Humans and wildlife find Chickasaw plums delicious. Photo credit: University of Florida/IFAS
There are many trees that can be a great addition to your space that will provide one of the four essential elements food, water, cover, and space. Persimmon thrives in a wide variety of conditions from wet or sandy soil to lowlands or uplands. Deer actively seek out persimmon trees, eating every fruit that is within reach as well as leaves and twigs in the fall and winter. Other wildlife that enjoys the persimmon trees are squirrel, fox, bear, coyote, raccoon, opossum, and various birds including wild turkey. The nectar from flowers provides a significant food resource for pollinator species like bees. These trees are either male or female and at least 3 should be planted together to ensure pollination. Live Oak is a solid tree that many people in this area said survived Hurricane Michael. It provides acorns for food and deep shade. Black Cherry is a host plant for Red-Spotted purple and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Bitter fruit matures during the summer to fall and is used for jams, jellies, or liqueurs. Fruits are highly prized by birds and other wildlife. Wild cherry cough syrup is made from the reddish-brown, fragrant and bitter inner bark. Yaupon Holly is another tree that birds and wildlife feed on the berries throughout the winter when food is scarce. Leaves have the highest caffeine content of any other plant native to North America. Some other trees to consider are Basswood, Red Cedar, Florida Hop tree, Elderberry, Slippery Elm, Sassafras, Chickasaw Plums, and the Toothache Tree.
While yard work is important to maintain an attractive lawn, if done successfully, the resident can spend quality time in other pursuits like watching the wildlife from the front porch.
There are many plants that for the longest time I thought were only a nuisance to the everyday gardener, but I truly learned the phrase “Right Plant, Right Place” with these next few plants that I am going to mention. Smilax is a vine with thorns that is nearly impossible to get rid of and gets into our shrubs and landscape. But in the right place smilax provides shelter and food for wildlife. It has a blue-black berry in the spring and provides medicine, food, and dyes for humans. There are 2 species of smilax that are only found in the panhandle. Dog Fennel is native to fields, woodland edges, and roadsides and can be used as an insecticide and antifungal. It has feather like leaves that are very aromatic. Blackberry can grow wild and it is an all-around amazing plant for vitamins. It’s fruit can help fight cancer and decrease cardiovascular disease. Leaves and bark are useful medicinally and leaves can be used as a tea. The last plant I must mention is the Beauty Berry. It is known for its late fall bright purple fruits called drupes, not berries. This plant attracts birds for food in the fall time in North Florida. The drupes can also be used for jams and jellies. Other plants that are great for attracting wildlife are Spiderwort, Dewberry, and Spanish Needle.
Written by: Kelly Thomas – Agricultural/Food Scientist II with the University of Florida/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center
Imagine walking out your front door with a cup of coffee to admire your garden. A cucumber vine, ripe with crisp, succulent fruit, has grown so large and sprawling that the white staircase handrail is serving as its trellis. The resulting appearance is a lush green entranceway to the front door. The wall of cucumber leaves stands tall behind burgundy-colored day lilies and stokes asters that are shockingly blue. Nearby, buzzing bees feed on fragrant basil flowers. The plum tree planted near the road is heavy with perfectly round reddish-purple fruit that is almost ready to harvest.
Foxtail rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) standing tall in the Dry Garden. Photo Credit: Kelly Thomas – University of Florida/IFAS
You’ve taken up foodscaping, the concept of integrating ornamental plants and edible plants within a traditional landscape. It began during the pandemic with more time spent at home, and the desire to tend to the growth of something. Now, the garden’s bounty has provided groceries, which has proven doubly beneficial as the pandemic continues to disrupt the supply chain and drive up the cost of food.
Brie Arthur sitting on steps next to tomato vines. Photo Credit: Brie Arthur
The concept of foodscaping is not new. In fact, foodscaping has been around in some form or fashion for centuries. In the early 2000’s, Sydney Park Brown, now a UF/IFAS emeritus associate professor, published an EDIS document titled ‘Edible Landscaping.’ Brown describes how edible landscaping allows people to create a multi-functional landscape that increases food security, reduces food costs, and provides fun and exercise for the family, along with other benefits. Foodscaping, another term for edible landscaping, really took off as a movement during the 2008 economic recession.
Around that time, a horticulturist named Brie Arthur wanted to grow vegetables to save money on groceries. However, the restrictions placed by her H.O.A. forced her to venture away from a standard vegetable garden. Within six months, Arthur had won ‘Yard of the Year,’ proving that edible plants can also be aesthetically pleasing, especially when incorporated into a landscape design. Now, her one-acre lot in North Carolina provides almost 70% of what she and her husband consume. Her garden produces food year-round, everything from sweet potatoes, garlic, and pumpkins to edible flowers like dahlias. She even grows sesame and barley, or as she calls it, “future-beer.”
