Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE Program Summary: Native Pollinators and their Favorite Flowers

Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE Program Summary: Native Pollinators and their Favorite Flowers





The Q&A on Native Pollinators and their Favorite Flowers offered valuable information on many types of flowers that feed our many species of pollinators in Northwest FL.  Below are the reference materials related to specific questions that were asked along with notes from the panel discussions.


  • Stephen Greer was asked which garden perennials are best for pollinators, he mentioned that Blanketflower, Cardinal Flower, Black Eyed Susan were his top three.


  • Julie McConnell was asked, what are some shrubs to benefit birds and pollinators? She stated that insects forage off lawn grasses, but good shrubs are Wax Myrtle, Saw Palmetto, American Beautyberry, Vibernum and Holly Species. Sandy Soil Pollinators: Firebush, Holly, Saw Palmetto, all drought tolerant and good for pollinators.




  • What about Winter Pollinator Plants?
    • Winter: Mahonia, Fatsia, both good plants for pollinators in shady areas, also Beth added that winter vegetables help pollinators in the winter, such as carrot, wild radish, provide forage for bees, bumblebees and plasterer bees, carpenter bees. Matt Lollar said daikon radish is another good pollinator plant for fall and winter.


  • Question from Facebook: Are Loquat trees good for pollinators. How large do they get and when do they bloom? Do they need shade or full sun?







  • Better access to native plants: Florida Native Plant Society
    • There are Native Plant Nurseries in Bay and Leon County, you can find them on google.
    • Some Master Gardner Volunteer programs sell native plants at their sales!


  • Stephen: What methods have been successful to approach HOA’s to approve of Native plants in homeowner’s properties?
    • Build consensus about native plants before the meeting.
    • Covenants or Bylaws. Covenants are less enforceable, Bylaws have enforcement ability.


  • Beth: Do we need to supply water for pollinators? YES!






This episode of Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE! is available to watch at

Stressed Out Potatoes

Stressed Out Potatoes


Typical Hollow Heart condition as seen on this Red Lasoda potato. Image Credit: Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS

Typical Hollow Heart condition as seen on this Red Lasoda potato. Image Credit: Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS

One of the most frustrating things about gardening is finding something wrong with a crop that cannot be fixed. I witnessed this last week when checking on a problem with some recently harvested potatoes.

Sometimes potatoes that look perfect on the outside might not be perfect on the inside. Unfortunately, this is the case when potatoes are afflicted by the physiological disorder “hollow heart” or “brown center”.

The disorder that causes hollow heart or brown center in the potato tuber manifests when cells die inside while potatoes are growing too quickly or unevenly, such as when recovering from environmental stress or over fertilization.

Weather extremes during tuber development cause plant stress. Weather conditions that may cause brown center are early season cool nights, which cause soil temperatures to be below the mid-50s for around a week or longer. Soil moisture at 80% or greater may also cause the same brown center symptoms.

Typical brown center t condition as seen on this Red Lasoda potato. Image Credit: Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS

Typical Brown Center condition as seen on this Red Lasoda potato. Image Credit: Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS

Hollow heart is typically caused by swings from low to high soil moisture and overapplication of nitrogen. To mitigate this condition, consistent irrigation practices and spit fertilizer applications have been shown to be effective.

Additionally, if hollow heart or brown center is a typical problem for a given growing area, selection of cultivars that are less susceptible to this condition is beneficial, since there is quite a bit of variation among cultivars / varieties.

The final message is one of good news, if brown center or hollow heart is noticed at potato harvest this year, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate this issue for future growing seasons.

For more information, please check out the reference for this article, UF/IFAS publication HS945 “Potato Physiological Disorders—Brown Center and Hollow Heart”

Bean Spotting Hits Later This Year

Bean Spotting Hits Later This Year

Snap Bean leaf with common bacterial spot - Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS Extension

Snap Bean leaf with common bacterial spot – Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS Extension

As snap bean season is winding down and daytime temperatures regularly approach the lower 90s, common bacterial blight is making its presence known. In March or April, when snap bean plants are young and full of fresh growth, vegetable gardeners would never guess that their leafy plants could turn spotty and ugly during harvest time.

