In spite of this record-breaking hot summer, it might be surprising to realize that we are just a month away from the onset of fall. As the sun-soaked dog days gradually relinquish their hold to the inviting coolness of autumn, the allure of the new season comes into view.
If your thoughts are already conjuring images of vibrant leaves and the anticipation of robust greens and earthy root vegetables in your garden, we extend an invitation to explore our newly revamped edition of the North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide.
We’ve transformed the guide from a static PDF into a user-friendly website, making it easier than ever for you to tap into its wealth of gardening insights. Crafted by the adept hands of the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension, this guide serves as an invaluable resource catering to both seasoned horticulturists and aspiring gardeners.
Dive into an array of articles, planting schedules, images, and informative UF/IFAS EDIS publications – all thoughtfully designed to address your gardening questions. From the basics of getting started to the finer points of site selection, pest management, fostering biodiversity, soil testing, composting, harnessing cover crops, and mastering irrigation techniques – the North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide website has it all covered.
For those who prefer a tactile experience, physical copies are available upon request at the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Office, located at 615 Paul Russell Rd., Tallahassee, FL 32301. A quick call ahead will help you ensure availability.
We’re also excited to announce our upcoming Fall 2023 Backyard Gardening Series, set for September 6 and 13, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on both evenings at the Leon County Extension Office (615 Paul Russell Road).
If you’re eager to explore the art of fall gardening in depth, this series will cover topics like site selection, soil enrichment, effective fall planting techniques, and more, including a hands-on planting activity.
Individual tickets are available for $10 per person if pre-paid online or $15 in cash or check at the door. For families of three to four, pre-paid online family tickets are $20 per family or $30 in cash or check at the door. This registration fee includes both evenings on September 6 and 13 and light refreshments will be provided.
For any further inquiries, please contact Molly Jameson at email@example.com or via phone at 850-606-5200.
A mole cricket has a face only a mother could love. They are so strange looking, in fact, that in the past week I’ve had two people ask me what they were. They have large, round, helmet-like heads, undersized eyes, and massive front claws used for digging. Unlike your garden-variety crickets, which really don’t cause any major damage to home landscapes, the mole cricket is quite the turfgrass menace. Instead of hopping about aboveground, they tunnel beneath the lawn and feast on the roots and leaves of grass, often destroying entire yards. They are also vegetable pests, going after tomatoes, cabbage, and peppers.
Mole crickets spend most of their time below ground and form burrows for hiding, laying eggs, and traversing through their territory. In mating season, males create a monotone song that averages 88 decibels—as loud as a motorcycle! The call comes from their burrows, which have funnel-like openings that expand at the surface, creating amplification comparable to a horn.
The tawny mole cricket (Neoscapteriscus vicinus) is the most common to our area and is an invasive species from South America. UF IFAS has had a specific research program related to mole cricket management since the late 1970’s. One successful outcome of this program has been the introduction of a biological control species, the larra wasp (Larra bicolor). The wasp manages mole cricket populations by stinging and temporarily paralyzing crickets. A female will then deposit an egg into the mole cricket’s body. The cricket recovers and goes about its daily routine until the egg hatches, at which point the larval wasp feeds on and eventually kills the mole cricket. Along with the wasp and release of flies and a nematode that also manage mole crickets, the biocontrol methods introduced between the 1980’s and 2004 have resulted in a 95% reduction in mole cricket populations in north Florida.
If you are seeing mole crickets, you can attract larra wasps to your property by planting shrubby false buttonweed or partridge pea plants, which the wasps feed on. If you have serious damage from mole crickets, check out this thorough Mole Cricket Integrated Pest Management Guide, or contact the horticulture agent at your local county extension office to get a site-specific recommendation for management.
In the heat of the summer biting flies become very active during the day. Deer flies, horse flies, and especially yellow flies inflict a fierce bite on people and other animals. All three species are in the Tabanidae family, commonly referred to as tabanids. Like mosquitoes, female flies of these species require mammalian blood in order to gain the enzymes necessary to lay eggs.
The tabanids lie in wait under bushes and in trees until a host is sensed. The keen eyes of the flies are able to see their prey’s movement, but mammals also create scents and carbon dioxide, making them very easy to locate. The attacks begin at sunrise, lasts about three hours, fades through the heat of the day, and peaks again about two hours before sunset, lasting until the sun goes down.
Tabanids use their mandibles to cut through the skin like scissors, causing blood to flow. Anticoagulants in the fly saliva are pumped into the wound to keep the fluid coming while the insect sponges it up with its labella.
While blood loss and disease transmission are concerns, for most, the disturbing part of the attack is the painful bite! Many people experience other adverse effects that extend the agony.
