There are fruit types that grow well in North Florida and that do not require a lot of space. For high yields they do need a spot that gets direct sun for at least half the day. An area only 10 by 10 feet can support a gratifying amount of fruit production.
Some of the best fruit choices for small areas are rabbiteye blueberries, blackberries and muscadine grapes.
The rabbiteye blueberry is native to the Southeastern United States. Blueberries require a soil pH below 5.3. So, it’s advisable to have your soil tested to find out what the pH is before planting. Mixing peat moss into the soil can lower the pH, if needed. There are many rabbiteye blueberry cultivars. Be sure to plant at least two cultivars together for pollination. Here is a link with more information on blueberries for Florida. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/MG359
All of the other fruits like a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Garden lime can be used to raise the pH but only if you have the results of a reliable soil test indicating how much lime is needed. Your County Extension Office can help you determine how to have your soil tested.
Blackberries are productive if you select the correct cultivars. Cultivars adapted to Florida produce large, attractive fruit. Some are self-fruitful while others require a pollinator. Some have thorns while others are thornless. Some grow more erect while some have a trailing growth habit, requiring trellising. ‘Brazos’ is a late fruiting cultivar that does well in our area and does not require cross-pollination but it does have thorns. Here is a link with more information on blackberries for Florida. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/hs104
The muscadine grape was one of the pleasant surprises found by the early colonists in the Southeastern United States. An extensive breeding program has resulted in many improved cultivars. Scuppernong is a variety of muscadine. Other popular varieties include ‘Cowart’, ‘Fry’, ‘Carlos’, ‘Summit’, ‘Higgins’, and ‘Nesbitt’. There are many others. Some are self-fruitful while others require a pollinator. There are cultivars that produce bronze, black, red or purple fruit. Some cultivars produce larger fruit, some have a higher sugar content and are sweeter. Muscadines are ready to harvest in late summer to early fall. Some mature early season, mid-season or late season, based on the cultivar. Here is a link with more information on muscadines for Florida. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/HS100
Even though these fruit plants can be grown with limited space, they do require some care, including correct fertilization and pruning. Mid-December to mid-February is the best planting time for these fruit plants.
The Common Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, is a southern native small to medium fruit tree that is becoming more popular for homegrown fruit. The bark is grey or black and forms chunks or blocks that give it a checkerboard look. Fall color can be a spectacular red in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8b. It is well adapted to cities but requires fallen fruit maintenance and wildlife control. Its mature height can be 40 to 60 feet, with branches spreading from 20 to 35 feet and a trunk two feet thick, but it is commonly much shorter in landscapes. The trunk can be a single form or multiple trunks and the species tends to form colonies. The leaves are alternate, simple, and a rich green color. The leaf margins can be entire or somewhat serrated. The funnel-shaped flower has four petals and ranges in color from white to cream to gray.
The Common Persimmon fruit is smaller than a ping-pong ball. This round fruit possesses an orange to reddish-purple color, with a size of 1 ¼ inches across. The flavor is more fermented and sugary-sweet. In Florida, the harvest season is from late August to early November. Fruit do not ripen at the same time. When ripe, the fruit turns from green to burnt orange. They also fall from the tree. The fruit is soft, sticky, and very delicious, but it needs to be separated from its skin and seeds before being used in recipes. They can be eaten when fully ripe and can also be pureed, dried, and used in preserves, chutneys, quick breads, puddings, pies, and sweet and savory dishes. The fruit is very favored by wildlife. Persimmon fruit is an essential food source for songbirds, turkeys, and small and large mammals.
Common persimmon prefers moist, well-drained, bottomland or sandy soils but is known to be very drought- and urban-tolerant. It is a fantastic tree in its adaptability to site conditions, including alkaline soil. It is commonly seen as a volunteer tree in old fields but grows slowly on dry sites. Its fruit is an edible berry that usually ripens after frost. Some cultivars do not require the frost treatment to ripen. Persimmon fruit is hard and astringent when unripe. Most American cultivars require both male and female trees for proper fruiting.
Besides fallen fruit maintenance, persimmon maintenance is easy and is suggested that it persimmon should be planted more often. Due to a coarsely branched root system, transplanting is difficult. The trees should be balled and burlapped when young or grown from containers. The wood from the tree is used for golf club heads because it is tough and almost black.
Common persimmon is troubled by a leaf-spot disease in the South. This disease causes black spots on the leaves and premature defoliation in August in the North and September in the South. The tree will not die from the disease. It is also susceptible to a vascular wilt, which can devastate established trees. There are no severe insect pests fort his native fruit tree, except occasional caterpillars.
