Growing Shiitake Mushrooms

Growing Shiitake Mushrooms

Whether you are interested in creating a shiitake mushroom operation or just want to have fun with a backyard production of mushrooms for yourself and others, growing shiitake mushrooms is a fascinating and delicious enterprise.

Below are some great facts about Shiitake mushrooms. They are a wood rotting fungus that grow on a wide variety of hardwood tree species, with “shii” – meaning oak and “take” meaning mushroom in Japanese. Florida is a major market for mushrooms in general, as the State’s population is a large consumer of mushrooms. Fresh mushrooms haven’t always been available at markets in the U.S. Prior to 1972, only dried mushrooms were available. Worldwide, Asia is still the leader in yearly production, boasting a billion-dollar industry.

Please join us on March 12th at the UF/IFAS Extension Franklin County Office on 261 Dr. Frederick S. Humphries St. in Apalachicola for a Shiitake Mushroom Workshop. Learn how to select the correct wood, inoculate logs with spawn, care for the logs and important tips on harvesting & storing the yield. Plus, you’ll get to take home your very own shiitake mushroom log!

Workshop fee is $20. Please register here:

Shiitake Mushroom Workshop Tickets, Tue, Mar 12, 2024 at 10:00 AM | Eventbrite

Chinese Cabbage Becoming Increasingly Popular in Panhandle Gardens

Chinese Cabbage Becoming Increasingly Popular in Panhandle Gardens

Looking for a mid-season vegetable to plant in your garden? Look no further, Chinese cabbage is a great option. This cabbage matures quickly and is ideal for growing in winter’s shorter days and cooler temperatures.

Figure: Bok Choy Harvested & Prepared in a dish.
Credit: Jieli Qiao, Guiyang, Guizhou, China

Growing Asian vegetable crops in Florida has become an increasing trend over the last decade, mostly due to health benefits and profitability by producers. However, the crop is new to many, who are interested in growing and consuming these vegetables. There are two sub-species of Chinese cabbage. The Pe-Tsai group are the broad leaved, compact heading varieties. The head may be six inches across and either round or cylindrical, in shape. The second group is known as Bok Choy (figure). These are non-heading Chinese cabbage varieties that have several thick, white leaf stalks, and smooth glossy, dark green leaf blades clustered together, similar to the way celery grows.

Again, cooler temperatures are key. Warm temps cause the plant to uptake more calcium, making the heads soft and bitter and may contribute to early seed development through bolting. Chinese cabbage matures in around forty to seventy-five days from planting, depending on variety. There’s no specific requirements to growing this cabbage in Florida, just follow the same soil preparation, liming, fertilization, and cultivation practices that you would use for other leafy vegetable garden crops. The main pests and diseases that occur are leaf blight, downy mildew, aphids, and cabbage caterpillars. Leaf blight and downy mildew usually occur in warmer times of the year, with higher temperatures and rain.

Chinese cabbage is very versatile. It’s great in salads, stir fry, pickled and even as a replacement for lettuce on your favorite sandwich. Enjoy!

For more information on Chinese cabbage, please contact your local county extension office.

Information for this article can be found at the UF/IFAS EDIS Publication, “Bok Choy, an Asian Leafy Green Vegetable Emerging in Florida”: & “Cabbage, Chinese – Brassica Campestris L. (Pekinensis Group)”:

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Mangroves, not just for South Florida anymore

Mangroves, not just for South Florida anymore

Today I’ll be spotlighting the mangrove. If you’ve been to the southern part of the State, you’ve most likely come in contact with this truly Florida native plant. They’re an essential part of the shoreline ecosystem in that region and as common as pine trees are to our area. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection estimates 600,000 acres of mangrove forests in the State’s coastal zone. If your investigative skills are sharp, you may now find pockets or singular mangrove plants in the Panhandle.

Mangroves are woody trees that live along tropical and subtropical shorelines in either marine or brackish tidal waters. Typically, mangrove distribution has been found between latitudes 25 degrees south to 25 degrees north. There are 80 species known worldwide with 3 species (red, black & white) historically calling south Florida home.

Black Mangrove in St. Joseph Bay. Credit: Ray Bodrey, UF/IFAS Extension Gulf County.

However, warmer ocean waters and more frequent and stronger tropical storm activity has helped the spread of mangrove seed or “propagules”. Mangroves have been slowly migrating northward in Florida, on both the Atlantic and Gulf sides. From the early 1990’s, researchers began to find mangroves in both Cedar Key and Cape Canaveral.

A multi-state partnership to assess mangrove expansion in the northern Gulf of Mexico began in 2018. Sea Grant Agents from the Panhandle of Florida to Louisiana collaborated to conduct field surveys in chosen coastal wetland and estuary zones. More than 500 plants were recorded over a 3-year period with 188 plants found in Florida. The study also confirmed the abundance of black mangrove species due to their ability to withstand light freezing temperatures over red and white mangroves.

Red Mangrove Seedling in St. Joseph Bay. Credit: Ray Bodrey, UF/IFAS Extension Gulf County.

As for their impact on our Panhandle wetland ecosystems, one consistent theme found in the literature is that there are ecological trade-offs for consideration by coastal scientists and natural resource managers (Osland et al, 2022). The benefits of mangroves are broad. Mangroves have been shown to filter runoff, trap carbon in peat, act as a buffer against flooding, improve water quality, and to provide an amazing habitat and food web for invertebrates, fish, terrapins and many bird species. Mangrove range expansion may also affect wetland stability in the face of extreme climatic events and rising sea levels and be used as a shoreline stabilization technique, as taught in the Florida Master Naturalist Program: Mangroves are also a pollinator plant and a favorite of honeybees. Mangrove honey has become a sought-after delicacy for many and a niche crop for south Florida beekeepers. But what about the negatives? Some of the environmental concerns are increased nuisance insects, altered food webs, freeze vulnerability and the economic factor of reduced accesses to fishing areas (Osland et al, 2022).