So, what can you do? The use of insecticides is generally considered ineffective and/or economically unfeasible. Habitat manipulation is an important component to reducing populations. Tabanid eggs are laid in layers on vertical surfaces, especially on aquatic vegetation. Secretions from the adult fly protect the eggs from water damage. When the maggots hatch in 5 to 7 days they must remain in moist areas to survive.
Over the next few months, larvae feed on organic matter, crustaceans, earthworm, and insect larvae (including their own species), steadily growing larger. Once fully grown, the larvae move close to the soil surface to pupate. Within 2 days the process is complete. They will remain in the pupal stage for 2 to 3 weeks before emerging as an adult fly.
So, reducing breeding habitat in areas where people and animals spend their time is a possible management technique.
For those times when you want to be at these sites, a trap may help. Research has shown that blue cylinders (open side toward the ground) coated with sticky material and attached to slow-moving objects are effective at reducing the abundance of these flies.
So, get out the Tanglefoot™, spread it on a blue plastic cup, and hang it from a branch that’s moving with the wind. How about attaching one to the boat, tractor, or lawn mower?
If your personal image is less important than the pain of the bites, you may even consider putting the cup on your hat.
It amazes me that even under flood conditions, people still water their lawns.
I’m sure you’ve seen it too – we get enough rain to cause some areas to flood and yet you see irrigation systems going full blast.
We should water our lawns, landscapes and gardens on an as-needed basis. The way that some people water their lawns is as logical as saying that a pet dog needs a drink of water at 4 p.m. everyday. This is not true. When watering, we are simply replacing water that is lost. This is true when we drink water ourselves, when we provide water for a pet dog, or when we provide water for our lawns, landscapes and gardens.
An irrigation system is a great tool when used to supplement rainfall. Irrigating too much not only wastes water but it also is the cause for many lawn problems such as shallow, weak root systems, leaching of fertilizer and numerous lawn diseases. Cutting the irrigation timer to off and operating the system manually will solve many lawn problems.
Also, there are tools to prevent an irrigation system from coming on during rain or when adequate rainfall has occurred. As a matter of fact, it has been state law in Florida for every automatic irrigation system to have a rain shutoff device installed since 1991.
Florida Statutes, Chapter 373.62 – Water conservation; automatic sprinkler systems states, “Any person who purchases and installs an automatic lawn sprinkler system after May 1, 1991, shall install a rain sensor device or switch which will override the irrigation cycle of the sprinkler system when adequate rainfall has occurred,”
Rain sensors are available, inexpensive and are not difficult to install. Rain shutoff devices really do work when installed properly. If you do not feel qualified to install such a devise on an existing system, check with a reputable irrigation company.
Water only when lawn indicates that water is needed. When the grass needs water, leaf blades fold along the midrib – like a book closing, footprints remain in the lawn long after being made and the lawn turns grayish in spots, indicating it needs water.
When 30 to 40 percent of the lawn shows these signs of water need, turn the irrigation system on and let it run long enough to apply one-half to three-quarters inch of water. Don’t water again until the lawn begins to show these signs of water need. Watering this way will develop a deep-rooted lawn and landscape. Here’s a UF/IFAS Extension link with more information on lawn and landscape irrigation. https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/irrigation
Garden and landscape maintenance can be relaxing, but it can also be stressful. Sometimes you may just not have the time or the patience to get all the work done. In that case, you may choose to hire a professional to get your yard to looks its best. A number of things should be considered when selecting a company. First of all, make sure you find a company that provides the services needed. You probably don’t want to hire a business that specializes in planting food plots if you need some trees removed from around your house. And you may not want to hire a company that manages sports fields if you want some trees and shrubs installed. Please find a checklist below of some things to consider when choosing a landscape professional.
Insurance, Licenses, and Certifications – Make sure to hire professionals who meet all state and local license and insurance requirements for the work they are are contracted for.
General Liability Insurance – General liability insurance protects against bodily injury, property damage, and personal injury. Ask for proof of this coverage.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance – Worker’s compensation insurance provides medical and wage benefits to employees who are injured or get sick at work. More information on this coverage can be found at myfloridacfo.com.
Pesticide Applicator License – A pesticide applicator license is required for individuals spraying pesticides in and around your home. Some licenses allow the applicator to spray your entire landscape while others only grant the applicator to lawfully spray ornamental beds and shrubs around the home. You can search for applicators by name or license number at Licensed Pesticide Applicator Search.
Fertilizer Applicator License – A fertilizer applicator license is required for individuals applying fertilizer to turf and ornamentals on your property. You can search for applicators by name or license number at Licensed Pesticide Applicator Search.
FNGLA – The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) certifies landscape professionals on their landscape installation and/or maintenance expertise. You can search for certified individuals at FNGLA Certifications.