For more information, please contact your local county extension Office.
Please join us for the Persimmon Field Day on Friday, October 20th, from 8:30 – 11:30AM at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research & Education Center (NFREC), located at 155 Research Road, Quincy, FL.
This is a free field day on growing persimmons in North Florida! Attendees will be able to visit the persimmon grove to see how trees are grown, maintained, and harvested as well as sample the different persimmon varieties grown at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research & Education Center in Quincy. Light refreshments will be provided. Space is limited, so please register using the link below or by calling 850-875-7255 to reserve your spot!
(All Times Eastern Standard)
8:30-8:45 AM – Registration
8:45-9:00 AM – Welcome and Introduction, Dr. Muhammad Shahid, Fruit Physiologist, UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center
9:00-9:05 AM – Opening Remarks, Dr. Dean Pringle, Center Director, UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center
9:00-9:35 AM – Introduction to Persimmon Fruit, Dr. Muhammad Shahid, Fruit Physiologist, UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center and Dr. Ali Sarkhosh, Associate Professor, UF/IFAS Horticultural Sciences
9:45-10:00 AM – Load Trolley and Travel to Persimmon Grove at UF/IFAS NFREC
10:00-11:00 AM – Persimmon Grove Walk and Talk (Persimmon Fruit Tasting and Open Discussion in the Field)
11:00-11:15 AM – Load Trolley and Travel Back to NFREC Conference Room
The University of Florida is committed to providing universal access to all of our events. For disability accommodations such as sign language interpreters and listening devices, please contact KeAndre Leaks, (firstname.lastname@example.org, 850-875- 7150) at least 2 weeks in advance. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.
Written by: Muhammad Adnan Shahid and Shahid Iqbal.
UF/IFAS Horticultural Sciences Department, North Florida Research and Education Center, Quincy FL
Biostimulants are a type of substance or microorganism applied to plants to improve their nutrient efficiency and resistance against abiotic stress (salinity, cold, heat, UV, flooding, drought, heavy metal toxicity, nutrient deficiency), diseases, and quality traits. Due to the increase in world population, the growing pressure on crop productivity is a demanding challenge; therefore, it is necessary to reduce the use of agrochemicals with negative impacts on human health and the environment. Thus, new strategies from the bio-based industry must be found and adopted. Citrus is a highly desirable and profitable fruit crop with undesirable characteristics like excessive flowering and physiological fruit disorder that negatively affect the market value.
Biostimulant Types and Practical Application
Many crop growers have expressed an interest in biostimulants in recent years. As these products gain popularity, we have found that there’s still a lot of controversy about their efficacy. Before determining whether Extension endorses them, let’s review the various types and their practical usage.
Several types of biostimulants include humic and fulvic acid, seaweed extracts, protein hydrolysates, chitosan, beneficial bacteria, fungi and microbial inoculants, and other types of amino acids and polyamines. These products are commercially available with different formulations and ingredients and have immense potential in horticultural crop production, especially in citrus.
Plant biostimulants can be applied through foliar application, fertigation, or directly through the soil, enhancing crop growth and quality. Biostimulants could reduce plant environmental threats and minimize the negative consequences of unsystematic chemical application.
Benefits of Using Biostimulants in Citrus Crop Production
Biostimulant products improve plants’ overall health and help maximize fruit production and quality by providing complete nutrition. The benefits of using biostimulants are highlighted below.
Improve plant metabolism to induce high-yield and quality.
Enhance soil fertility by fostering complementary soil microorganisms.
Increase tolerance against abiotic stresses.
Facilitate nutrients and their movement inside the plant vessels
Boost fruit quality attributes like color, sugar content, etc.
Concluding remarks and recommendations
Biostimulants are in the frontline as a novel strategy to achieve the goal of sustainable citrus crop production, yield, and superior quality. Proper management practices are important for high-yield and quality fruit in citrus production. The use of biostimulant products can provide producers with sustainable production. Before using these products, contact a regional extension specialist or citrus expert for their proper application and trail setup. The Fruit Physiology Lab at North Florida Research and Education Centre (NFREC), Quincy, Florida has started a research project on determining the efficacy and efficiency of different microbial and non-microbial biostimulants in cold hardy citrus production, to improve yield, and fruit quality. For any further information on the use of biostimulants please contact Dr. Muhammad Shahid, Fruit Physiologist/Assistant Professor of Horticulture at email@example.com.
The weather is the most important factor determining where certain fruits can be successfully grown. Terms such as chilling requirement and cold hardiness play a major role in both species and variety selection.
