Educational Opportunity: Fruit and Vegetable Meeting

Educational Opportunity: Fruit and Vegetable Meeting

Would you like to make money off your land?  Are you looking to diversify your current plans on your property?  Jackson County is hosting a fruit and vegetable meeting on January 26, 2023, and this just may be the perfect way to start off your new year! 

Squash vine borer larvae can most easily navigate the stems of summer squash varieties. Photo by Molly Jameson.
Photo by Molly Jameson.

When thinking about what it means to be successful in planting your garden or having fruit trees, often the first thing that comes to mind is a healthy quality crop.  This starts with the health of your soil.  We will have two specialists that cover soil health and the benefit of adding cover crops to your rotation during the off season.  The second thing that might come to mind when wanting to be successful is how to start? how much time do I have to devote to gardening? and how much do I want to do? This meeting will also have a specialist coming to Marianna to cover how to get started on a property with a specialty crop.  Even though this information may be geared towards new farmers, it could also be very useful to new land owners and community residents just wanting to do more on their property.  You may find that you have so much extra produce that you want to have a little fruit stand!

There will also be a session on the importance of drip irrigation, fertigation and how to implement these practices. Drip irrigation will not only save you money in the long run with the use of less water, but it is also much better for overall plant health by reducing pest and disease problems.   Fertigation is the process of adding soil amendments, water amendments and other water-soluble products into an irrigation system.  This process can be both beneficial to the plants and cut back on the time it would take to fertilize by hand.

The next session on specialty vegetable and fruit crops will teach about the various exciting specialty crop opportunities in the Tri-State area such as artichokes, blackberries, Seminole pumpkins, and more.  Finally, the meeting will also cover cucurbit disease updates and will be extremely useful if you already have a field or garden of watermelons, cucumbers, or squash! Come with questions!  CEUs will be offered as well if you are a homeowner that holds a pesticide license.  

Organic matter is the “glue” that will hold your soil together. Photo by John Edwards.

While, the audience for this conference is primarily small to medium sized, diversified cucurbit and vegetable producers in the tri-state region including the counties in the Panhandle, Alabama, and Georgia, the residential community is welcome to attend and will truly benefit with learning about soil health, cover crops, fertigation, drip irrigation, and specialty crops. The conference will be held at the Jackson County Extension Office in the Peanut Hall.  We are planning a full morning with educational sessions and lunch to follow. 

This meeting will be $5 at the door and pre-registration is highly encouraged.  Please call our office at 850-482-9620 to reserve your seat and if you have any questions.

Tri-State Fruit and Vegetable Meeting

Thursday, January 26, 2023, 8:00 am- 1:00 pm at the Jackson County Agriculture Offices Auditorium, 2741 Penn Ave., Marianna.

A natural caffeine that may be right in your backyard!

A natural caffeine that may be right in your backyard!

Credit: Jeff McMillian, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database. Illustration credit: Mary Vaux Walcott, North American Wild Flowers, vol. 3 (1925)

Yaupon hollies, Ilex spp., are a native plant to Florida that grow very well and abundantly in our local soils.  The yaupon holly is one of the hardiest holly species found in Florida.  You may see this holly grown as a tree, large or small specimen shrub, or even as a hedge.  Using a low-input native plant like yaupon in the landscape can result in less nutrient pollution, reduced water use and resilience through drought, freezes, and hurricanes.  This plant thrives in the southeast and is hardy up to USDA zone 7.  They can even tolerate temperatures as low as 10F for short periods of time. Pollinators are also attracted to the yaupon flowers – if you are trying to attract bees for other crops on the farm, this is the plant for you!  Growing yaupon is much easier than other crops because the species can handle a variety of conditions, from full sun to light shade and soil from dry to wet. Growth rate is moderate when they are young and slows as plants age. Yaupon hollies are good for stabilizing the soil, preventing erosion, and providing a habitat for wildlife.

Yaupon is a very old plant that historically has been used as an important food source, medicine and even a ceremonial item by Timucua Indigenous groups for thousands of years.  The Timucua people of Florida believed that yaupon purified the mind and body of those who drank it. Yaupon is the only naturally caffeinated plant species grown in the United States.  It provides a balanced caffeine boost without the bitter tannins that you get from regular tea. Yaupon contains 30% less caffeine than coffee but provides a dose of theophylline and theobromine.  These 2 compounds provide an energy that will not cause jitteriness and caffeine crash that other caffeinated beverages can give you. There are also dozens of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, polyphenols and antioxidants to protect the body, and these can help calm the mind as well.