Utrecht blue wheat beginning to form seed heads. Photo Credit: Kelly Thomas – University of Florida/IFAS
Brie Arthur is a charismatic speaker and bestselling author. She continues to be a major proponent of the foodscape movement, inspiring others to realize their landscape’s full potential. Arthur came and gave an energetic and action-packed presentation on foodscaping at UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC) in Quincy, FL on March 5th, 2022. Before the workshop, which was titled ‘A New Era in Foodscaping’ adjourned, participants toured edible displays in Gardens of the Big Bend (GBB), a botanical garden located at the UF/IFAS NFREC. Tour participants walked by golden and red-colored amaranth plants bordered by carrots in the Discovery Garden. Waist-high rosemary plants held their own next to agaves and other desert giants in the Dry Garden.
For more information and advice on foodscaping, check out Brie’s YouTube channel, Brie the Plant Lady. Photos of her garden in North Carolina can be found on her blog. University of Florida resources on edible landscaping/foodscaping can be found via EDIS. And come visit Gardens of the Big Bend in Quincy to view edible garden displays in person!
The February Q&A on Growing Tomatoes offered valuable tips for the home gardener to be successful with tomatoes in 2022. Below are the reference materials related to specific questions that were asked.
Let’s start out with the panels favorite tomatoes including hybrids and heirlooms.
Evan: Supersweet 100, Sungold
Larry: Amelia, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple
Sam: Better Boy, Tasti Lee, Sweethearts
Matt: Mountain Magic, Mountain Rouge, Bella Rosa
Daniel: Black cherry and Big Beef
Why are tomatoes red?
Can we grow tomatoes year around?
I have very sandy/loamy soil. Do I have a chance at successfully growing tomatoes?
What is the best time to start tomatoes in North Florida?
If one grows in raised beds, should one rotate where in the bed tomatoes are planted?
If you plant tomatoes in mid-March, how long will they continue to produce fruit?
I’m thinking of trying hydroponic gardening on a few tomato plants this year. Do you think a 50/50 mix of perlite and vermiculite would be a good approach for a soil medium? I’d like to use 5-gallon buckets and keep maintenance to a minimum.
What tomatoes grow best in inland Bay County? Coastal vs inland considerations.
Best type for all day sun (speak to tomatoes light requirements)
What is the best tomato variety for Northwest Florida? I need one go-to variety for both regular tomatoes and cherry type.
How to get more tomatoes, less vine?
My tomatoes get black on the bottom and rot. What causes this and how do I prevent it?
Do tomatoes need a lot of water?
Why do my tomatoes split/burst/crack while on the vine?
Any suggestions for how to handle especially wet years like last summer? My tomatoes really suffered.
How do I keep the leaves from getting dark spots that spread and kills foliage?
How do you string tomatoes vine to a stake?
What causes catfacing?
Every year I’m having trouble with an amazing amount of insect infestations on my tomatoes & peppers I grow in containers. What can I do to help?
How do marigolds (which variety) or basil aid tomatoes?
Please talk about save tomato seeds to grow. Some can’t afford to buy potted tomato plants.
Can you add nutrients into the soil from last year’s tomatoes to reuse again this year?
As you garden this fall, check out the North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide, compiled by UF/IFAS Leon County Extension.
Getting into vegetable gardening, but don’t know where to start?
Even experienced gardeners know there’s always more to learn. To help both beginners and advanced gardeners find answers to their questions, the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Office put together the North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide. It incorporates multiple resources, including articles, planting calendars, photos, and UF/IFAS EDIS publications.
The North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide covers the many aspects of vegetable gardening, including how to get started, site selection, insects and biodiversity in the garden, soil testing, composting, cover crops in the garden, irrigation, and more.
You can click here to view the digital version of the guidebook. We also have physical copies of the guide available at the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Office (615 Paul Russell Rd., Tallahassee, FL 32301).
Happy fall gardening!
On August 12, 2021, our panel answered questions on a wide variety of landscape topics. Maybe you are asking the same questions, so read on!
Ideas on choosing plants
What are some perennials that can be planted this late in the summer but will still bloom through the cooler months into fall?
Duranta erecta ‘Sapphire Showers’ or ‘Gold Mound’, firespike, Senna bicapsularis, shrimp plant, lion’s ear
Where can native plants be obtained?
Dune sunflower, Helianthus debilis. Photo credit: Mary Salinas UF/IFAS Extension.
Gardening Solutions: Florida Native Plants – see link to FANN: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/native-plants.html
What are some evergreen groundcover options for our area?
Mondo grass, Japanese plum yew, shore juniper, ajuga, ferns such as autumn fern.
What are some ideas for partial morning sun butterfly attracting tall flowers to plant now?
Milkweed, salt and pepper plant, swamp sunflower, dune sunflower, ironweed, porterweed, and salt bush.
I’m interested in moving away from a monoculture lawn. What are some suggestions for alternatives?
Perennial peanut, powderpuff mimosa, and frogfruit.
