Fantastic Fennel

Fantastic Fennel

If you are looking for a low maintenance plant that has attractive foliage and flowers and attracts wildlife, consider planting fennel.  Fennel was planted in the pollinator garden at the Extension office in Bay County as a butterfly host plant for swallowtail butterflies in 2014 and has been a showstopper ever since. Fennel is a short-lived evergreen perennial that will reseed in the garden, but it is easy to remove plants if you get too many. It performs well in full sun to light shade and is quite drought tolerant once established.

The fernlike foliage has a delicate texture that contrasts with most landscape plants. Large umbels of tiny yellow flowers reach for the sky each spring and attract lots of pollinators and butterflies to the garden. Fennel is a culinary herb and leaves, flowers, and seeds can be used to season dishes with the mildly licorice flavor.

Herb Gardening: When Oregano is Flavorless

Herb Gardening: When Oregano is Flavorless

As an avid herb gardener, I have often wondered why my oregano is often flavorless when incorporated into meals but still smells strong when handled in the garden. Thankfully our herb demonstration garden at UF/IFAS Extension Washington County Office was a site of a gigantic but flavorless oregano plant, so I was determined to solve the mystery as to why.  

Healthy green oregano, although this selection is flavorless, is very pretty  (Image Credit: Matthew Orwat)
Healthy green oregano, although this selection is flavorless, is very pretty (Image Credit: Matthew Orwat)

Although most herb gardeners expect oregano to be pungent and flavorful, some selections don’t measure up. These plants usually possess the usual pleasant oregano odor but lack the intensity of flavor expected from the herb.

Common oregano, scientific name Origanum vulgare, is an open pollinated species and is grown from seed and sometimes cuttings. As such, it offers some level of genetic variation in the pungency of a given plant. Thus, when shopping for common oregano at a garden center one is likely to get stuck with a less than potent plant.

The good news is that there are quite a few named selections available of Origanum vulgare. The hybrid of Origanum vulgare, known as Italian oregano (Origanum x majoricum), is much more flavorful, as are some of the other cultivated varieties such as Greek oregano (Origanum vulgare var. hirtum). Although all of these may also be easily reproduced from seed, propagation from division or cuttings will ensure that the plant you have is a clone of the desired selection instead of a seedling with variable genetic traits.

In summation, the best strategy to employ when selecting flavorful oregano for the herb garden is to look for named varieties of oregano or subspecies such as Italian oregano. Also, it never hurts to sample the herb you are about to purchase to determine its potency!

For more information about growing herbs in Florida, please consult this (Herbs and Spices in the Florida Garden) EDIS publication or contact your local extension agent.

5 Tips for Adding Cool Season Herbs to Your Fall Landscape

5 Tips for Adding Cool Season Herbs to Your Fall Landscape

By: Khadejah Scott
Extension Agent, Horticulture/Agriculture/Natural Resources
UF/IFAS Extension Wakulla County

It is common for homeowners to have to pick between design and function when planning their fall landscape. However, combining the two can result in a stunning display in the yard. In North Florida, several herbs do well in the cool weather of the fall. While herb gardens will always be famous, there are other understated, yet successful ways to incorporate herbs into the fall landscape this year.  Herb gardening in the fall is not difficult; with a bit of forethought and creativity, you can use herbs to revamp an existing bed or create a brand-new one.

Herbs can be more than culinary specimens in the fall landscape. Herbs give a wide range of hues that enhance the landscape’s color, giving depth and contrast to your current garden. Fill the gaps around, between, and beneath your existing flowers to frame them without taking away from their beauty. The variety of herb foliage textures adds interest to your landscape; you can alternate between glossy, velvety, soft, and hairy surfaces. Many herbs also have insect-repelling qualities that aid in pest management. Meanwhile, the herbs also attract beneficial insects and pollinators to the garden, which are vital for the well-being and growth of other landscape plants.

One of the first stages of enjoying your garden is deciding its function. What and how you grow will be influenced by an end-use. For example, simple access to fresh herbs while you cook could mean planting them next to your back door. You want those vibrant flavors near your hand if you need a sprig. Space also needs to be considered while planning because plants will mature swiftly and flush out nicely, taking up more space. Each plant’s height and spread affects how much light it receives. Plant your more striking, upright herbs further back, giving plenty of room for low-lying, creeping herbs to be planted closer to the front where they may still receive sufficient light. At least six hours of direct sunlight each day are required for cool-season herbs. They will also need well-drained soil and adequate watering. Knowing each plant’s unique requirements can help homeowners care for herbs and identify unforeseen problems. Reinvent the way herbs have been grown in the past and incorporate their colors, textures, and blooms. For more information about planning your fall garden, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.

Here are 5 ways to add cool season herbs to your fall landscape.

  • Containers: Growing herbs in containers offers the flexibility of moving them. Potted herb gardens may be a perfect solution for small spaces like patios and balconies. Dill and fennel are great options for large containers.
  • Groundcovers: Herbs that grow slowly and crawl, such as thyme, complement walkways and do nicely between paving stones.
  • Borders: Herbs that form low mounds, such as oregano, make good borders, paths, and driveways.
  • Low Hedges: Garden sage and other taller herbs create great low hedges that can aid in defining the boundaries of outdoor spaces.
  • Softening Hardscapes: The billowing nature of cilantro and parsley herbs makes them perfect candidates for softening the hard edges of stone and concrete.
Plan on Doing a Fall Garden, Plan Now!

Plan on Doing a Fall Garden, Plan Now!

