You’ve grown some wonderful vegetables, annuals or perennials and you would like to save some of the seed from those plants to have for planting in the future. This is a great way to get more of the plants you know and love while saving on the expense of new plants. One exception are plants that are F1 hybrids; seeds from these plants will produce crops quite dissimilar to the parent.
First, you need to collect ripe seed from the desired plants. How do you know when the seeds are ripe and ready to harvest? The strategies for annuals/perennials and vegetable plants differ.
The ripe seedhead of a coneflower. Photo credit: Mary Derrick, UF/IFAS Extension.
For annuals and perennials that flower without making a fruit, wait until the flower has dried up and the seed head is brown and dead-looking. The seeds are then mature and ready to harvest. Take a look at the photo of the coneflower seedhead for reference. These seeds are already dry and can be put into an envelope and then into a sealed jar or plastic stage bag that contains a desiccant to absorb any excess moisture. There are a few options for desiccants: the little packets that come in vitamin bottles and purses to keep them dry, cornmeal or dried milk in bottom of the bag. Be sure to label your envelope with the date and name of your plant seeds. Store in the refrigerator.
When you are saving seed from a vegetable that has seeds inside it such as a tomato, pepper or squash, harvest the vegetable when it is ripe and ready to eat and scoop out the seeds and wash away all other plant parts from the seed. These seeds are very moist and if stored in this state, they will rot into a mess. You want to get the moisture content below about 8% for long term storage. There are several methods:
- If the humidity is low and the temperature high, (I know, those can be rare conditions for Florida) you can put the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet in the shade to let them dry all day.
- Another option is to take that baking sheet with a single layer of seeds and put it in a 100° oven for 6 hours with the door open. It’s crucial to monitor your oven temperatures as those above 100° will kill the seeds.
Once the seeds are dried sufficiently, store them as described above for flower seeds. Your seeds can then last for several years.
For more information:
Seed Saving from Colorado State Extension
Saving Vegetable Seeds from University of Minnesota Extension
About two years ago, my son was mowing the lawn when he came across something orange and furry lying in the grass. He backed away and yelled for his dad, but the damage had already been done—he had come across the remains of our orange tabby cat, killed overnight by a larger predator. Emotional repercussions aside, it was startling for our family to realize that even in a residential neighborhood within the city limits, animals were hunting nearby. Based on the experience of seeing one in our own yard just a few months earlier and from other neighbors’ stories, we realized we’d had a coyote attack. Our neighborhood is located relatively close to a large wooded area and a local bayou, and there are plenty of places for coyotes to find shelter.
Always feed your pets indoors and keep them inside at night to prevent coyote attacks. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson
We learned several lessons after our incident that could be helpful to others living in areas populated with coyotes. Like sharks, coyotes are crepuscular creatures—most actively feeding at dusk and dawn. While they prefer to eat small animals like lizards, rodents, and young birds or deer, they are omnivorous and will also eat fruit and grasses. Not unlike other urban wildlife such as raccoons, they are opportunistic feeders and will scavenge dead animals and garbage. One of the best ways to protect small pets is to keep them (and their food) indoors at night and early morning. Pet food left outdoors often attracts coyotes’ normal prey and therefore the coyotes themselves. It is extremely rare to hear of a coyote attacking a human, but if threatened it is recommended that you yell, throw something, or spray a water hose. Stand your ground and fight back—don’t run, as this will encourage them to give chase.
Coyotes are social animals and often hunt in packs, and like the dogs they’re related to, have excellent vision, hearing, and sense of smell. They will howl and bark to communicate with one another, and hearing these vocalizations is often the first sign that there are some living nearby.
Coyotes are common throughout Florida. Photo credit: W. M. Giuliano
Floridians are no strangers to living with wild animals—we all routinely hear stories of alligators, black bears, venomous snakes, and sharks interrupting our attempts at taming the former wildlands that we now occupy. As urban development marches through the landscape, the large tracts of land once used primarily by animals for hunting and shelter are occupied by human dwellings and transportation routes.
While coyotes are relatively new to Florida (they are native to the western US but entered northwest Florida in the 1970’s), they’ve filled in the ecological gap left by a reduction of native wolves, bobcats, and panthers. Research has shown they now reside in every Florida county and can range the entirety of North America and most of Central America.
Most homeowners will never encounter a coyote, but it is helpful to know they are out there and to take precautions with pets and yard practices to prevent attracting one into your backyard.
