Q. One of my two fig trees has produced a few figs. The other one, which is the largest and healthiest tree, has never had a fig on it. Both where planted six years ago. Why is it not producing?
Mature fig tree with fruit. Photo credit: Larry Williams
A. It may be a matter of age and being overly vigorous. When a fruit tree is younger, it puts most of its energy into producing leaves and shoots. Until the plant becomes mature and slows down in the production of leaves and shoots, it will produce few to no fruit. It may take a year or two more for your tree to slowly and gradually switch from producing mostly leaves and shoots to producing and maturing some fruit. Patience is needed.
Be careful to not overdo it in fertilizing and/or pruning your fig tree. Too much fertilizer, especially nitrogen, or severely pruning the tree will result in the tree becoming overly vigorous at the expense of setting and maturing fruit. This includes fertilizer that the tree may pull up from a nearby lawn area. A tree’s roots will grow outward two to three times beyond its branch spread into adjacent lawn areas.
The end result of being heavy handed with fertilizing and/or overdoing it in pruning is the same – it forces the plant to become overly vigorous in producing leaves and shoots at the expense of producing and maturing fruit.
In addition, the following is taken from an Extension publication on figs and includes the most common reasons for lack of fruiting, in order of importance.
- Young, vigorous plants and over-fertilized plants will often produce fruit that drops off before maturing. If plants are excessively vigorous, stop fertilizing them. Quite often, three of four years may pass before the plant matures a crop because figs have a long juvenile period before producing edible quality fruit.
- Dry, hot periods that occur before ripening can cause poor fruit quality. If this is the case, mulching and supplemental watering during dry spells will reduce the problem.
- The variety Celeste will often drop fruit prematurely in hot weather regardless of the quality of plant care. However, it is still a good variety to grow.
- An infestation of root-knot nematodes can intensify the problem when conditions are as described in item 2.
- You could have a fig tree that requires cross-pollination by a special wasp. This is a rare problem. If this is the case, then it will never set a good crop. The best way to resolve this is to replace the plant with a rooted shoot of a neighbor’s plant you know produces a good crop each year.
Brown-eyed Susan makes a nice addition to a pollinator garden. This one is visited by a scoliid wasp, a parasitoid of soil-inhabiting scarab beetle larvae. Photo credit: Mary Salinas, UF/IFAS Extension.
Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta, has been a very popular garden perennial for generations. Fewer gardeners have experience with, or even heard of its’ close relative, brown-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia triloba. So, what is the difference between them?
- Brown-eyed Susan has more numerous flowers and generally flowers for a longer period in spring, summer, and fall.
- Black-eyed Susan has bigger flowers and bigger leaves.
- Both species are perennial, but the brown-eyed Susan tends to die out sooner after a few years. The good news is that both readily spread through seed to replace older plants.
Brown-eyed Susan. Photo credit: Mary Salinas, UF/IFAS Extension.
Brown-eyed Susan is native to the eastern and central United States and, although native to Florida, it has only been vouchered in the wild in 5 counties in Florida. Gardeners can find seed and plants readily online and at a few native plant nurseries. It is best to try to source wildflower seed from plants grown in the same region. Brown-eyed Susan seed from plants grown in Nebraska or Michigan may not be as well adapted to the Florida environment as locally grown seed.
If you want to add this pollinator attracting perennial to your garden, choose a spot that is sunny or partly sunny. Although it prefers moist soil, brown eyed Susan adapts to most soil types and is drought tolerant after establishment.
Are you one of those that hear the word “pollen” and sneeze? For many, allergies are the only association with plant pollen. But pollination – the transfer of male pollen grains into the female flower organs to create fertile seeds – is an essential part of a healthy ecosystem. Pollinators play a significant role in the production of over 150 food crops. Corn and rice are wind pollinated. Just about everything else, including chocolate, depends on an insect, bird or mammal. Successful pollination of a single flower often requires visits from multiple pollinators. But, there are also plants that need a specific species in order to complete the task. They are so interdependent that if one disappears, so will the other.
Unfortunately, reports from the National Research Council say that the long-term population trends for some North American pollinators are “demonstrably downward”.
In 2007, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved and designated “National Pollinator Week” to help raise awareness. National Pollinator Week (June 21-27, 2021) is a time to celebrate pollinators and spread the word about what you can do to protect them. Habitat loss for pollinators due to human activity poses an immediate and frequently irreversible threat. Other factors responsible for population decreases include: invasive plant species, broad-spectrum pesticide use, disease, and weather.
So what can you do?
- Install “houses” for birds, bats, and bees.
- Avoid toxic, synthetic pesticides and only apply bio-rational products when pollinators aren’t active.
- Provide and maintain small shallow containers of water for wildlife.
- Create a pollinator-friendly garden.
- Plant native plants that provide nectar for pollinating insects.
There’s a new app for the last two.
The Bee Smart® Pollinator Gardener is your comprehensive guide to selecting plants for pollinators based on the geographical and ecological attributes of your location (your ecoregion) just by entering your zip code. http://pollinator.beefriendlyfarmer.org/beesmartapp.htm
Filter your plants by what pollinators you want to attract, light and soil requirements, bloom color, and plant type. This is an excellent plant reference to attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles, bats, and other pollinators to the garden, farm, school and every landscape.
The University of Florida also provides a website to learn the bee species and garden design. Go to: https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/bees/Bee
or go on-line to see a list of pollinator-attracting plants. https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/design/gardening-with-wildlife/bee-plants.html
Not only can you find out which plants attract pollinators, you will be given the correct growing conditions so you can choose ‘the right plant for the right place’.