That is exactly what happens when daytime temperatures steadily remain in the mid-80s and low-90s, and nighttime temperatures are in the lower 70s. The perfect storm for this bacterial disease occurs when these temperatures combine with afternoon and evening showers, creating sticky, humid nights perfect for the proliferation of the causal agent, Xanthomonas campestris pv. Phaseoli.

Common bacterial blight begins showing up on older leaves first and then slowly spreads to younger growth and pods. If plants are left untreated, disease progression will continue if rainy nights and warm daytime temperatures continue. If weather conditions are consistently dry, daytime temperatures are above 90 and overhead irrigation is limited to mornings or eliminated, the blight will stop progressing to new growth. This disease may also be transmitted by insects.

Note the brown, water-soaked spots on the underside of this leaf, typical of a bacterial infection - Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS Extension

Note the brown, water-soaked spots on the underside of this leaf, typical of a bacterial infection – Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS Extension

If conditions favorable to common bacterial blight exist, preventative sprays of copper fungicide will work to

Snap Bean leaf with common bacterial spot - Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS Extension

Snap Bean leaf with common bacterial spot – Closeup – Image Credit Matthew Orwat, UF/IFAS Extension

reduce infection and damage to crop, but there is no product to cure what has already been infected.

One of the best techniques available to manage common bacterial blight in beans is to rotate crops regularly so that legumes are not grown on the same ground year after year. This is easily accomplished in a diverse home garden with different raised beds or garden plots.

To learn more about common bacterial blight of bean follow these links to the NFREC Plant Pathology U-Scout page or read IFAS Extension PUBLICATION #PP-62

Charapita Pepper, A Unique Flavor in the Garden

Charapita Pepper, A Unique Flavor in the Garden

charapita pepper fruit

Fruit of the charapita pepper. Image Credit: Stephanie Gainer, UF / IFAS Extension Master Gardener Volunteer

As spring has officially sprung, my mind has been turning to what delectable delights we may be able to grow this year in our Extension Demonstration Vegetable Garden. A few years ago, I was introduced to the very flavorful pepper, aji charapita (to be referred to as charapita) by one of my master gardener volunteers, Stephanie Gainer. When we met Stephanie and I discovered we both shared a love for spicy cuisine, so she introduced me to the charapita. I thought I had heard of all the peppers in cultivation, but when I heard this unusual flavorful pepper, I was astonished!

The charapita pepper is a small pea sized pepper that begins purplish brown and is a bright orange/yellow when ripe. It is a native of the Peruvian Amazon and holds the designation of being the most expensive pepper when sold by dry weight. Reasoning for this is two-fold, since it is very difficult to germinate, and the fruit is very small in size. They also require warm nights to fruit, so production is not suited for every climate. Also, we have found that they do best in the central Florida Panhandle when given afternoon shade after 6-8 hours of full sun in the morning. Aside from these requirements, cultivation is very similar to other hot peppers. As a compact plant, it is ideal for container culture.


Large but compact charapita pepper plant in a container.

Large but compact charapita pepper plant in a container. Image Credit: Stephanie Gainer, UF / IFAS Master Gardener Volunteer

When germinating seed, it is recommended to grow them indoors, 8-12 weeks before the last frost date in your area, in a very sunny location with a heating pad at the base of the starting pots.  Once temperatures are consistently above 50°F during the night it is ok to set them out in the garden.

As with other hot peppers, they should be fertilized with a standard vegetable fertilizer blend at planting and periodically thereafter based on the needs of the plant in ones individual garden.

Charapita has a unique citrus and tropical fruit aroma and taste, providing the usual heat associated with cayenne peppers (about 50,000 Scoville heat units). It is often used fresh in small amounts when flavoring rice and seafood dishes but is also used as a dried ingredient for chili and grilled meat preparations. Some have said it is best added at the end of cooking. Most likely, it would be an excellent addition added fresh to finely chopped salads, to spice up traditional chimichurri or in Pico de Gallo.