With mangrove expansion being a relatively new topic, researchers, naturalists and plant enthusiasts alike, will be following the movement with great enthusiasm.

For more information about mangroves, contact your local county extension office.


Osland, M. J., Hughes, A. R., Armitage,R., Scyphers, S. B., Cebrian, J., Swinea, S. H., Shepard, C. C., Allen, M. S., Feher, L. C., Nelson, J. A., O’Brien, C. L., Sanspree, R., Smee, D. L., Snyder, C. M., Stetter, A. P., Stevens, P. W., Swanson, K. M., Williams, L. H., Brush, J. M., … Bardou, R. (2022). The impacts of mangrove range expansion on wetland ecosystem services in the southeastern United States: Current understanding, knowledge gaps, and emerging research needs. Global Change Biology, 28, 3163–3187.

Turfgrass to Seagrass: Become a Scallop Sitter!

Turfgrass to Seagrass: Become a Scallop Sitter!

There are many interesting and important ways to volunteer for Extension, such as being a Master Gardener for horticulture, a 4-H volunteer for youth development and even being a Scallop Sitter for natural resources!

We need your help! Become a Scallop Sitter!

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and UF/IFAS Extension – Florida Sea Grant have partnered to implement an innovative community-driven effort to restore scallop populations, and we need your help! “Scallop Sitter” volunteers are trained to assist in Bay, Gulf and Franklin Counties. The goal of the program is to increase scallop populations in our local bays. Scallop sitters help reintroduce scallops into suitable areas from which they have disappeared.

Volunteers manage predator exclusion cages of scallops, which are either placed in the bay or by a dock. The cages provide a safe environment for the scallops to live and reproduce, and in turn repopulate the bays. Volunteers make monthly visits from June until December to their assigned cages where they clean scallops (algal and barnacles can attach), check mortality rate and collect salinity data that helps us determine restoration goals and success in targeted areas.

Register here:

Next Steps:

1. Click on the “reserve a spot” to select the county you are participating in.*You must provide your name, contact information and date of birth to secure an FWC permit for your cage!

2. You will be sent a registration survey via email (closer to the scallops, cage & supply pickup date or you may fill out a survey onsite) , view the virtual training link:

You’ll receive an invite to our Panhandle Scallop Sitter Facebook Group.

DEADLINE for steps 1 & 2 is May 25th!

3. Pick up your scallops, cage & supplies!

Pickup Information (all times local)

St. George Sound Volunteers

Date: Thursday, June 1st                

Time: 10:00 AM – 1:00   PM                                    

Location: FSU Coastal & Marine Lab (across the canal – see road signage) 

3618 US-98, St. Teresa, FL 32358

St. Joseph Bay Volunteers

Date: Thursday, June 8th                                

Time: 10:00 – 1:00 PM                                             

Location: St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve Lodge                      

3915 State Road 30-A, Port St. Joe, FL 32456  

 St. Andrew Bay Volunteers

Date: Thursday, June 16th                                  

Time: 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM                                      

Location: UF/IFAS Extension Bay County Office                     

2728 E. 14th St., Panama City, FL 32401-5022

*We know issues happen from time to time with scallop populations. It’s a bummer. If you loose a significant amount of scallops early in this year’s program, we will do our best to accommodate our volunteers with a “second wave” scallop stocking event in August. Also, looking for other ways to help our program? We plan to offer cage building workshops in the fall, stay tuned!

How Weather Affects Citrus and Other Dooryard Fruit Varieties

How Weather Affects Citrus and Other Dooryard Fruit Varieties

The weather is the most important factor determining where certain fruits can be successfully grown. Terms such as chilling requirement and cold hardiness play a major role in both species and variety selection.

Most fruits which grow in the Panhandle are deciduous, meaning that during the winter, they lose their leaves and go through a semi to full dormancy period. This period is a much needed rest and reset for the plant. The cool season actually helps the plant to rebound for another fruiting season and affects how well the plant will yield fruit. This is where the term “chilling hours” comes into play.

Temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit are considered “chilling”.  The number of hours below 45 degrees accumulated throughout the winter determines the total amount of chilling hours. Different species of citrus and dooryard fruit, along with different cultivars of these plants differ in the amount of chilling hours need for that all important rest & reset period. Satsuma is a popular fruit trees in our area, as it is by far the most cold hardy citrus. Evidence suggests that the satsuma can survive a temperature as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

Figure 1. Mature satsumas ready for harvest.

Credit. Pete Anderson. UF/IFAS Extension.

What happens if the plant doesn’t receive the needed amount of chilling hours? Plant hormones can be disrupted, and both leafing and blooming could be light and come outside of the normal range of the season. So, where do we stand in the Panhandle for overall chilling hours? Typically, we see approximately 500 hours chilling hours. Therefore, its best to plant citrus and dooryard fruit that have the characteristic of needing 500 or less hours for chilling. Please see this informative document on citrus and dooryard fruit varieties:

Now, on to the term cold hardiness. By definition, this is the plants ability to withstand cool season temperatures without injury. Most tropical fruits cannot tolerate our Panhandle temperatures. Those of us that cut back banana trees every year know this all too well. To check your plant hardiness zone, please see the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map:

Before you plant a fruit tree, make sure you understand about its cold hardiness and whether or not it has a chilling requirement. This will both save you money and a headache, in the end. If you’re in doubt about a particular variety, contact your local extension office.

Information for this article can be found at the UF/IFAS EDIS Publications, “Dooryard Fruit Varieties: & “The Satsuma Mandarin”:

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.