Most fruits which grow in the Panhandle are deciduous, meaning that during the winter, they lose their leaves and go through a semi to full dormancy period. This period is a much needed rest and reset for the plant. The cool season actually helps the plant to rebound for another fruiting season and affects how well the plant will yield fruit. This is where the term “chilling hours” comes into play.
Temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit are considered “chilling”. The number of hours below 45 degrees accumulated throughout the winter determines the total amount of chilling hours. Different species of citrus and dooryard fruit, along with different cultivars of these plants differ in the amount of chilling hours need for that all important rest & reset period. Satsuma is a popular fruit trees in our area, as it is by far the most cold hardy citrus. Evidence suggests that the satsuma can survive a temperature as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit.
Figure 1. Mature satsumas ready for harvest.
Credit. Pete Anderson. UF/IFAS Extension.
What happens if the plant doesn’t receive the needed amount of chilling hours? Plant hormones can be disrupted, and both leafing and blooming could be light and come outside of the normal range of the season. So, where do we stand in the Panhandle for overall chilling hours? Typically, we see approximately 500 hours chilling hours. Therefore, its best to plant citrus and dooryard fruit that have the characteristic of needing 500 or less hours for chilling. Please see this informative document on citrus and dooryard fruit varieties: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/MG248
Now, on to the term cold hardiness. By definition, this is the plants ability to withstand cool season temperatures without injury. Most tropical fruits cannot tolerate our Panhandle temperatures. Those of us that cut back banana trees every year know this all too well. To check your plant hardiness zone, please see the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map: https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/
Before you plant a fruit tree, make sure you understand about its cold hardiness and whether or not it has a chilling requirement. This will both save you money and a headache, in the end. If you’re in doubt about a particular variety, contact your local extension office.
Taste and size of citrus fruits are important attributes that determine profit. Since, consumers prefer firm citrus fruit, packing houses only accept fruits of specific size without softness. Therefore, fruit that grow too large and don’t fill out properly are unmarketable and growers discard all these types of fruits. This condition is called puffiness. As fruit diameter becomes ever larger, fruit pith (the area between flesh and the peel of fruits) becomes thick and causes the fruit to shrink inward and lose its normal spherical shape. So far, this problem has been observed in both backyard and commercial Satsuma groves in North Florida, South Georgia, and Southeast Alabama. Citrus puffiness is a threat for all growers from an economic and overall yield point of view, because puffed fruits are unmarketable resulting reduced profit margins.
A few scientific reports suggest that low fruit loads on citrus trees can cause puffiness, but the actual mechanism of puffiness still need to be explored. Based on observations, the team from our lab (Fruit Physiology lab, NFREC, Quincy) and collaborators lead by Dr. Muhammad Shahid has concluded that there are three possible causes of puffiness in citrus i.e., genetic, environmental, or nutritional. In our next phase of research, we will dig deep into this issue and try to determine what is the actual cause of puffiness. Fruit puffiness is observed more in young (4-6 years) satsuma groves than in mature groves. Puffiness on old trees could be due to fruit setting on late blooms during hot conditions. Overall, fruit puffiness is less of a concern in sweet oranges, limes and lemons as compared to satsumas.
Puffiness study by Fruit Physiology Lab, NFREC, Quincy
In our preliminary study, we divided puffiness into five different grades based on fruit size. Grade one is marketable fruits (firm without puffiness). Fruit diameter and puffiness increase gradually in grades 2, 3, 4, and 5, respectively. We have collected fruits from different groves in north Florida and the common denominator among these fruit was decreased Brix value (a common measure of sweetness) with increased puffiness. Average fruit diameter with maximum puffiness was around 40cm and these puffy fruit weighed around 475g. With increasing puffiness, peel weight was increased while juice contents were reduced – not great!
Most satsuma groves in North Florida have some degree of puffiness. However, amount and grade of puffiness varies by grove. In our observations, citrus groves in South Georgia also have puffy fruit, which clearly indicates that puffiness is not geographically specific and can develop in any citrus growing region. After visiting a number of farms in North Florida, we concluded that puffiness is mostly an issue with the Satsuma cultivar ‘Owari’ regardless of different rootstocks. Having said this, we can’t say with confidence that puffiness couldn’t appear on other varieties of citrus without further study. We are carefully monitoring all our variety evaluation trials at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC), Quincy, in collaboration with citrus breeding and postharvest experts from Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) and Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC). We are working on different aspects of citrus production including nutrition, crop load, and pruning to identify the actual cause of puffiness and how to effectively mitigate it in Satsuma groves in north Florida.