For more information on managing coyotes, please visit the UF publication Managing Conflicts with Wildlife: Living with Coyotes.
When you know that your lawn needs an application of fertilizer, herbicide, insecticide or fungicide, the question becomes how much to buy and put down. For these products, success stems from applying the right amount, not too much or too little. The label on those products always tells the consumer how many square feet of lawn can be treated, but how do you figure that out?
You could always do it the old-fashioned way with measuring tape and a calculator, estimating the angles and the areas of those curvy, irregular flower beds. This method takes a bit of time and you will still wonder about the accuracy of your final numbers.
Here’s an easier, and more accurate way to do it!
Sod Solutions, Inc. offers an online tool that is easy to use and very accurate. Enter your address and GPS locates the aerial view of your property. Create an overlay by plotting points and the square footage is automatically calculated. The instructions under ‘How to Use the Calculator’ are very clear and makes this tool so easy and convenient to use.
For more information on lawn care topics:
Gardening Solutions: Lawns
The muscadine grape is a popular fruit that grows very well here in North Florida. It has smaller leaves than bunch grapes and fruit are harvested singly, rather than in bunches. Theses grapes can be enjoyed fresh and also be used for home wine-making. One of the nice things about growing muscadine grapes in Florida is that they’re rarely bothered by insects or diseases. They can easily be grown in your backyard garden.
Muscadine grapes are ripening now! Photo credit: Mary Derrick, UF/IFAS Extension.
Grapes will grow well in a variety of soils here in North Florida. Upland soils with clay underlying at about three feet are ideal. You should avoid poorly drained soils. If the grapes are grown on soil with very good drainage, they should be set in the ground deeper than they were grown in the nursery on land with a high water table. Grapes should be planted on raised beds at the same depth they were at in the nursery.
During the first year, grapes should be fertilized with a quarter pound of 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 fertilizer, applied in bands about a foot away from the plant, soon after growth begins. Repeat applications in April, July and September. Fertilizer rates increase each year, but they should never exceed six pounds per vine per year.
Weeds can sometimes be a problem with muscadine grapes. To get rid of weeds, you can use a good herbicide, or you can cultivate around the plants. The muscadine grape has a very shallow root system, however, so be careful when you’re weeding around the plants. Mulches can be helpful in controlling weeds, but be sure to leave a circle of at least six inches around each vine uncovered.
Grapes need a generous supply of water to survive here in North Florida. In fact, more first-year grapes die from a lack of water than from any other cause. Make sure the plant receives about an inch of water weekly. Muscadine grapes are rarely bothered by insects or diseases. However, a spray program is advised to protect plants from possible damage by black rot or bitter rot. Spraying should begin when the vines are in bloom, and continue a regular two week intervals until about a week before the harvest. For specific information on the proper spray to use, you should contact your local County Agent.
Muscadine grapes mature in August and early September. If you don’t plan to use them immediately, they should be picked from the vine when ripe and stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
For more information, please see:
The Muscadine Grape
Muscadines Benefit from Timely and Artful Pruning
As our world and our lives become more centered on technology it seems that all the information we need is just a touch screen away. After all, you are most likely reading this article from a laptop, smart phone, or tablet. While convenient and portable, there are some places you might not wish to take your electronics and one of those places is in the garden. You may say, “Well Taylor, that’s what they make waterproof, shatterproof, dirt proof, etc. cases for!” and I would say that you’re right. However, technology has many limiting factors such as battery life and screen glare. Now believe me, I am by no means disparaging technology! I come from a generation that considers Wi-Fi as necessary as water and an outlet comparable to oxygen. But there is something to be said for having a book in hand when out in the garden. For one thing your neighbors won’t worry about you as they see you march around the garden with your phone in the air doing the “No Signal Dance”. Also, a book is great to have in order for you to jot down any notes or reflections. I would like to list for you a few books that I often reference when I receive calls from homeowners. These books will cover various topics and all of them can be found on the UF/IFAS Bookstore website, the links for each can be found below. If you have any questions contact your local Extension Office and, as always, feel free to contact me and I can give you a rundown on my collection of favorite reference books!
- New to the UF/IFAS bookstore: “Trees: North & Central Florida” a field guide to 140 common tree species. This sturdy, pocket-sized field guide–the only one of its kind for north and central Florida–is designed for landscape professionals, arborists, naturalists, gardeners, and anyone seeking to know the trees around them. Full color photographs of leaves, bark, flowers and full trees, together with clear descriptions and other information make identifying trees easier than ever. This book also features a handy diagnostic key, an introduction to plant parts, a glossary and a ruler to guide you, whether you’re a trained botanist or a complete beginner.
