Tips on Building Raised Bed Gardens

Tips on Building Raised Bed Gardens

Want to grow a vegetable garden but don’t know where to start?

Raised bed gardens give you the ability to put a garden anywhere you have at least six hours of sunlight and access to water, regardless of your native soil type.

See the fact sheet below (Or Click Here for the downloadable PDF version!) for tips on how to build a raised bed vegetable garden. And be sure to reach out to your local Extension office with any questions!

Page 1 of the Building Raised Bed Gardens Fact Sheet created by UF/IFAS Leon County.
Page 1 of the Building Raised Bed Gardens Fact Sheet created by UF/IFAS Leon County Extension.
Page 2 of the Building Raised Bed Gardens Fact Sheet created by UF/IFAS Leon County.
Page 2 of the Building Raised Bed Gardens Fact Sheet created by UF/IFAS Leon County Extension.

The 15th Annual Farm Tour is October 15 and 16

The 15th Annual Farm Tour is October 15 and 16

Come on down to the farm! The 15th Annual Farm Tour is October 15 and 16. Image by Millstone Institute of Preservation.

Come on down to the farm! The 15th Annual Farm Tour is October 15 and 16. Image by Millstone Institute of Preservation.

 

Fall is upon us, and that means it is farm tour season!

The 15th Annual Farm Tour is on Saturday, October 15 and Sunday, October 16, 2022. Farmers and producers in 12 counties in North Central Florida and South-Central Georgia will be open to showcase their various farming endeavors. It is a free family weekend of learning, exploration, and fun.

The Farm Tour has been organized and hosted by Millstone Institute of Preservation since 2016. It gives the community the chance to explore local producers in our area and become familiar with the farmers that make up our diverse local food system.

There are 40 farms, ranches, farm-to-table restaurants, markets, vendors, and gardens (including the Leon County “VegHeadz” Demonstration Garden on Saturday!) participating in this year’s Farm Tour, some of which have never participated in the past.

There is much to explore during the 15th Annual Farm Tour, including heritage breed livestock. Photo by Rachel Mathes.

There is much to explore during the 15th Annual Farm Tour, including heritage breed livestock. Photo by Rachel Mathes.

The sites span nearly 140 miles east to west, from Greenville, Florida, to Chipley, Florida, and about 80 miles north to south, from Whigham, Georgia, to Crawfordville, Florida.

Each farm is open to the public at no cost, providing the opportunity for participants to learn the importance of supporting local agriculture and how they can do so.

There are many different types of farms to explore, including seeing a multitude of processes and demonstrations firsthand, such as honey harvesting, cow and goat milking, sawmill operating, bamboo extracting, horse grooming, compost turning, flower arranging, seed saving, wine manufacturing, sausage creating, satsuma juicing, cheese making, kombucha brewing, and much more.

You can also sample and purchase local products at many farm tour sites, including local honey, beeswax and honey products, local eggs, homemade breads, fresh veggies, various locally produced meats (bring a cooler!), pumpkins, vegetable seedlings, kombucha, muscadine wines, handmade soaps, fruit trees, cookbooks, and more. Many locations will also be serving food for sale, such as falafel and hummus; baked goods; beef, bacon, and pork burgers; ice cream and coffee; satsuma slushes, cookies, jellies, and syrups; and much more.   

The Farm Tour Guide includes descriptions and directions to all the farm tour sites. A downloadable version of the Farm Tour Guide is available on the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Facebook or you can download a copy using this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kJIEUcHh1w55BS9y1fpUjfV5yb-MDMJa/view?fbclid=IwAR2Pt0jdjMmZrc9UaJ0tYn_eGnMkem8DvfjdPbkzsTaF8q7D2bFcFLgsoCs

See you down on the farm!

The Fall 2022 Leon County Seed Library Kicks Off August 13

The Fall 2022 Leon County Seed Library Kicks Off August 13

The Fall 2022 Leon County Seed Library Kickoff event starts at 11 a.m. on August 13 at the Collins Main Leon County Library.

The Fall 2022 Leon County Seed Library Kickoff event starts at 11 a.m. on August 13 at the Collins Main Leon County Library.

