Thinking about Planting a Tree?

Thinking about Planting a Tree?

Need tips on planting and caring for trees?  The primary focus in care of your newly planted tree is root development. It takes several months for roots to establish and newly planted trees and shrubs do not have a very strong root system. Start by digging the hole in a popcorn bowl shape. Once planted, backfill around the root system, but be careful not to compact the soil as this will hinder root growth. Be sure to keep the topmost area of the root ball exposed, about one to two inches. A layer of mulch will be applied here.

Frequent watering is much needed, especially if you are planting in the summer. Water thoroughly, so that water percolates below the root system. Shallow watering promotes surface root growth, which will make the plant more susceptible to stress during a drought. Concentrate some of the water in a diameter pattern a few feet from the trunk. This will cause the root system to grow towards the water, and thus better establish the root system and anchor the tree.

Figure: A Traditional Staking Option. Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS Extension.

Mulch is important in the conservation of soil moisture. Pine needles, bark, wood chips, and other organic materials make a great mulch. A three inch layer of mulch will usually suffice. It’s important to keep the mulch a few inches from the trunk as mulching too close to the tree trunk can cause rot.

You should always prune the bare roots of trees during planting. These exposed roots in containers can be damaged in shipping and removing some of the roots will help trigger growth. Pruning some of the top foliage can also reduce the amount of water needed for the plant to establish, as well. Trees and shrubs grown and shipped in burlap or containers usually need very little pruning.

Newly planted trees often have a difficult time establishing if the root system cannot be held in place. Strong winds and rain can cause the plant to tip over. Avoid this by staking the plant for temporary support. A good rule of thumb to determine staking need is if the trunk diameter measures three inches or less, it probably needs some support! Tie the stake to the plant every six inches from the top. However, only tie the trunk at one spot. Don’t tie too tightly so that the tree has no flexibility. This will stunt the growth of the tree.

Following these tips will help ensure your tree becomes well established in your landscape. For more information please contact your local county extension office.

Information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication: “Planting and Establishing Trees” by Edward F. Gilman and Laura Sadowiski: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf%5CEP%5CEP31400.pdf

Supporting information also provided by UF/IFAS Extension Forestry Specialist Dr. Patrick Minogue, of the North Florida Research Education Center in Quincy, Florida.

Choosing the Right Dooryard Fruit Varieties

Choosing the Right Dooryard Fruit Varieties

We have many choices of fruit that can be grown in the Florida Panhandle. For us hobby or dooryard growers, fruit trees can be an interesting crop to manage and most find it to be a beautiful addition to home landscapes. However, temperature and variety selection are key.

Blueberry Crop at UF/IFAS Plant Science Research & Education Unit. Photo Credit: Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS

Most fruit trees grown in the Panhandle are more temperate varieties, rather than tropical and subtropical fruits. Depending on the variety, winters in northern Florida may be too cold or may be too long for some fruit trees. Cold hardiness is a term used on fruit tree labels and reference guides. This refers to the plant’s ability to survive cooler or even freezing temperatures. In contrast, summer heat can also play a role in survivability. Some varieties are intolerant to excessive heat and humidity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed a Plant Hardiness Zone Map that is helpful in selecting a variety of fruit tree: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/. This is a standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants will thrive in their location. Northern Gulf County is in Zone 8b (15 to 20 degrees F), while coastal Gulf is in Zone 9a (20 to 25 degrees F).

Chilling requirement is another important topic when deciding on variety. Temperate zone fruit go through a “rest period” during the dormant months. For these fruit trees, a minimum length of time of cooler weather is needed for proper flowering to occur once favorable temperatures arrive. This rest period is essentially a reset. For the Panhandle, temperatures below 45 degrees F are known as chilling temperatures. The number of hours during the fall and winter that reach below this temperature equals the total chilling hours. For the Panhandle, this is rarely fewer than 500 hours. A plant that does not receive ample chilling will most likely be slow in bud and leaf development. Leaf expansion will be in increments throughout the year instead of in one period. On the other hand, colder, longer winters can cause fruit trees to end the rest stage early and begin to bud as soon as warmer temperatures arrive. This circumstance can cause cold injury later, as the Panhandle is historically known for late cold spells.

