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: https://2023_Scallop_Sitter_Volunteers.eventbrite.com

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: https://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/mollusc/bay-scallops/sign-up/

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!

Educational Opportunity: Fruit and Vegetable Meeting

Educational Opportunity: Fruit and Vegetable Meeting

Would you like to make money off your land?  Are you looking to diversify your current plans on your property?  Jackson County is hosting a fruit and vegetable meeting on January 26, 2023, and this just may be the perfect way to start off your new year! 

Squash vine borer larvae can most easily navigate the stems of summer squash varieties. Photo by Molly Jameson.
Photo by Molly Jameson.

When thinking about what it means to be successful in planting your garden or having fruit trees, often the first thing that comes to mind is a healthy quality crop.  This starts with the health of your soil.  We will have two specialists that cover soil health and the benefit of adding cover crops to your rotation during the off season.  The second thing that might come to mind when wanting to be successful is how to start? how much time do I have to devote to gardening? and how much do I want to do? This meeting will also have a specialist coming to Marianna to cover how to get started on a property with a specialty crop.  Even though this information may be geared towards new farmers, it could also be very useful to new land owners and community residents just wanting to do more on their property.  You may find that you have so much extra produce that you want to have a little fruit stand!

There will also be a session on the importance of drip irrigation, fertigation and how to implement these practices. Drip irrigation will not only save you money in the long run with the use of less water, but it is also much better for overall plant health by reducing pest and disease problems.   Fertigation is the process of adding soil amendments, water amendments and other water-soluble products into an irrigation system.  This process can be both beneficial to the plants and cut back on the time it would take to fertilize by hand.

The next session on specialty vegetable and fruit crops will teach about the various exciting specialty crop opportunities in the Tri-State area such as artichokes, blackberries, Seminole pumpkins, and more.  Finally, the meeting will also cover cucurbit disease updates and will be extremely useful if you already have a field or garden of watermelons, cucumbers, or squash! Come with questions!  CEUs will be offered as well if you are a homeowner that holds a pesticide license.  

Organic matter is the “glue” that will hold your soil together. Photo by John Edwards.

While, the audience for this conference is primarily small to medium sized, diversified cucurbit and vegetable producers in the tri-state region including the counties in the Panhandle, Alabama, and Georgia, the residential community is welcome to attend and will truly benefit with learning about soil health, cover crops, fertigation, drip irrigation, and specialty crops. The conference will be held at the Jackson County Extension Office in the Peanut Hall.  We are planning a full morning with educational sessions and lunch to follow. 

This meeting will be $5 at the door and pre-registration is highly encouraged.  Please call our office at 850-482-9620 to reserve your seat and if you have any questions.

Tri-State Fruit and Vegetable Meeting

Thursday, January 26, 2023, 8:00 am- 1:00 pm at the Jackson County Agriculture Offices Auditorium, 2741 Penn Ave., Marianna.

The 15th Annual Farm Tour is October 15 and 16

The 15th Annual Farm Tour is October 15 and 16

Come on down to the farm! The 15th Annual Farm Tour is October 15 and 16. Image by Millstone Institute of Preservation.

Come on down to the farm! The 15th Annual Farm Tour is October 15 and 16. Image by Millstone Institute of Preservation.


Fall is upon us, and that means it is farm tour season!

The 15th Annual Farm Tour is on Saturday, October 15 and Sunday, October 16, 2022. Farmers and producers in 12 counties in North Central Florida and South-Central Georgia will be open to showcase their various farming endeavors. It is a free family weekend of learning, exploration, and fun.

The Farm Tour has been organized and hosted by Millstone Institute of Preservation since 2016. It gives the community the chance to explore local producers in our area and become familiar with the farmers that make up our diverse local food system.

There are 40 farms, ranches, farm-to-table restaurants, markets, vendors, and gardens (including the Leon County “VegHeadz” Demonstration Garden on Saturday!) participating in this year’s Farm Tour, some of which have never participated in the past.

There is much to explore during the 15th Annual Farm Tour, including heritage breed livestock. Photo by Rachel Mathes.

There is much to explore during the 15th Annual Farm Tour, including heritage breed livestock. Photo by Rachel Mathes.

The sites span nearly 140 miles east to west, from Greenville, Florida, to Chipley, Florida, and about 80 miles north to south, from Whigham, Georgia, to Crawfordville, Florida.

