Save the Rainy Day

Save the Rainy Day

Food Grade Barrel converted to rain barrel

Rain Barrel made from food grade container.

A great way to save money on your water bill and reduce the amount of water withdrawn from the aquifer is to use a rain barrel.  The water savings from using stored rainwater rather than municipal or well water can be substantial over a period of time.  A rain barrel may not provide all the water needed to sustain all your plants, but it can certainly benefit some houseplants or even an entire vegetable garden. If you currently have a standard irrigation system, you may be able to turn off the sprinkler zones that are in flower beds and use stored rainwater instead.

Typically, the rain barrel is connected to the gutter downspout of the house.  For a general calculation, you can collect about a half-gallon of water per square foot of roof area during a 1 inch rainfall.  A typical ½ inch rainfall event will fill a 50-55 gallon barrel.  Multiple rain barrels can be linked together with PVC or flexible hose to increase storage capabilities.  However, with a screen modification on the lid, the rain barrel can be located anywhere in order to collect open rain fall.  It will take a lot longer to fill, but may be more practical if the area you want to water is a good distance from the house.

Now is the time to prepare for the long, hot season to come.  If you want to learn more, please join the Walton County Environmental Department and UF/IFAS at the Walton County Extension office on Monday, March 7, 2022 for an educational lecture on stormwater and demonstration on how to build a rain barrel.  The first 20 participants may also sign up to build a take-home rain barrel.  The program begins at 1:00 pm and is free to the public. Those interested in assembling a ready-to-go rain barrel will need to pay $35.  Custom assembly will begin at 3:30 p.m.  Please contact the Walton County Extension office to register.  850-892-8172.

Leon County’s Spring Seed Library Program Starts February 12

Leon County’s Spring Seed Library Program Starts February 12

Join us via Zoom on Saturday, February 12, for our Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop. Graphic by Molly Jameson.

Join us via Zoom on Saturday, February 12, for our Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop. Graphic by Molly Jameson.

Believe it or not, spring is right around the corner! For gardeners, this is the time to start thinking about our spring season garden plan and starting seeds. Many spring vegetables, such as tomatoes, benefit from an early start indoors or in a greenhouse, planted in containers. This gives them a greater chance to avoid the intense heat of summer and beat many insect and disease life cycles.

Need seeds to start your garden? Well, if you live in Leon County, you are in luck. Starting Saturday, February 12, 2022, residents of Leon County can “check out” up to three sample seed packets per month with their library card as part of Leon County’s Seed Library Program. The vegetable seeds can be checked out from any of the seven library branch locations. Leon County residents can apply for a library card online at the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library online card application page (https://lcpl.ent.sirsi.net/custom/web/registration/).

Here are the vegetable seed varieties that will be available starting February 12:

  • Mammolo Basil. Mammolo basil has an Italian aroma and a bushy, compact growth habit that is great for containers.
  • Maxibel Haricot Vert Beans. Maxibel Haricot Vert produces prolific beans with long, slender pods and tender texture.
  • Natsu Fushinari Cucumbers. Natsu Fushinari is a deep green Japanese-type of cucumber with eight-inch fruit and glossy skin. It has resistance to diseases in high heat.
  • Little Fingers Eggplant. Little Fingers eggplant produces clusters of tender, long, deep purple fruit that can be harvested small or large.
  • Pinkeye Purple Hull Southern Peas. Pinkeye Purple Hull Southern is a semi-bushy, early-season pea that produces prolific dark purple pods. It has resistance to many diseases.
  • Bull Nose Peppers. Bull Nose is an old pepper variety, dating back to the mid-to-late 1800s, and has medium to large, sweet fruit that is great for cooking or salads.
  • New Zealand Spinach-like Greens. New Zealand spinach is not a true spinach, but it loves the heat and produces succulent leaves that are excellent cooked or fresh in sandwiches.
  • White Scallop Squash. White Scallop is a high-yielding Native American heirloom that produces scallop-shaped fruit great for frying or baking.
  • Homestead 24 Tomatoes. Homestead 24 is a semi-determinate tomato that has medium to large red fruit developed for hot, humid climates, making it great for Florida gardens.
  • Amy’s Sugar Gem Tomatoes. Amy’s Sugar Gem grows tall, vigorous vines and produces sweet, large red cherry tomatoes.
  • Moon and Stars Watermelon. Resembling the night’s sky, Moon and Stars watermelon has a dark green rind with bright yellow spots. It has speckled yellow leaves and seedy, but very sweet, bright red flesh.

Whether you are located in Leon County or not, everyone is welcome to join us Saturday, February 12, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., for our Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop. Via Zoom, agents with UF/IFAS Extension Leon County will discuss spring vegetable gardening techniques and healthy eating. There will also be a live cooking demonstration showing how to prepare healthy meals and snacks at home, featuring vegetables available in the Spring 2022 Seed Library Program.

For more information about the Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop, please visit our Eventbrite page: https://seedlibraryworkshop2022.eventbrite.com. There is no cost to attend the workshop, but registration is required.

Happy spring gardening!

Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE! 2022

Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE! 2022

The UF/IFAS Extension Northwest District Horticulture Team is excited to announce our third season of Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE! free webinars! Please plan to join us this Spring and Fall for all new episodes where we will tackle gardening issues relevant to the Florida Panhandle!

There are two ways to join the Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE! webinars:

  1. Facebook Live – Follow us on Facebook and follow individual webinar Events.
  2. Zoom Webinar – Pre-registration is required for Zoom. Users must have an authenticated account (free at Zoom Link). Be sure you have security settings up to date to prevent connection delays. Links to Zoom registration will be added to the topic one-two weeks before the webinar and a closed captioned recorded link to YouTube will be available approximately one week after the program. (Underlined words have active links!)

Although we do accept questions from the audience during the broadcast, we may not have time to read them on-air. If you have a great question you think other viewers need to hear, please pre-register through Zoom and submit early!

All webinars are on a Thursday at Noon CDT/ 1:00 p.m. EDT

Date Topic
February 17, 2022 Growing Tomatoes in Northwest Florida
March 31, 2022 Turfgrass and Groundcovers
April 14, 2022 Subtropical Fruits for the Florida Panhandle
May 19, 2022 Native Pollinators and their Favorite Flowers
September 15, 2022 Winter Garden Planning
October 13, 2022 Gardening Myths and Home Remedies

Missed an episode or want to see it again? Subscribe out our YouTube Playlist!

Join Us August 7 for the 2021 Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop

Join Us August 7 for the 2021 Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop

Join us via Zoom on Saturday, August 7, for our Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop. Graphic by Molly Jameson.

Join us via Zoom on Saturday, August 7, for our Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop. Graphic by Molly Jameson.

Join Us August 7 for the 2021 Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop

Planting vegetable seeds and growing a garden is a great way to get outdoors and appreciate nature. Since 2015, the Leon County Public Library has supported gardeners in Leon County by providing vegetable seed packets for patrons to take home and plant in their gardens.

To kick off the Fall 2021 Seed Library, agents with UF/IFAS Leon County Extension are hosting the Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop on Saturday, August 7, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. via Zoom.

During the virtual workshop, Extension agents will discuss planting seeds, growing vegetables, and how to incorporate veggies into healthy meals and snacks. The workshop coincides with the first day the seeds in the Fall 2021 Seed Library will become available. Residents of Leon County can check out three sample seed packets per month with their library cards from all Leon County library branches.

Even if you are not a resident of Leon County, everyone is welcome to join us at the virtual workshop. Along with the gardening portion of the workshop, there will also be a live virtual cooking demonstration featuring vegetables available in the Fall 2021 Seed Library Program.

For more information about the Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop, please visit our Eventbrite page: https://seedlibraryworkshop2021.eventbrite.com. There is no cost to attend the workshop, but registration is required.

If you are a resident of Leon County, all you need is your Leon County library card to check out the vegetable seeds. Don’t have a library card? No problem! Leon County residents can apply online at the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library online card application page here: https://lcpl.ent.sirsi.net/custom/web/registration/.

Here is the list of the vegetable seed varieties that will be available starting August 7: Common Arugula, Waltham 29 Broccoli, Chantenay Red Core Carrots, Michihili Chinese Cabbage, Slo-bolt Cilantro, Alabama Blue Collards, Early White Vienna Kohlrabi, Rocky Top Salad Blend Lettuce, Pink Beauty Radishes, and Tokinashi Turnips.

Plant with Purpose at the Leon County Extension Office

Plant with Purpose at the Leon County Extension Office

Plant with Purpose: Written by Rachel Mathes

Last spring, we were all ready to host another Open House and Plant Sale on Mother’s Day weekend. When the realities of the pandemic became clear, we canceled the event for the safety of everyone involved. We typically have more than 500 visitors and dozens of volunteers on site. This year we are happy to announce we have adapted our annual fundraiser to a monthly learning and growing opportunity for the whole community.

growing milkweed

Master Gardener Volunteer Jeanne Breland is growing native milkweed in her monarch exclusion fortress for a Plant with Purpose talk and sale in the spring. Previous years’ milkweed have been eaten by monarch caterpillars before the sale so Jeanne has built her fortress to get the best results. Photo by Rachel Mathes

Our Master Gardener Volunteers will be teaching Thursday evening classes on particular plant groups throughout the year in our new series: Plant with Purpose. Topics will range from milkweed to shade plants to vegetables and herbs for different seasons. Attendees can attend the talks for free and grow along with us with the purchase of a box. These boxes are modeled after community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes you can purchase from local farms. Buyers will get a variety of the plants discussed in the plant lesson that week.  For example, in our first event, Growing a Pizza Garden, we will have two tomato plants, two pepper plants, and one basil plant available for $20. Throughout the year, prices and number of plants will vary depending on the topic.

We hope with this new model of presentations and plant sales will enable us to remain Covid-safe while still bringing horticulture education to the community. Classes will be held on Thursday evenings from 6-7 pm via Zoom. Register on our Eventbrite to get the Zoom link emailed to you before each talk. Plant pick up will be the following Saturday from 10 am to noon. Master Gardener Volunteers will load up your plant box in a contact-free drive thru at the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Office at 615 Paul Russell Rd.

propagation table

Propagation of angel wing begonia and other plants by Joan Peloso, Master Gardener Volunteer.