Citrus is a dooryard fruit, however it’s a subtropical fruit tree and not technically temperate. However, there are some varieties that thrive in the Panhandle. Another key to growing citrus, is to select varieties with different fruit maturity seasons. This way you can enjoy citrus year-round.

Some examples of dooryard fruit trees and varieties that are suitable for northern Florida are:

Apple: ‘TropicSweet’, ‘Anna’, ‘Dorsett Golden’

Blueberry: ‘Rabbiteye’, ‘Climax’, ‘Highbush’

Grapefruit: ‘Marsh’, ‘Ruby Red’

Lemon: ‘Myer’

Nectarine: ‘Suncoast’

Orange/Mandarin: ‘Navel’, ‘Parson Brown’, ‘Valencia’, Satsuma

Peach: ‘Gulfcrest’, ‘Gulfking’, ‘Gulfprince’

Pear: ‘Ayers’, ‘Baldwin’, ‘Kieffer’

Pecan: ‘Elliot’, ‘Stuart’, ‘Moreland’

So, where do I find information on varieties? The UF web publication “Dooryard Fruit Varieties” is a great resource. Also contact your local county extension office for more information.

Information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication: “Dooryard Fruit Varieties” by J. G. Williamson, J. H. Crane, R. E. Rouse, and M. A. Olmstead: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/MG/MG24800.pdf

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

The Sweet Treat Known as the Tupelo Honey Festival

The Sweet Treat Known as the Tupelo Honey Festival

The Annual Tupelo Honey Festival will be held Saturday, May 15th from 9 am – 4 pm central time at Lake Alice Park in Wewahitchka. This is your chance to take part in a local treat. Area honey producers will be on hand to sell their honey in a variety of sizes. There will also be food, art and crafts, and live music.

For decades, tupelo honey has been synonymous with Gulf county. The nectar from the tupelo gum tree (Nyssa ogeche), produces some of the finest honey in the world. The common name “tupelo” is derived from language of the Muscogee Nation, also known as the Creek Indian Nation. The meaning of the word is “swamp tree”, as this tree flourishes in areas of wet soils and seasonal flooding. Gulf County is home to one of the largest tupelo forests on earth.

A honeybee visiting tupelo blossoms.

A honeybee visiting tupelo blossoms. Photo Credit: Gulf County Tourist Development Council.

The tupelo bloom season lasts from approximately mid-April to the end of May. This is an anxious time for beekeepers. Tupelo blooms are very temperamental and delicate in nature. For this short period, beekeepers hope for little wind or rain and no cold temperatures, as any of these factors can make or break tupelo honey production. Regardless of seasonal impacts, the demand for Gulf County’s tupelo honey never subsides.

Please visit http://www.tupelohoneyfestival.com/ for more information on the festival. For more information on beekeeping, contact your local county extension office.

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Citrus Spotlight: ‘Parson Brown’, A Unique Sweet Orange

Citrus Spotlight: ‘Parson Brown’, A Unique Sweet Orange

The Sunshine State produces a wide selection of citrus, with a number of varieties that can be grown right here, in your Panhandle dooryard. And, what is more satisfying than picking fresh fruit from your very own trees? So, are you looking for a different variety to plant? The ‘Parson Brown’ sweet orange may be of interest. It can certainly add uniqueness to your dooryard citrus grove.

Originating in China, orange varieties began being introduced in Europe in the fifteenth century. As for introduction to America, Columbus brought orange seeds to the new world on his second voyage in 1493. The first plantings in Florida were around 1513 in the settlement of St. Augustine. For the ‘Parson Brown’, a chance seedling originated at the home of Reverend N.L. Brown near Webster in 1856. Sumter and Seminole counties are still home to some of the largest densities of ‘Parson Brown’ orange trees in the state.

Parson Brown Sweet Orange

Figure 1: ‘Parson Brown’ Sweet Orange. Credit: D.P.H. Tucker, Ray Bodrey, UF/IFAS.