In the central Florida Panhandle, we have been unsuccessful at overwintering plants so far, but others by the coast or in central or south Florida might have more success.

For more information about growing peppers in your home garden, please follow this link for a Gardening Solutions publication on the topic.

An Extension colleague of mine, Gary Bachman of Mississippi State University, has penned this excellent article about specialty peppers with a great pickling recipe for charapita. Happy growing!

Prevent Pests Later With Dormant Treatments Now

Prevent Pests Later With Dormant Treatments Now

Citrus red mite leaf damage, red mites may overwinter, but are susceptible to control by dormant oil. Image UF / IFAS HS-806

During cold winter weather, one doesn’t often think about spraying fruit trees and ornamental shrubs for spring insects and diseases. It’s just not on the radar, but it turns out that January and February are the best time to apply dormant sprays to combat insect and disease issues. Many ask, “What are dormant sprays”?

Dormant sprays act on insects or disease pathogens differently. Many insects overwinter on trees and shrubs, either as eggs or immobilized in a protective shell (scale insects).  Horticultural oils applied during cool dormant conditions work by smothering the eggs of some insect species or encapsulated scale insects. Since they cannot breathe, they die.

On the other hand, dormant sprays containing copper or sulfur actually kill latent fungal spores that are ready to infect the moment weather warms. They also burn tender young plant tissue, so can only be used when the plant is not actively growing. These preventative sprays can delay disease incidence in early spring and allow for reduction or elimination of regular fungicide applications. The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” surely applies to these situations.

Phomopsis leaf and stem symptoms. Credit: N. Flor, UF/IFAS

Phomopsis leaf and stem symptoms. Dormant fungicide sprays may lessen the severity of this disease. 
Credit: N. Flor, UF/IFAS

There are several products on the market for dormant applications.

Dormant oil is a type of horticultural oil, made of refined petroleum products, for application on trees or shrubs when the trees are not actively growing. It has been in use for over 100 years. They are effective in the suppression of scale insects and mites. Care must be used to not apply them when daytime temperatures are above 75 degrees or night temperatures below 28 degrees. Other horticultural oils exist that may be applied during the growing season to control soft-bodied insects, but not during extremely hot weather. Many different brands exist, some are certified organic. They can be purchased at most garden centers, but the best selection is usually found at your independent nursery or farm store.


Cottony Cushion Scale, often controlled by Dormant Horticultural Oil. Image Credit, Matthew Orwat, UF / IFAS Extension

Dormant fungicides can be classified into two groups. Those that contain copper and those that contain sulfur. The most common preventative remedy for fungal disease had been lime-sulfur. It is no longer available in small home garden quantities due to shipping container restrictions, it can be purchased online in larger quantities for use in Florida. When applied to dormant plants, lime sulfur actually works by sanitizing the stem, killing all fungal spores. It cannot be used during the growing season since it burns leafy tissue. Caution must be taken when mixing and loading since, being an acidic product, can burn the skin. Wear chemical resistant gloves when applying (bought at your local hardware store for $4.00-$10.00), safety goggles and follow all label directions carefully since it is caustic and labeled DANGER. Also, never apply lime-sulfur within one month of horticultural oil applications. It should be applied in early to mid February, avoiding hard freezes for the 24 hours around application time. Sulfur based fungicide sprays may also be used instead of Lime-Sulfur as a dormant application.

Dormant copper sprays are effective on both bacterial and fungal pathogens and used primarily on fruit crops for the suppression of many fruit diseases including fire blight, bacterial leaf spot, powdery mildew, downey mildew and anthracnose. There are several different brands of copper fungicide preparations on the market, most nurseries and garden supply centers will have some in stock. Always read the label for proper personal protective equipment and dosage rates, to avoid copper buildup in the soil over time.

For more information, contact your local extension agent or consult these extension publications from: Disease Management Strategies, Florida Blueberry Disease Guide and Pest Control Using Horticultural Oils .

This article was originally published on January 2016, and has been modified to reflect current information.