There seems to be a lot of interest in being sustainable and saving seeds is one way to be food sustainable. Should you save seeds from your garden? When it comes to peppers and a number of other vegetables in your garden…it depends.
Wakulla Master Gardener Bill Osborne shows off some of the peppers he grew.
Hybrid vs. Open-pollinated
If you plan to save seed from your peppers, you first need to determine whether you planted open pollinated or hybrid peppers. Hybrid varieties are produced from two distinct pepper varieties and are often designated by “F1” appearing after the variety name. The seed from hybrid varieties is not usually saved because it does not produce plants and fruit that are true to the original variety. Open-pollinated varieties are developed from inbreeding plants for multiple generations to develop a stable genetic make-up. Seeds saved from these varieties will produce plants and fruit that are true to type.
How to Save Seed
To save seed of a known variety, it is important to isolate flowers or plants to ensure cross pollination from other varieties does not occur. There are four common ways to isolate flower/plants.
- Isolate plants from pollinizer insects by growing them indoors or in a greenhouse.
- Cover individual plants with insect exclusion netting.
- Separate different varieties by at least 400 feet.
- Put a small bag over an emerging flower until it has self-pollinated. Then remove the bag for fruit development.
The options above will help ensure your plants produce seed true to type. A fun experiment would be to save seed from plants/fruit that are not isolated and planted near other pepper varieties. There are endless possibilities on the peppers your new varieties would produce and you may end up developing your own named cultivar. You could also choose one of the isolation techniques listed to selectively cross different pepper plants. One misconception about growing peppers is that hot peppers planted near sweet peppers will influence the flavor of the sweet peppers. As you may have gathered from the information about crossing varieties, the flavor of the next generation will be influenced by hot and sweet pepper being allowed to cross pollinate.
German Sandoya (left) examining seed samples in a lab at the Everglades Research and Education Center. Photo University of Florida/IFAS
Harvesting and Processing Seed
Peppers should be allowed to mature before seed is harvested. In fact, germination rates are higher when peppers are allowed to dry for at least one month before seeds are harvested. Make sure that no mold or disease is on the peppers, because this could affect germination rates. To harvest the seeds, simply remove them from the pepper and remove any flesh from the pepper. If the seed was harvested from fresh peppers, rinse the seed thoroughly and allow to dry before placing in a sealable bag or container. If the peppers were allowed to dry before seed harvest, then the rinse step can probably be skipped. Store the seed in a cool, dark, and dry location such as a refrigerator.
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
Carrots are synonymous with a few things: Bugs Bunny, old wives’ tales about improving eyesight, and the color orange. For centuries, orange colored carrot varieties have been the industry standard and still dominate store shelves. These days though, choices for consumers are ever expanding and thankfully home garden carrot variety selection has participated in this phenomenon! With a little searching, gardeners can now source and plant any color and/or type of carrot they desire. For instance, this winter, I planted carrots of various types in various shades of orange, purple, and red. Through this experience, I also found that not all colored carrots look, cook, or perform the same. The following is a quick primer on carrot types followed by my review of the four varieties ‘Bolero’, ‘Red Sun’, ‘Deep Purple’, and ‘Malbec’ after a season of growing.
Carrot varieties (left to right): ‘Bolero’, ‘Red Sun’, ‘Deep Purple’, ‘Malbec’.
There are three main types of carrots regardless of color: Imperator, Nantes, and Chantenay. Imperator types are the extra-long, durable, sweet tasting carrots most often found in stores and are suited best to deep, loose soils. Nantes type carrots are medium length and cylindrically shaped, often with a blunt tip. Sometimes called “storage” carrots, Nantes types are easy to grow and tend to store well for long periods of time after harvest and retain their flavor well. Finally, Chantenay type carrots are excellent performers in shallower beds or soils as they are a bit shorter, possessing a conical shape with roots wider at the top and tapering to the tip, making a deep soil bed a bit less critical. I primarily grow Imperator and Nantes types as I find they give you a little more bang for the buck if you have a deeper (>6”) raised bed. Now, on to the variety reviews.
‘Bolero’ – I always have this carrot in my garden. An extremely versatile Nantes type carrot that has been a consistently high yielder for me whether I grow it in pots or in a traditional raised bed. Typical for a Nantes type, ‘Bolero’ stores very well in the refrigerator and will change your culinary life if you’ve only ever eaten carrots purchased from a store. They are excellent either fresh or cooked, with a complex, sweet taste. If I could only grow one carrot, it would be this one.
‘Malbec’ – Colored carrots have a poor reputation as far as flavor is concerned. ‘Malbec’ is the first non-orange carrot that changed my mind. This Imperator type is as flavorful as they come, deep red throughout, and is easy to grow. For some reason, ‘Malbec’ has been hard to come by the last two years, but if you spot seeds in a catalogue, online, or on a store shelf, it is well worth a purchase!
‘Red Sun’ – Winter 2020 was my first experience with ‘Red Sun’, a brand-new Nantes type carrot from Bejo Seeds. I only planted this variety because I initially could not source ‘Malbec’. Having said that, I was very pleased with ‘Red Sun’. The carrots were extremely vigorous, had excellent top and root growth and mostly held their own with ‘Malbec’ flavor-wise in the kitchen also. I would purchase ‘Red Sun’ again!