Remember, one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat is made possible by pollinators.
A worker bee gathering nectar and pollen.
As the weather warms, it seems that all kinds of living things start stirring. From birds to bees, plants to ants, and gnats to tourists, the world comes alive in the spring. It’s those bees we’ll discuss here, because every year they swarm, and that can cause some consternation among the homeowners whose houses they invade.
Honeybees are vitally important to our wellbeing, as they act as pollinators for many of our crops. They supply us with honey and wax and are a source of livelihood for many individuals. Important though they may be, they can sometimes become a nuisance.
Honeybees are eusocial organisms. Each honeybee lives in a colony or hive that it cannot survive without. In fact, it can be helpful to think of the entire hive as a single organism, even if it is made up of many individuals. The queen bee is the only one who lays eggs, but she cannot forage for her own food. Workers supply pollen and nectar to the hive but cannot reproduce on their own. Drones, or male bees, exist only to mate and would quickly die without the support of their sisters.
When a queen reproduces, she lays eggs that develop into new workers. When the time is right, she may lay eggs that develop into drones, or new females may be fed a substance called royal jelly that causes them to develop into new queens. These new drones and queens are born in preparation for a new hive to be created rather than to add more bees to the existing one. The old queen will be the adventurous one, so the workers put her on a diet. Once she has lost weight (to make it easier for her to fly), she takes half the workers in the hive and goes out in search of a new place to live. One of the new queens, after mating, returns to the nest and prepares to continue the work of her predecessor.
When the old queen leaves with her coterie, this is called a swarm. When weather warms and nectar begins to flow, the
A swarm of bees looking for a new home.
bees travel from place to place looking for a good spot to live. Hollow cavities in trees are a favorite spot, but bee scouts often find what they think are perfect living places in our homes or sheds. While they are searching for a new place to set up shop, they may rest on trees or branches in large clumps. Do not be alarmed if you see one, as it does not mean they are nesting where they’ve stopped. Wait a while to see if they leave on their own or contact a local beekeeper to see if they want to collect the swarm.
If bees have taken up residence somewhere they’re not welcome, there are companies and individuals who may be able to collect the bees rather than destroying them. If removal is not an option, nuisance bees may be eradicated under Florida law, but this must be done by a certified Pest Control Operator.
If you have a swarm or hive on your property, check with the Department of Agriculture (Bee Removal or Eradication in Florida Resources) to find information and for a list of bee removal specialists. See our EDIS publication on choosing a pest control operator at Choosing the Right Pest Control Operator for Honey Bee Removal: A Consumer Guide. You can also contact your local Extension office for help with finding someone local.
In the Panhandle, fall is the prettiest season for wildflowers. Our roadsides and woodlands are covered with pinks, whites, yellows, blues, purples, and even a little red here and there. Pretty as it may be, the beautiful wildflower look isn’t super appropriate for most yards. It would look unkempt, a little “wild” if you will, would be hard to manage and is probably best enjoyed in natural areas. However, we can bring some of the native colors of fall into our landscapes in a much lower maintenance, refined manner with two Panhandle species that pair excellently together, Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) and Darrow’s Blueberry (Vaccineum darrowii).
Muhly Grass and Darrow’s Blueberry in a local landscape. Photo courtesy of Daniel Leonard.
Muhly Grass, the native grass with the pinkish/purple panicles blooming right now, has gained much popularity in recent years, earning a reputation as a near pest/disease free, drought tolerant, attractive landscape plant. Operating in lieu of more traditional low growing shrubs in landscapes, Muhly is an airy, greenish gray bunch grass growing about 3-4’ tall and wide, lending informal, coastal texture to landscapes most of the year and really shining in fall during its flowering season. Once established, it never needs extra water, prefers little fertilizer, and only needs a rejuvenation prune (or burn – the Leonard preferred method. It’s fun and mimics the role of fire in Muhly’s native ecosystems!) every couple of years to keep it looking tidy.
Unlike Muhly Grass, Darrow’s Blueberry has not caught on broadly in the landscape industry but is no less deserving. This native blueberry species only grows a couple of feet tall, produces edible fruit that wildlife enjoy, and adds an unusual blue green color to landscapes via its tiny-leaved, evergreen foliage. It prefers the same sites as Muhly and is part of the reason they pair so well together. Our mostly sandy, well drained soils work just fine, but both plants can handle soils that are occasionally wet. A bonus, Darrow’s also has tiny, bell shaped flowers in spring that attract all manner of beneficial bee species. This makes it a must in any native pollinator garden!
As good as these species are alone, I think they are better together. In my family’s yard, we created a loose screen of widely spaced (8’ apart) Muhly Grass specimens around a pool, in the spirit of giving the area a “coastal” airy feel, and interspersed Darrow’s Blueberry in between.
The pink Muhly Grass flowers pair nicely with the green blue foliage of Darrow’s Blueberry. Photo courtesy of Daniel Leonard.
The look has been outstanding, particularly in the late summer/early fall. The pinky purple flowers of Muhly Grass complement the green-blue foliage of the blueberries nicely and provide easy, lasting color without having to worry about planting finicky annuals or perennials each season.
Landscaping with natives does not have to look wild and unkempt, nor does it have to be drab and unattractive. Combining native yet showy plants like Darrow’s Blueberry and Muhly Grass makes for an unusual, refined, nearly no-maintenance feature in your landscape. Look for these and other neat native plants at native nurseries and independent garden centers around the Panhandle. If you’d like more information on native grasses, blueberries or any other horticultural topic, please contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office! Happy Gardening!