Yay, we are halfway through with August and our summer is winding down!  This is the perfect time to start prepping for that fall garden.   Growing a productive fall vegetable garden requires thoughtful planning and good cultural practices.  This process consists of selecting a site, planning the garden, preparing the soil, choosing the seeds and plants, planting a crop, and nurturing the plants until harvest time.  In the Florida Panhandle it can be a challenge to get cool season crops started; there is a balance in starting them early enough to allow them to mature (50-60 days) before a hard frost and getting them through the end of a hot summer.

August and September are the main planting times for a fall garden.  There are several cool-season crops and a final crop of warm-season vegetables that can be planted.  Some good warm season crops are lima beans, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes.  Going into September it will be a good time to establish strawberry plants.  Some good vegetables to start growing just around the corner are broccoli, carrots, cabbage, collards, mustard, and Swiss chard.  Herbs that do well are cilantro, parsley, and lemongrass. Mint, oregano, and thyme should be planted in containers as they tend to spread. Mexican tarragon, mint, rosemary, and basil will also do well in September. See Herbs:

Transplants from the local garden center will get the garden off to a fast start while seeds will offer more varieties to choose from.  It is also important to think about your location.  A vegetable garden can be in the ground, a raised bed, or even grown in containers.  Your plants will need more than just a place to grow.  They will also need sunlight, water, air, soil, fertilizer, and care.  Most vegetables require at least 8 hours of sunlight.   Keep an eye out for pest problems such as insects, diseases and weeds because they will continue to flourish in warm temperatures and high humidity. To help conserve soil moisture a layer of newspaper and mulch can be placed between the rows.  Mulch also aids in weed control. 

Raised beds are an excellent way to get started with gardening. Photo by Molly Jameson.

The result of a beautiful, successful vegetable garden is fresh produce to eat, share with neighbors, family, and friends and even the possibility to sell your harvest.  With patience and practice your gardening skills will improve every year!  Follow the above few tips and you will be well on your way to a great harvest!  For more information about starting a fall garden or any other horticultural or agricultural topic, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office. Happy Gardening

Garden to Table: Growing Winter Herbs

Garden to Table: Growing Winter Herbs

Multi-cropping at a Gainesville, FL organic garden.

As we go into the winter here in the Panhandle the following herbs will do well: cilantro, parsley, fennel, thyme, chives, oregano, sage and dill.  Basil is a popular herb but will need to be inside by a kitchen window this time of year.  It will drop leaves below 40 degrees F.

Cilantro: Needs full to partial sun, excellent soil drainage, and can be sued at 6 inches in height.  The dry seeds are used to make the spice Coriander.

Parsley: Loves the cool weather and will bloom in the spring.  Parsley likes afternoon shade.  The seeds do take longer to germinate so do not give up on this plant.  The root has a strong flavor and is used in holiday dishes.  Parsley is beneficial to your health and contain vitamins A, C, K and is also high in calcium and iron.

Fennel: Needs full sun and moist soil.  Fennel should not be planted near dill or cilantro because it will cross pollinate and reduce seed production.  Fennel is good for digestive health and the shoots, leaves, and seeds are all useful in cooking.  This plant also is host to the black swallowtail caterpillar.

Thyme: Needs full sun, well-drained soil and is extremely drought tolerant.  Thyme does very well in a windowsill.  This plant is highly attractive to bees and creates a delicious honey.

Chives: Prefers sunlight and well drained soil.  This can be used for an onion or garlic flavor to your dish.  It will need to be divided every couple of years since it grows so well here.  Also, very good mixed into butter or cream cheese as a spread.

Oregano: This is the most widely used culinary and medicinal herb.  It has tiny purple flowers that bloom all summer.  It needs full sun and well-drained soil.  Its best flavor is when you harvest the leaves as the flower buds form.  The stems can be cut and dried and used in the cooking as well.

Sage: This herb needs full sun and very well drained soil.  It is a small silvery leaf plant that is a very popular seasoning during Thanksgiving for turkey.  It is also good on other poultry.

Sage. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham.

Dill: This herb likes full sun as well and serves as a host plant to the Black Swallowtail Butterfly.  It is a very aromatic herb used both for its leaves and the seeds.

When harvesting herbs look for leaves that are young and tender with good color.  Wash your herbs and pick them as you need them for best flavor, unless you plan to store them.  When storing fresh herbs, it is important to know that they lose their flavor over time.  They will store in the refrigerator from 1-3 weeks, freezer, and if dried can last up to 3 years.

Source: vegetables/herbs.html

5 Tips for Adding Cool Season Herbs to Your Fall Landscape

Garden to Table: How to Use in Your Recipes


Women making vinegar at a class in Starke

Herbs are often underutilized in our cooking. There are many benefits of growing and using herbs. They add flavor to foods and beverages and reduce the need for salt, fat, and sugar. Herbs are also easy to grow at home and low maintenance!

Herbs can be used fresh, dried, and frozen. There are several tips of how to use herbs in your kitchen. You will need to adjust recipes depending on how the herb is prepared.  For example, 1 tablespoon of finely cut fresh herbs equals 1 teaspoon of dried herbs and is equivalent to 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of ground dried herbs. It is always best to start with small amounts and add more to taste. Dried ground herbs can be used on meat, soups, sauces, and vegetables to name a few.

In hot dishes fresh herbs should be added near the end of the cooking time. If they are delicate herbs, you could do it in the last 1 to 2 minutes and less delicate herbs in the last 20 minutes of cooking. In cold dishes, herbs should be added several hours before serving or overnight. Each herb has its own flavor profile, so experiment and see which you like best!  Some common herb and food combinations are basil and tomato products, rosemary and meats, sage and poultry, and mint and desserts. Have fun trying different combination of herbs and food and remember to start with little and add as needed for the desired taste!

Source: Minton, Emily and Maddox, Martha. 2018. “Cooking with Fresh Herbs.” UF/IFAS Extension. FCS8932/FY1209: Cooking with Fresh Herbs (