can be found here. Fifty dollars (plus $4.84 processing fee) covers the tour and dinner on the 19th and educational sessions, breakfast, and lunch on the 20th! The complete agenda is now available. Use your mouse or finger to “click” on the image below for full screen viewing.
Make sure to register by Wednesday, February 14th! – Registration Link
Citrus canker symptoms on twigs, leaves and fruit. Photo by Timothy Schubert, FDACS
In November 2013, citrus canker was found for the first time in the Florida panhandle in Gulf Breeze in southern Santa Rosa County. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) tested and confirmed the disease on grapefruit trees in a residential landscape. Since that time, citrus canker has been confirmed on citrus trees at 27 more locations in Gulf Breeze. To my knowledge it has not been found in any other location in the panhandle. Not yet.
Citrus canker lesions on leaves are raised, rough and visible on both sides of the leaf. Photo by Timothy Shubert, FDACS.
Citrus canker is a serious bacterial disease that only infects citrus trees. It will not infect any other plant species nor is it a threat to human health. This highly contagious disease has no cure as yet. Severely affected trees experience substantial leaf and premature fruit drop and serve as a source for infecting other citrus in the area. The disease spreads through wind, rain and transportation of infected plant material from other locations.
We do not know how the disease came to infect trees in our region. The disease could have been spread through infected fruit or trees brought here from areas where the disease is established, such as central or south Florida.
What should you do if you suspect your citrus is infected with this disease?
Citrus canker lesions can appear in the mines left by the citrus leafminer pest. Photo by Timothy Schubert, FDACS
- Look at Homeowner Fact Sheet: Citrus Canker for more information.
- Leave the tree in place in your yard and call the Division of Plant Industry at FDACS at 1-888-397-1517 for a free inspection and testing of your citrus trees.
- Consult your local Horticulture Extension Agent for more information and control/removal strategies.
- Proper removal of infected trees is recommended to prevent the spread of citrus canker but is not mandatory.
For more information please see:
Save Our Citrus Website
UF IFAS Gardening Solutions: Citrus
Citrus Culture in the Home Landscape
UF IFAS Extension Online Guide to Citrus Diseases