 

To kick off the Fall 2022 Season of the Leon County Seed Library Program, UF/IFAS Extension Leon County will be at the LeRoy Collins Leon County Main Library (200 W. Park Ave.) Program Room on Saturday, August 13, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with information on raised bed gardening, a hands-on seeding activity, an Ask-a-Master-Gardener booth, and a healthy cooking demonstration.

Although we are still in the full swing of summer, gardeners know it is time to start thinking about planning the fall garden. Although pulling weeds and adding fresh compost can wait a little while, gathering seeds for the new season can be something to think about doing now.

Youth creating garden gnomes at the 4-H station during the 2019 Seed Library Program debut. Photo by UF/IFAS.

Youth creating garden gnomes at the 4-H station during the 2019 Seed Library Program debut. Photo by UF/IFAS.

If you live in or around Tallahassee, the Leon County Seed Library Program can help jump-start your fall garden. Starting August 13, you can go to any of the seven Leon County libraries to check-out three sample vegetable seed packets per month per library card! The Leon County Master Gardener Volunteers are currently busy labeling and packing each of the seed varieties that will be distributed to the seven libraries.

There will be 10 vegetables varieties this season, including a few varieties that have never been featured in the program. If you like to save seeds from your garden, know that all varieties in the Seed Library Program are open-pollinated (by insects, birds, wind), which means if they are not crossed with another variety, the seeds they produce will grow true to form.

The Fall 2022 selection includes:

  • Common Arugula: Deep green with a spicy, peppery, mustard-like flavor
  • Cylindra Beets: Heirloom with long cylindrical roots, good for slicing
  • De Cicco Broccoli: Central light green head and side shoots to extend season
  • Scarlet Nantes Carrots: Sweet, crisp, bright red-orange, seven-inch roots
  • Vates Collards: Slow bolting, large blue-green leaves
  • Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale: Cold tolerant, sweet dark green narrow leaves
  • New Red Fire Lettuce: Crisp and flavorful, green base with red ruffled leaf edges, bolt resistant
  • Peione Parsley: Large flat leaves with sweet flavor
  • French Breakfast Radishes: Mild, spicy flavor with a red top and white bottom
  • Bright Lights Swiss Chard: Rainbow stems, burgundy and green leaves, very mild

The vegetable varieties available starting August 13 for the Fall 2022 season of the Leon County Seed Library Program. Image by Molly Jameson.

The vegetable varieties available starting August 13 for the Fall 2022 season of the Leon County Seed Library Program. Image by Molly Jameson.

 

See you at the Leon County Main Library on August 13!

Trap Crops Help Combat Pests in the Garden

Trap Crops Help Combat Pests in the Garden

Use traps crops, such as sunflowers and sorghum, to lure pests away from your crop. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Use traps crops, such as sunflowers and sorghum, to lure pests away from your crop. Photo by Molly Jameson.

To be a successful gardener, it is important to have an integrated approach to handling obstacles in the garden.

Aphids were lured into this sorghum seed head, which then attracted mealybug destroyer larvae, which are excellent garden predators. Photo by Les Harrison.

Aphids were lured into this sorghum seed head, which then attracted mealybug destroyer larvae, which are excellent garden predators. Photo by Les Harrison.

These considerations include techniques such as planting disease resistant crop varieties, maintaining proper plant spacing, planting at the appropriate time, monitoring the garden and properly identifying insects and diseases, watering uniformly, and many more cultural and preventative measures that will aid in a garden’s success.

As we transition from the relatively mild and dryer days of late spring into the hot and humid punishing days of summer, we often encounter more and more problems in our gardens.

Insects are commonly one of the main challenges we face, as warm temperatures and high humidity promote the growth and expansion of insect populations. To keep pests in check, it is important to consider all our options. If we turn too quickly to chemical controls, we will often encounter insecticidal resistance over time and our beneficial insect populations will be negatively affected.

One alternative to chemical controls to help combat destruction of our crops is by planting trap crops. Trap crops are plants you grow that the insect pest prefers for food and egg laying over the crops you grow that you plan to harvest. These trap crops attract harmful insects, luring them away from your garden veggies.

Sunflowers can attract leaf-footed bugs away from tomatoes. Hand pick and squish any that you see for better control. Photo by Molly Jameson.

Sunflowers can attract leaf-footed bugs away from tomatoes. Hand pick and squish any that you see for better control. Photo by Molly Jameson.