‘Schilling’s Dwarf’ is a yaupon cultivar perfect for homemade tea production.  The plant gets no taller than four feet and four feet wide.  While you can make yaupon tea from any yaupon holly cultivar, all ‘Schilling’s Dwarf’ clones are also all male, which means no berries will get in your way of harvesting leaves. To prepare tea from the yaupon plant, leaves are removed from the stems and lightly washed, discarding any berries and debris. The stems may also be used and will not change the flavor. Next you will dehydrate leaves and stems by air or sun drying. Leaves can be stored whole or crushed and blended into smaller pieces if desired. These leaves produce a caffeinated beverage that is similar to green tea with grassy flavors. If these same leaves are lightly roasted, over a hot pan or in the oven, it will produce an earthier beverage that can have notes of malt and toasted coffee.

For more information on Native Yaupons and making tea, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office.

Figure 4. Home-brewed tisane made from dried and lightly roasted leaves (left), and locally produced and bagged yaupon tea, Ilex vomitoria (right).
Credit: Matthew Borden, UF/IFAS; and Bryon White, Yaupon Brothers American Tea Co., respectively
Additional information is available by using the following links:
Yaupon Brothers American Tea Company

Ilex vomitoria: Yaupon Holly

Yaupon Holly Culture and Pest Management for Tea Production and Ornamental Use
Plan on Doing a Fall Garden, Plan Now!

Plan on Doing a Fall Garden, Plan Now!

Yay, we are halfway through with August and our summer is winding down!  This is the perfect time to start prepping for that fall garden.   Growing a productive fall vegetable garden requires thoughtful planning and good cultural practices.  This process consists of selecting a site, planning the garden, preparing the soil, choosing the seeds and plants, planting a crop, and nurturing the plants until harvest time.  In the Florida Panhandle it can be a challenge to get cool season crops started; there is a balance in starting them early enough to allow them to mature (50-60 days) before a hard frost and getting them through the end of a hot summer.

August and September are the main planting times for a fall garden.  There are several cool-season crops and a final crop of warm-season vegetables that can be planted.  Some good warm season crops are lima beans, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes.  Going into September it will be a good time to establish strawberry plants.  Some good vegetables to start growing just around the corner are broccoli, carrots, cabbage, collards, mustard, and Swiss chard.  Herbs that do well are cilantro, parsley, and lemongrass. Mint, oregano, and thyme should be planted in containers as they tend to spread. Mexican tarragon, mint, rosemary, and basil will also do well in September. See Herbs:

Transplants from the local garden center will get the garden off to a fast start while seeds will offer more varieties to choose from.  It is also important to think about your location.  A vegetable garden can be in the ground, a raised bed, or even grown in containers.  Your plants will need more than just a place to grow.  They will also need sunlight, water, air, soil, fertilizer, and care.  Most vegetables require at least 8 hours of sunlight.   Keep an eye out for pest problems such as insects, diseases and weeds because they will continue to flourish in warm temperatures and high humidity. To help conserve soil moisture a layer of newspaper and mulch can be placed between the rows.  Mulch also aids in weed control. 

Raised beds are an excellent way to get started with gardening. Photo by Molly Jameson.

The result of a beautiful, successful vegetable garden is fresh produce to eat, share with neighbors, family, and friends and even the possibility to sell your harvest.  With patience and practice your gardening skills will improve every year!  Follow the above few tips and you will be well on your way to a great harvest!  For more information about starting a fall garden or any other horticultural or agricultural topic, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office. Happy Gardening

Summer Lawn Weed Control

Summer Lawn Weed Control

Summer weeds are here.  What should we do?  As we are officially into summer you are probably noticing many of those summer weeds poking through your lawn by now, or perhaps they have taken over completely. Do not give up, there is still hope for a beautiful lawn with less weeds.

The first thing is to be able to identify the weed and identify the type of grass.  Now you may be thinking that is impossible and maybe you are thinking why it is important to identify those?  The answer to that question is simply that not all chemicals are the same and understanding what you have and the best time of year to spray for that will save you both time and money.  Weeds fall into three categories: Broadleaf, Grass, and Sedge.  Remember, a weed could be any plant that is out of place.  Weeds will compete with desirable plants for nutrients, water, light, and space.

Once you understand what category your weed falls into the next step is to know the life cycle.  For example, winter annuals will die out naturally as the temperatures increase and a chemical may not be needed.  There are weeds that complete their cycle in one year (winter and summer weeds) and there are weeds that complete their cycle in two years (biennials).  A biennial has vegetative growth the first year and will flower and die the second year, examples are Carolina false dandelion, Oldfield toadflax, and cudweed.