‘Deep Purple’ – Wow, they weren’t kidding when they named this variety! Most purple carrots are colored on the exterior but fade to a “normal” orange at their core. Not ‘Deep Purple’! This Imperator type is strikingly dark purple, almost black. Even the tops have a purple hue to them! Cooking them was also an interesting experience. Most colored veggies, peppers, carrots, and others lose their hue when cooked. Not this variety. Not only did ‘Deep Purple’ retain its color after cooking, my hands and cutting board turned a shade of indigo when preparing and, once put in a pan to sautee with other veggies, the juice from ‘Deep Purple’ dyed all the other veggies a deep violet! While I wouldn’t grow ‘Deep Purple’ as my main crop carrot, it definitely has a place in the garden as a tasty novelty.
Carrots are among the easiest to grow, most rewarding vegetables in the winter garden. Next fall, plant a variety of carrots in your home garden and enjoy the many types, colors and flavors that this tasty veggie has to offer! For more information on the above mentioned varieties, home carrot gardening in general, or any other horticultural topic, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension office. Happy Gardening!
Tatsoi is a low-growing green with spoon-shaped, dark-green leaves. Photo by Molly Jameson.
Sweet to the palate, easy to grow, and a delight to watch take shape, tatsoi is a great choice for your fall and winter veggie garden.
Tatsoi is in the cabbage family, species Brassica rapa, and is closely related to another Asian green, bok choy. It originates in Japan, where it has been grown for over 1,500 years.
Tatsoi is an annual with spoon-like dark-green leaves and cream-colored stems that grows low to the ground. It is easy to start from seed, can handle partial shade, and grows relatively fast. It can be eaten raw, like spinach, or it can be lightly cooked to add a pleasantly distinct flavor to stir-fries and soups. It has a surprisingly mild mustard-like taste. It is full of vitamin C, calcium, potassium, folate, and phytonutrients.
Tatsoi takes about 40 to 50 days to reach maturity. Photo by Molly Jameson.
Although it does well in the spring in cooler climates, it does best in fall and winter in Florida and can handle temperatures down to 15°F. It can be directly seeded into the garden and germinates in about five to 15 days. You can seed tatsoi one to three inches apart, but it should be thinned to about eight to 10 inches to reach full size, which takes about 40 to 50 days. Add the baby tatsoi you thin to your dinner salad.
Once thinned, harvest whole mature plants or individual outer leaves. If you find you just can’t get enough, seed more tatsoi every two weeks until the spring, when longer days and warmer temperatures will cause tatsoi to bolt. Bolting is when a plant diverts its resources away from the edible leaves and into the flowering stem for seed production.
For a truly continuous supply, allow your tatsoi to bolt, and it will produce many tiny, thin seed pods. Wait for the plant to dry completely and harvest the seed pods. Carefully open the pods over a plate to be sure to catch all the small round seeds within. Then, simply store the seeds in a dry, cool location, such as your fridge, in an air-tight container. Stored correctly, the seeds will last four to five years.
If you have yet to give tatsoi a position in your garden, give it a try this winter!
Cilantro is an herb that grows well in the cooler months of North Florida gardening. Beth Bolles will share how to grow and use cilantro in the latest Garden to Table feature from UF IFAS Extension Escambia County.
The blackgum/tupelo tree begins changing leaf color in early fall. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension
Florida isn’t necessarily known for its vibrant fall foliage, but if you know where to look this time of year, you can find some amazing scenery. In late fall, the river swamps can yield beautiful fall leaf color. The shades are unique to species, too, so if you like learning to identify trees this is one of the best times of the year for it. Many of our riparian (river floodplain) areas are dominated by a handful of tree species that thrive in the moist soil of wetlands. Along freshwater creeks and rivers, these tend to be bald cypress, blackgum/tupelo, and red maple. Sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) is also common, but its leaves stay green, with a silver-gray underside visible in the wind.
The classic “swamp tree” shape of a cypress tree is due to its buttressed trunk, an adaptation to living in wet soils. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension
Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is one of the rare conifers that loses its leaves. In the fall, cypress tress will turn a bright rust color, dropping all their needles and leaving a skeletal, upright trunk. Blackgum/tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) trees have nondescript, almost oval shaped leaves that will turn yellow, orange, red, and even deep purple, then slowly drop to the swamp floor. Blackgums and cypress trees share a characteristic adaptation to living in and near the water—wide, buttressed trunks. This classic “swamp” shape is a way for the trees to stabilize in the mucky, wet soil and moving water. Cypresses have the additional root support of “knees,” structures that grow from the roots and above the water to pull in oxygen and provide even more support.
A red maple leaf displaying its incredible fall colors. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension
The queen of native Florida fall foliage, however, is the red maple (Acer rubrum) . Recognizable by its palm-shaped leaves and bright red stem in the growing season, its fall color is remarkable. A blazing bright red, sometimes fading to pink, orange, or streaked yellow, these trees can jump out of the landscape from miles away. A common tree throughout the Appalachian mount range, it thrives in the wetter soils of Florida swamps.
To see these colors, there are numerous beautiful hiking, paddling, and camping locations nearby, particularly throughout Blackwater State Forest and the recreation areas of Eglin Air Force Base. But even if you’re not a hiker, the next time you drive across a bridge spanning a local creek or river, look downstream. I guarantee you’ll be able to see these three tree species in all their fall glory.