One effective trap crop example, which has proven effective in research studies, is using the combination of sorghum and sunflowers to lure leaf-footed bugs away from your tomatoes. If left unchecked, large clusters of leaf-footed bugs will feed and mate on developing tomato fruit, leaving your tomatoes discolored and distasteful. For tomato growers, it is worth the effort to plant both sorghum and sunflowers about two weeks ahead of your tomato crop. The blooming heads of the sunflowers will lure the leaf-footed bugs in. Hand pick and squish both adults and nymphs off of the sunflowers to help cut back on their populations. As the sunflowers die back, sorghum heads start to emerge, giving you enough time to harvest your tomatoes while the leaf-footed bugs feed on the sorghum panicles.

Another effective trap crop example is to grow blue Hubbard squash at least two weeks ahead of cucurbit crops, such as zucchini, summer squash, or cucumbers. The blue Hubbard squash acts as the trap crop, luring cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and squash vine borers away from the crop.

Buckwheat flowers attract pollinators and predatory insects into the garden. Photo by Janis Piotrowski.

Buckwheat flowers attract pollinators and predatory insects into the garden. Photo by Janis Piotrowski.

Trap crops are also a great tool for drawing in pollinators and natural predators of insect pests into your garden. For example, sweet alyssum and buckwheat flowers attract wasps and hoverflies. The wasps will lay their eggs on caterpillar pests, and when the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae eat the caterpillars as they mature. Hoverflies will lay their eggs on the leaves of the trap crops, which will hatch and feed on mealy bugs and aphids. Additionally, bees will be attracted to the trap crop flowers, introducing more and more pollinators into your garden.

When it comes to being a successful gardener, it is important to have an integrated approach. When cultural and preventative gardening techniques are combined with biological control techniques, such as trap cropping, your garden will be more resilient to pests and diseases, and you will be less reliant on chemical control methods, which should be seen as a last resort.

The Flower Power of Garden Flies

The Flower Power of Garden Flies

While we think of most flies as pests, garden flies, such as Allograpta obliqua species found in Florida, are excellent pollinators and predators of insects. Photo by Jessica Louque, Smithers Viscient, Bugwood.org.

While we think of most flies as pests, garden flies, such as Allograpta obliqua species found in Florida, are excellent pollinators and predators of insects. Photo by Jessica Louque, Smithers Viscient, Bugwood.org.

 

While our sentiments toward flies usually involve fly swatters, believe it or not, not all flies are nuisance pests! Some types of flies can actually be quite helpful in the garden.

These garden flies are nothing like your typical pesky house fly. While house flies and garden flies are both insects in the order Diptera, they are not in the same insect family, which is the next classification down in Linnaean taxonomy.

The nectar-loving garden flies that specifically visit flowers are in the family Syrphidae and are known as Syrphid flies, hoverflies, or flower flies. Although not as well-known in the pollinating world, there are almost 900 species of flower flies in North America, and they can be very colorful and eye-catching in the garden.

Allograpta obliqua flower fly adults are small and have bright yellow and black crossbands on their abdomens. Photo by Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org.

Allograpta obliqua flower fly adults are small and have bright yellow and black crossbands on their abdomens. Photo by Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org.

One of the most common flower flies in Florida is the species Allograpta obliqua. Members of this species, also called hoverflies, are often mistaken as fruit flies, and can therefore be perceived as harmful. But to the contrary, adults cross pollinate many flowers, and hoverfly larvae feed on predators, such as aphids that attack vegetables, fruit trees, cotton, ornamentals, and many wild plants. In fact, when there are numerous hoverfly larvae present, they can reduce aphid infestations by 70 to 100 percent!

Allograpta obliqua adults can be hard to spot, as they are a mere six-to-seven millimeters in length. Although small, they have distinct bright-yellow and black crossbands on their abdomen and become particularly abundant in the spring and summer here in the Florida Panhandle.

So, before you go swatting at any ole fly you see, remember that flower flies are our allies in the garden. Adults will aid in the pollination of our crops and landscape plants, and larvae will help defend our spring and summer veggies from the devastation of harmful insect attacks.

Learn more about Allograpta obliqua hoverfly species at the UF/IFAS Featured Creatures website (https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/beneficial/hover_fly.htm).