Each farm is open to the public at no cost, providing the opportunity for participants to learn the importance of supporting local agriculture and how they can do so.

There are many different types of farms to explore, including seeing a multitude of processes and demonstrations firsthand, such as honey harvesting, cow and goat milking, sawmill operating, bamboo extracting, horse grooming, compost turning, flower arranging, seed saving, wine manufacturing, sausage creating, satsuma juicing, cheese making, kombucha brewing, and much more.

You can also sample and purchase local products at many farm tour sites, including local honey, beeswax and honey products, local eggs, homemade breads, fresh veggies, various locally produced meats (bring a cooler!), pumpkins, vegetable seedlings, kombucha, muscadine wines, handmade soaps, fruit trees, cookbooks, and more. Many locations will also be serving food for sale, such as falafel and hummus; baked goods; beef, bacon, and pork burgers; ice cream and coffee; satsuma slushes, cookies, jellies, and syrups; and much more.   

The Farm Tour Guide includes descriptions and directions to all the farm tour sites. A downloadable version of the Farm Tour Guide is available on the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Facebook or you can download a copy using this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kJIEUcHh1w55BS9y1fpUjfV5yb-MDMJa/view?fbclid=IwAR2Pt0jdjMmZrc9UaJ0tYn_eGnMkem8DvfjdPbkzsTaF8q7D2bFcFLgsoCs

See you down on the farm!

The Fall 2022 Leon County Seed Library Kicks Off August 13

The Fall 2022 Leon County Seed Library Kicks Off August 13

The Fall 2022 Leon County Seed Library Kickoff event starts at 11 a.m. on August 13 at the Collins Main Leon County Library.

The Fall 2022 Leon County Seed Library Kickoff event starts at 11 a.m. on August 13 at the Collins Main Leon County Library.


To kick off the Fall 2022 Season of the Leon County Seed Library Program, UF/IFAS Extension Leon County will be at the LeRoy Collins Leon County Main Library (200 W. Park Ave.) Program Room on Saturday, August 13, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with information on raised bed gardening, a hands-on seeding activity, an Ask-a-Master-Gardener booth, and a healthy cooking demonstration.

Although we are still in the full swing of summer, gardeners know it is time to start thinking about planning the fall garden. Although pulling weeds and adding fresh compost can wait a little while, gathering seeds for the new season can be something to think about doing now.

Youth creating garden gnomes at the 4-H station during the 2019 Seed Library Program debut. Photo by UF/IFAS.

Youth creating garden gnomes at the 4-H station during the 2019 Seed Library Program debut. Photo by UF/IFAS.

If you live in or around Tallahassee, the Leon County Seed Library Program can help jump-start your fall garden. Starting August 13, you can go to any of the seven Leon County libraries to check-out three sample vegetable seed packets per month per library card! The Leon County Master Gardener Volunteers are currently busy labeling and packing each of the seed varieties that will be distributed to the seven libraries.

There will be 10 vegetables varieties this season, including a few varieties that have never been featured in the program. If you like to save seeds from your garden, know that all varieties in the Seed Library Program are open-pollinated (by insects, birds, wind), which means if they are not crossed with another variety, the seeds they produce will grow true to form.

The Fall 2022 selection includes:

  • Common Arugula: Deep green with a spicy, peppery, mustard-like flavor
  • Cylindra Beets: Heirloom with long cylindrical roots, good for slicing
  • De Cicco Broccoli: Central light green head and side shoots to extend season
  • Scarlet Nantes Carrots: Sweet, crisp, bright red-orange, seven-inch roots
  • Vates Collards: Slow bolting, large blue-green leaves
  • Lacinato (Dinosaur) Kale: Cold tolerant, sweet dark green narrow leaves
  • New Red Fire Lettuce: Crisp and flavorful, green base with red ruffled leaf edges, bolt resistant
  • Peione Parsley: Large flat leaves with sweet flavor
  • French Breakfast Radishes: Mild, spicy flavor with a red top and white bottom
  • Bright Lights Swiss Chard: Rainbow stems, burgundy and green leaves, very mild

The vegetable varieties available starting August 13 for the Fall 2022 season of the Leon County Seed Library Program. Image by Molly Jameson.

The vegetable varieties available starting August 13 for the Fall 2022 season of the Leon County Seed Library Program. Image by Molly Jameson.


See you at the Leon County Main Library on August 13!

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!