- “Poisonous Plants of the Southern United States” John W. Everest, Thomas A. Powe, Jr., and John D. Freeman (of Auburn University). Identification of common poisonous plants found along fence lines and in pastures in the Southern United States.
- “Weeds of Southern Turfgrasses” This practical weed identification guide contains 427 color photographs of 193 weed species, their geographical range, and life cycle descriptions. Includes a glossary of taxonomic terms and index of common and scientific names.
- “Disorders and Diseases of Ornamental Palms” Recently revised and updated, this ID deck is a diagnostic tool for landscape professionals and backyard hobbyists. The color photographs and explanatory text helps users identify and distinguish between the nutritional deficiencies, physiological disorders and common diseases of ornamental palms. All palms in the U.S. suffer from disorders and diseases, and identifying the differences can be tricky. These cards feature photographs and descriptions and are cross-referenced for easy comparison between different symptoms and the potential problems causing them. Includes a table of contents and 55 laminated, ring-bound cards.
- “Florida Lawn Handbook: Best Management Practices for Your Home Lawn in Florida” Written in practical language by turfgrass experts, this highly-anticipated new edition offers the most current lawn management information. Color plates identify various grass types, weeds, diseases, and insects—including those that are good for your lawn! Chapters cover selection, establishment, and maintenance for each type of lawn; soil analysis and fertilization; yearly calendars for lawn care and culture; mowing, watering, and calibrating sprinkler systems and fertilizer spreaders; overseeding for winter color; preparing a lawn for drought and low temperatures; safe pesticide application and use; the latest integrated pest management strategies; organic lawn care; and complete, illustrated diagnostic information for weeds, diseases, insect problems, nematodes, and other pests.
- “Sustainable Gardening for Florida” Gardeners today face a unique challenge: how do you create a beautiful, thriving landscape without over-use of fertilizers, pesticides, and water? Sustainable Gardening for Florida might be the first place to look for answers. This book provides interesting, money-saving ideas to reduce your ecological footprint. It includes chapters on composting and mulching, integrated pest management, water-wise irrigation and rainwater harvesting, preparing your garden for disasters, and all aspects of managing meadows, lawns, trees and shrubs, edible gardens, rain gardens and waterfront gardening.
- “Vegetable Gardening in Florida” From James Stephens, the founder of the Florida Master Gardener Program, this is the one resource you need to successfully grow vegetables in Florida. Whether you’re growing beans, tomatoes, herbs, or any other Florida crop, this guide will take you from site selection and insect management through the harvest and storage of your produce. Useful planting guides, gardening measurement conversions, and organic gardening information are accented with full-color throughout.
Late summer brings hot, humid temperatures, and many Floridians are retreating from the heat into their air-conditioned homes. Unfortunately, those comforts of home also come with a price tag. When people think about energy efficiency, practices like turning off lights, purchasing energy-efficient appliances, good insulation and windows, and managing A/C temperature settings are the first things that come to mind. These are very important steps to take, not only to save money but also to conserve energy. The US Department of Energy has an excellent publication that can take you step-by-step through a home evaluation, and many energy companies offer a similar walk-through energy audit for free.
However, there are many best management practices that can be done outdoors to offset expensive home power bills. Planting trees is one example. Department of Energy studies have shown that when compared to a home in full sun, a shaded home may experience up to a 25% decrease in energy for cooling.
This home uses passive cooling from a front porch and numerous shade trees. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson
Trees planted to shade eastern and western facing walls of your home can be the most effective, as these areas receive direct sun in the morning and afternoon. By preventing heat from entering your home, you prevent straining an air conditioning system that would otherwise have to counteract that heat. It is also helpful to provide shade over an air conditioning unit. Deciduous trees are ideal, as they have leaves to provide shade in the summer but drop them by winter, when you might want sunlight to passively heat your home.
In addition to shade, transpiration—the process of plants emitting moisture as they release water from leaf pores—creates cool spaces around vegetation. Grasses and shrubs along the edges of a home, or vines on nearby trellises, can cool walls and windows in this manner.
Finally, consider sprinkler systems. A home irrigation system can use a significant amount of energy to pump water throughout your yard. Calibrating your system and even reducing run time or frequency can also conserve water and reduce water bills.
For more information on energy-efficient landscaping, please visit www.myfloridahomeenergy.com or contact your local Extension office.