Next you will want to identify the indicator species.  What does this mean?  It means that there are some weeds that grow well in compacted soils like goosegrass and annual bluegrass.  Others like it very wet (poor drainage) such as dollar weed, sedges and torpedo grass.  While there are weeds such as sandbur and rustweed that like it very dry and sandy.  Knowing this can help you do preventative weed control.  Grow a healthy turf starting with the right selection, proper cultural practices, pest control, traffic control, and sanitation.

When you are faced with the decision to use chemicals to combat your lawn weeds there are a few things to know.  There are selective herbicides that control certain species without hurting others (your lawn) and there are nonselective herbicides that control green plants regardless of species.  Also, there are contact herbicides, which are exactly how their name implies.  They affect only the portion of the plant that the herbicide touches.  There are also systemic herbicides which are translocated through plant’s vascular system.

The best time to spray herbicides is when the weeds are actively growing, young and not drought stressed or producing seed heads.  A table below shows the active ingredients best for the three categories of weeds.

Broadleaf Weeds Grassy Weeds Sedge Weeds
Centipede 2-4D + Dicamba +MCPP   Thiencarbazone+iodosulfuron + dicamba Sethoxydim Halosulfuron-methy, Sulfentrazone, Imazaquin, Bentazon,
Bermuda 2-4D + Dicamba +MCPP   Thiencarbazone+iodosulfuron + dicamba Quinclorac Halosulfuron-methy, Sulfentrazone, Imazaquin, Bentazon,
Zoysia 2-4D + Dicamba +MCPP   Thiencarbazone+iodosulfuron + dicamba Fluazifop, Quinclorac Halosulfuron-methy, Sulfentrazone, Imazaquin, Bentazon,
St. Augustine 2-4D + Dicamba +MCPP   Thiencarbazone+iodosulfuron + dicamba None Halosulfuron-methy, Sulfentrazone, Imazaquin, Bentazon,
**temperature restrictions

The key is to identify the type of turf you have and the type of weeds you have in the lawn.  Further, look into if there are any factors that can be adjusted that might be causing the excess of weeds.  And lastly, make sure you are using the right method, chemical, and timing for control.  For more information on summer weeds and lawns, please contact your local county extension office.

Information for this article can be found Managing Weeds in Warm Season Lawns | Home & Garden Information Center (

Florida’s State Wildflower is Great for Pollinators: Coreopsis

Florida’s State Wildflower is Great for Pollinators: Coreopsis

Coreopsis flowers. Photo courtesy UF/IFAS.

A beautiful wildflower that lines the roads and open areas is one of my favorite native pollinating plants. Coreopsis also commonly known as Tickseed was designated our Florida State Wildflower in 1991. It can be found throughout Florida and all 17 species occur in North Florida. Varieties such as Leavenworth’s Swamp (C.nudata), Florida (C. floridana) and Coastalplain (C. gladiata) are found in moist areas and other varieties like Lanceleaf Tickseed (C. lanceolata) and Goldenmane Tickseed (C. basalis) are commonly found in the drier areas of the landscape.

All the varieties of Tickseeds have daisy-like flowers with yellow petals except for the Swamp Tickseed which is more pinkish purple in color. The flower gets its common name by the appearance of the small ovalish seed that has two short spines at one end and looks like a ‘tick’. The most common coreopsis is Coreopsis leavenworthii. This plant can be found in moist pinelands and disturbed sites. You can spot the blooms of bright yellow ray petals with brownish central disk flowers from late spring through late fall. This coreopsis can reach 3 feet in height. It grows like a weed and can quickly establish itself on bare soil. Coreopsis is essentially an annual with our colder winters but produces many seeds that will multiply as long as the plant receives adequate sun and moisture. A special species of coreopsis found only here in the Panhandle is the Chipola coreopsis (C. integrifolia). It is less common and only found along the Chipola River. This 18-24” plant has deep green oval-shaped leaves and deep yellow flowers seen blooming in the Fall, maybe a great time to go kayaking or hiking along the river! The Chipola coreopsis prefers moist soils and some protection from the sun. This variety is so rare that it has been listed endangered by the Florida Department of Agriculture.

Native Lanceleaf Coreopsis. UF/IFAS Photo: Thomas Wright.

Coreopsis is pollinated mostly by small bees and not visited as much by butterflies and other pollinators. They are a great plant to use for a show of color! You can get seeds from your local garden center or from the Florida Wildflower Growers Cooperative ( This Florida-Friendly plant is drought tolerant and can be sown anytime from October to January.