The Parson Brown, however, is often overlooked. The most popular dooryard sweet orange varieties grown throughout Florida are Navel, Hamlin, Valencia and Pineapple. Availability of this variety in our region is not easily found either, as you may have to search to find a tree.

Unlike the short, round appearance of many citrus trees, the Parson Brown tends to grow tall and slim. The Parson Brown’s more upright tree structure is very distinctive. A specimen will certainly stand out in a grove. The fruit and yield rival a Hamlin orange, particularly when grown in heavy, hammock soils rather than sandy soils with low organic content. The variety is also not as marketable as the Hamlin on a commercial level, due to the heavier seediness. You can expect at least 10 seeds per fruit. Average diameter of fruit is between 2 ½” to 2 ¾”. Harvest season for fruit is generally between October and January. Evidence suggests that along with the ‘Sugar Belle’ variety, the ‘Parson Brown’ may be more disease resistant, specifically more tolerant to citrus greening. HLB or citrus greening is a disease that has devastated both commercial production and dooryard citrus across the state.

Contact your local county extension office for more information. Also, for more information on growing citrus in Florida, see the UF/IFAS Extension EDIS publication, “Citrus Culture in the Home Landscape” by Robert E. Rouse and Mongi Zekri.

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

Go Bananas in Your Landscape!

Go Bananas in Your Landscape!

Bananas are a great choice for your landscape, whether as an edible fruit producer or simply as an ornamental, giving your space a tropical vibe.

Bananas are native to southeast Asia, however, grow well across Florida. Complementary plants that can be paired with bananas in the landscape are bird of paradise (banana relative), canna lily, cone ginger, philodendron, coontie, and palmetto palm, just to name some.

Bananas are very easy to manage during the warmer months. Bananas are water loving, and that’s putting it lightly. Planting in vicinity of an eave on your home is a good measure for site suitability. Roof rainwater will drastically increase the growth of the banana tree and decrease the need for supplemental irrigation. Banana trees will need full sun and high organic moist soils create the best environment. For nutrition, a seasonal one-pound application of 6-2-12 fertilizer is a good practice to sustain older trees. Young trees should be fertilized every two months for the first year at a rate of a half-pound.

Musa basjoo

Musa basjoo is one of the most cold hardy banana varieties. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS Extension

If there is a con to banana trees, it’s their cold hardiness. Some varieties fair well and others some not so much. ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ (Musa acuminate) is a popular variety that is found in many garden centers in the state. It produces fruit very well, but it is not very cold hardy. ‘Pink Velvet’ (Musa velutina) produces fruit with a bright pink peel, but isn’t very cold hardy either. A couple of cold hardy ornamental varieties are the ‘Japanese Fiber’ (Musa basjoo) and ‘Black Thai’ (Musa balbisiana), which is by far the most cold hardy, with the ability to easily combat below freezing temperatures.

freeze damage on a banana tree

Freeze damage on a banana tree. Photo Credit: Ray Bodrey, University of Florida Extension – Gulf County

Regardless of cold hardiness, in many cases, banana trees will turn brown after freezing temperatures occur or even if the temperatures reach just above the freezing mark, but will bounce back in the spring. Until then, it’s important not to prune away the brown leaves or trunk skin. These leaves act as an insulator and help defend against freezing temperatures. Usually, the last freezing temperatures that may occur in the Panhandle are around the first of April. So, to be safe, pruning can begin by mid to late April. When pruning, be sure to be equipped with a sharp knife, gloves and work clothes. Banana trunk skin and leaves can be quite fibrous and the liquid from the tree can stain clothing and hands.

So, what’s the best variety of fruiting bananas? Most ornamental bananas do not produce tasty fruit. If you are looking for a production banana, ‘Lady Finger’, ‘Apple’, and ‘Ice Cream’ are popular varieties, but are better suited for the central and southern parts of the state.

For more information, contact your local county extension office.

Supporting information for this article can be found on the UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions website.

Also, for more information see the UF/IFAS EDIS publication, “Banana Growing in the Florida Home Landscape”, by Jonathan H. Crane and Carlos F. Balerdi.

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.