FFL – The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program offers a Florida-Friendly Landscaping Certified Professional (FFLCP) certification to individuals are familiar with the latest UF/IFAS recommendations and who implement the 9 Florida-Friendly Landscaping principles by using environmentally friendly landscape management practices. A list of certified individuals can be found at Florida-Friendly Landscaping Certified Professionals Listing.
ISA – The International Society of Arboriculture certifies landscape professionals and arborists on their expertise on tree care and installation. You can search for certified arborists at Certified Arborist Search.
In addition to checking for accreditations, a number of questions can be asked to determine if a company meets your needs. These questions will help determine whether the company follows environmentally friendly landscape management and installation practices.
Does the landscape professional understand irrigation system design and know how to calibrate an irrigation system?
Does the landscape professional maintain mowing and pruning equipment and tools to make clean cuts?
Does the landscape professional maintain turf at the appropriate height for the species/cultivar being grown?
Does the landscape professional follow UF/IFAS fertilizer recommendations for fertilizer rates and products?
Does the landscape professional apply fertilizer only when turf and ornamentals are actively growing?
Does the landscape professional use soil tests to help determine fertilizer needs?
Does the landscape professional regularly check turf and ornamentals for insect pests and diseases?
Does the landscape professional follow recommendations for plant installation and spacing?
These are just a few things to consider when hiring a landscape professional/company. After reviewing qualifications and asking tough questions you’ll also want to consider cost. Make sure to consider the scope of work of the companies that gave you quotes. For more comprehensive guidelines, please check out the UF/IFAS Publication Guidelines for Hiring a Florida-Friendly Landscape Professional.
Citrus is one of the most cherished fruit trees in the Panhandle. Citrus owners are well aware that every year the main damage to their trees come from citrus leafminer (CLM). CLM is a small moth and its larvae feeds between the tissue layers of new leaf growth, causing serpentine mines to form under the leaf cuticle (Fig. 1). The feeding damage results in leaf curling and distortion, and severe infestations of CLM on young trees can retard the growth of trees. Another threat concerning CLM in Florida is that the mines provide an open wound for citrus canker to enter, a bacterial disease that has been found recently in the Florida Panhandle, Georgia, and Alabama.
Most commercial growers deal with CLM in young trees by a soil application of systemic insecticide before the flush season, followed by a foliar insecticide when the systemic drench’s toxicity is declining. Homeowners, however, have limited access to these chemistries. Garden systemic insecticides that include imidacloprid (Bayer’s Tree & Shrub Insect Control™, Merit®, etc.) and dinotefuran (Greenlight Tree and Shrub Insect Control™, Safari®, etc.) are among the few options for CLM control. For the best efficacy, those insecticides should be applied two weeks before the start of the flushing season to allow time for the insecticide to move from the roots into the canopy. To avoid leaching of insecticide away from the root zone, soil applications should be made within a 24-hour period without rain. Citrus trees usually have several flushes per year, depending upon cultivar, climate, and crop load. However, in the Florida Panhandle, most citrus cultivars have two major flushes in May and September.
Importantly, systemic insecticides are only efficient against CLM for small immature trees; therefore, the only products labeled for use against CLM on mature trees are foliar sprays. Horticultural oils or insecticides with spinosad (such as Monterey® Garden Insect Spray) are some options available for homeowners. However, achieving leafminer control with foliar applications on mature trees is challenging due to unsynchronized flushing of trees. Foliar applications should be timed with the appearance of the first visible leaf mines. In any case, be sure to READ THE LABEL and follow all the label directions.
Cultural practices, and non-insecticidal methods.
For isolated trees in a backyard, cultural practices and control through mass trapping are usually sufficient to control CLM and insecticide use is not recommended, especially for mature trees. One of the basic cultural practices is to remove any stems that grow below the bud union or from the rootstock, also called ‘suckers’ (Fig. 2). Those rootstock shoots compete with the scion shoots and are great reservoirs for CLM; removing them will help reducing CLM population. On isolated trees, mass trapping using CLM pheromone provide good results (Fig. 3). The mass trapping method is constituted of a delta trap baited with a lure that emits a large quantity of CLM sex pheromone. CLM males are attracted by the odor and are captured in the delta trap’s sticky liner. Those traps are commonly used by growers to monitor CLM populations, but for homeowners they are sufficient to control CLM on a single tree. This trap and a lure method should protect a single tree for approximately 3 months. Finally, the last option is the use of biological control. Several natural enemies are predators or parasitize CLM. In some case, biological control can reduce CLM populations by 90%. Primary predators of CLM include ants, lacewings, and spiders, as well as a parasitic wasp, Ageniaspis citricola that was introduced into Florida and has become established (Fig. 4).