Master Gardener Volunteers are already growing plants for you to purchase throughout the year. Landscape plants, herbs, vegetables, shrubs and even trees will be available later in the year. Funds raised from this series help fund our Horticulture programming. Some notable programs that will benefit from Plant with Purpose include our Demonstration Garden, 4-H Horticulture Club, the Veterans’ Garden Group at the VA Tallahassee Outpatient Clinic, and various school gardens we help support throughout Leon County.

In the last year, we have adapted many of our programs to meet virtually, and even created new ones like our Wednesday Webinar series where we explore different horticulture topics twice a month with guest speakers from around the Panhandle. While we still can’t meet in person to get down in the dirt with all of our community programs, we hope that the Plant with Purpose series will help fill the hole left by our cancelled Open House and Plant Sale. Join us for the first installment of Plant with Purpose on Thursday March 18th from 6-7pm. Pick up for purchased plant boxes will be Saturday March 20th from 10am-noon.

To register for this event and other events at the Leon County Extension Office, please visit the Leon County Extension Office Events Registration Page.

Leon County’s Spring 2021 Seed Library Program Starts February 13

Leon County’s Spring 2021 Seed Library Program Starts February 13

Sugar snap peas prefer to be planted when the soil is cool and the pods are delicious raw or cooked. Photo by Full Earth Farm.

Sugar snap peas prefer to be planted when the soil is cool and the pods are delicious raw or cooked. Photo by Full Earth Farm.

Leon County’s Spring 2021 Seed Library Program Starts February 13

Although we are still experiencing the coolness of winter, the spring gardening season is right around the corner. To get a head start on the heat that will start taking over by May – and certainly by June – it is important to have a spring garden plan. If you want to start your veggies from seed, certain crops, such as tomatoes, need to be seeded soon for best results. Other warm-loving crops, like squash and cucumbers, also benefit from an early start to beat the life cycles of many common pests.

Need seeds to start your garden? Well, if you live in Leon County, you are in luck. Starting on February 13, 2021, residents of Leon County can “check out” up to three sample seed packets per month with their library card as part of Leon County’s Seed Library Program. The vegetable seeds can be checked out from any of the seven library branch locations. Leon County residents can apply for a library card online at the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library online card application page (https://lcpl.ent.sirsi.net/custom/web/registration/).

A young volunteer helped pack seeds from home for the Spring 2021 Leon County Seed Library Program. Photo by Jeanne Breland.

A young volunteer helped pack seeds from home for the Spring 2021 Leon County Seed Library Program. Photo by Jeanne Breland.

Here are the vegetable seed varieties that will be available starting February 13:

  • Italian Large Leaf Basil. This is a fast-growing plant, with four-inch-long green leaves that have an anise flavor and a sweet aroma.
  • Jackson Wonder Butterbeans. A high yielding heirloom, these beans produce pods with three to five reddish colored beans in each. When dried, the beans develop a mottled pattern.
  • A & C Pickling Cucumber. Plants are productive, producing many straight, dark-green fruits that are great for pickling when they are four to six inches long. Eaten fresh, they can be grown out to 10 inches.
  • Edisto 47 Melon. Plants prosper in hot, humid climates and produce mildly sweet five-pound cantaloupes in about 90 days.
  • Burmese Okra. Plants have very large leaves and at about 18-inches tall, produce slender curved 9 to 12 inch okra pods that are virtually spineless. Under 10 inches, pods can be eaten raw and are less viscous than some other varieties.
  • Sugar Snap Peas. Plants produce sweet, crisp pods that can be eaten raw or cooked. Seeds germinate well in cool soil and plant growth is vigorous, requiring support.
  • Corno di Toro Sweet Bell Pepper. This productive pepper, whose name translates to “Horn of the Bull,” produces thick horn-shaped fruit that is flavorful and great eaten raw or cooked.
  • Butternut Waltham Squash. This winter squash produces four-to-five-pound fruits with necks that are thick, straight, and cylindrical. The flesh of the fruit is smooth and has a flavor that sweetens with storage.
  • Black Krim Tomato. This Russian heirloom has indeterminate growth and produces 8 to16 ounce, brown-to-red fruit with a deep smoky flavor. The shoulders of the tomatoes are brownish green and darken with more heat and sunlight.
  • Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomato. This deep-red small cherry tomato has indeterminate growth and produces soft fruit that is very sweet and full of flavor.

Whether you are located in Leon County or not, everyone is welcome to join us Saturday, February 13, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., for our Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop. Via Zoom, agents with UF/IFAS Extension Leon County will discuss spring vegetable gardening techniques and food waste prevention. There will also be a live cooking demonstration showing how to prepare healthy meals and snacks at home, featuring vegetables available in the Spring 2021 Seed Library Program.

For more information about the Leon County Seed Library Virtual Workshop, please visit our Eventbrite page: https://spring2021leoncountyseedlibrary.eventbrite.com. There is no cost to attend the workshop, but registration is required.

Happy spring gardening!