We are new to Florida and have questions about everything in our landscape.
Florida-Friendly-Landscaping TM Program and FFL Web Apps: https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/
UF IFAS Gardening Solutions: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/
What are some of the top trends in landscaping today?
Houseplants, edible gardens, native plants, food forests, attracting wildlife, container gardening, and zoysiagrass lawns
Artwork broccoli is a variety that produces small heads. Photo credit: Mary Salinas UF/IFAS Extension.
What vegetables are suitable for fall/winter gardening?
Cool Season Vegetables: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/edibles/vegetables/cool-season-vegetables.html
North Florida Gardening Calendar: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/EP451%20%20%20
Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/vh021
How can I add herbs to my landscape?
Herbs in the Florida Garden: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/edibles/vegetables/herbs.html
My figs are green and hard. When do they ripen?
Why Won’t My Figs Ripen: https://www.lsuagcenter.com/profiles/rbogren/articles/page1597952870939
What is best soil for raised bed vegetable gardens?
Gardening in Raised Beds: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/EP472
And there are always questions about weeds
How can I eradicate cogongrass?
Chamber bitter is a troublesome warm season weed in our region. Photo credit: Brantlee Spakes Richter, University of Florida, Bugwood.org
Is it okay to use cardboard for weed control?
The Cardboard Controversy: https://gardenprofessors.com/the-cardboard-controversy/
What is the best way to control weeds in grass and landscape beds?
Weed Management Guide for Florida Lawns: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/EP141
Improving Weed Control in Landscape Planting Beds: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/EP/EP52300.pdf
Can ground water be brackish and stunt plants?
Reclaimed Water Use in the Landscape: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/ss545
How can I prevent erosion from rainwater runoff?
Stormwater Runoff Control – NRCS: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/water/?cid=nrcs144p2_027171
Rain Gardens: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/design/types-of-gardens/rain-gardens.html
What is the best time of the year to propagate flowering trees in zone 8B?
Landscape Plant Propagation Information Page – UF/IFAS Env. Hort: https://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/database/lppi/
Which type of mulch works best on slopes greater than 3 percent?
Landscape Mulches: How Quickly do they Settle?: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/FR052
When should bulbs be fertilized?
Bulbs and More – UI Extension: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/bulbs/planting.cfm
Should I cut the spent blooms of agapanthus?
Agapanthus, extending the bloom time: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/agapanthus.html
Monarch caterpillar munching on our native sandhill milkweed, Asclepias humistrata. Photo credit: Mary Salinas, UF IFAS Extension.
I planted native milkweed and have many monarch caterpillars. Should I protect them or leave them in nature?
It’s best to leave them in place. Featured Creatures: Monarch Butterfly: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/IN/IN780/IN780-Dxyup8sjiv.pdf
How does Vinca (periwinkle) do in direct sun? Will it make it through one of our panhandle summers? Can I plant in late August?
Periwinkles and No more fail with Cora series: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/periwinkles.html#:~:text=Plant%20your%20periwinkles%20where%20they,rot%20if%20irrigated%20too%20frequently.
Insect and disease pests
What to do if you get termites in your raised bed?
The Facts About Termites and Mulch: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/IN651
How to combat fungus?
Guidelines for ID and Management of Plant Disease Problems: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/mg442
Are there preventative measures to prevent diseases when the humidity is very high and it is hot?
Fungi in Your Landscape by Maxine Hunter: http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/marionco/2020/01/16/fungi-in-your-landscape/
If you missed an episode, check out our playlist on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bp0HfdEkIQw&list=PLhgoAzWbtRXImdFE8Jdt0jsAOd-XldNCd
In a garden with a variety of flowers, pollinators will be abundant. Sometimes we don’t always recognize the specific pollinator when we see it, but there are some native pollinators that leave other signs of their activity. One of our medium-sized native bees will leave a distinctive calling card of recent activity in our landscape.
Leafcutter bees have collected circular notches from the edges of a redbud tree. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County.
If you see some of the leaves of trees and shrubs with distinct circular notches on the edges of the leaves, you can be sure the Leafcutter bee is present. The females collect the leaf pieces to make a small, cigar-shaped nest that may be found in natural cavities, such as rooting wood, soil, or in plant stems. Each nest will have several sections in which the female places a ball of pollen and an egg. The emerging larvae then have a plentiful food source in order to develop into an adult bee.
When identifying a leafcutter bee in your landscape, look for a more robust bee with dark and light stripes on the abdomen. These bees also have a hairy underside to their abdomen where they carry the pollen. When loaded with pollen their underside will look yellow.
Leafcutter bees are solitary bees that are not considered aggressive. A sting would only be likely if the bee is handled. Your landscape will have many plants that a leafcutter may use for nesting material. The pollinating benefits of these bees far outweigh any cosmetic injury to the plant leaf margins.
Visit Featured Creatures to see a photo of the leaf pieces made into a nest.