Tag Archive: Edible

Struggling to Grow Fruit Trees? Try These Lesser Known Florida-Friendly Edible Options!

Northwest Floridians are lucky.  We get to bask in the warm sunshine at least eight months of the year, consider it cold weather when we have to break out the fleece pullover and none of us live more than a few hours’ drive to the whitest sand you ever saw.  However, those conditions have consequences.  That warm sun and plentiful rain yields heat and humidity, a perfect breeding ground for all manner of pests and diseases, not to mention seriously cutting down on necessary chill hours required by many species.  We’ll never be able to grow peaches like they do in Georgia.  No one is in any danger of mistaking a Florida apple for one from Michigan.  Pomegranates, olives, and nectarines like California?  Forget about it.  All of those species will mostly survive and grow but in most cases, the inputs of labor and protective chemicals greatly outweigh the output of fruit.  For most of us it is just not worth the time and effort to turn a crop!

We have a couple of adapted, well-known stalwarts to turn to though.  Any gardener worth his salt has a few productive rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium ashei), a pear (Pyrus communis), an old reliable fig tree (Ficus carica), and a citrus or two of some kind (though with the devastating disease known as Citrus Greening looming on the horizon, backyard citrus may decline in popularity in the near future).  However, hobby fruit growers aren’t often content to stick to those standards though.  We tend to be an adventurous, progressive lot, always looking for new species to grow and constantly pushing climatic and adaptation limits of species, with varying success. For the Panhandle backyard fruit orchardist looking for a little variety but demanding a high probability of success, there are three unusual Florida Friendly trees requiring little winter chill that fit the bill perfectly:  Pawpaw (Asimina triloba), Japanese Persimmon (Diospyros kaki), and Loquat (Eriobtrya japonica).

Pawpaw fruit

The pawpaw (yes it’s pronounced exactly like you think it is) is an altogether unusual tree.  For starters, it is one of the most adaptable plants in cultivation, growing native from New York all the way down to the Sunshine State.  It would be a beautiful tree if it never produced a single fruit; the large leaves droop naturally, lending a decidedly tropical feel to the garden and the understated purple-brown flowers are some of the more attractive of our native spring blooming trees.  But, to be sure, the fruit are the real attraction here.  Technically berries, the bluish-green, three to five inch long, oval-shaped fruit ripen in the late summer (August-October) and have an extremely unique taste often likened to banana or custard.  Pawpaws occur naturally in moist, well-drained soils and thrive in both shade and sun; site accordingly and this unusual little native fruit tree should perform admirably for you!

While more common than Pawpaw, Japanese Persimmon still has not reached the cosmopolitan status of pear or fig or the like for reasons unclear to me!  Native to eastern Asia, Japanese Persimmon is right at home in the Panhandle where it rewards gardeners each fall with outstanding reddish/orange foliage and a reliable crop of beautiful, baseball-sized, orange fruit possessing a crisp, sweet taste that can be eaten fresh or used in cooking.  I especially like the fruit when it is made into a cakey “bread” similar to banana bread.  It is a remarkably forgiving tree, growing and fruiting reliably with little help from the orchardist.  Japanese Persimmon is generally sold as one of the selected cultivars, ‘Fuyu’ being the most common and probably the best.  The species prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil but does just fine without irrigation once it reaches establishment.  A bonus, you only need to plant one as Japanese Persimmon does not require a pollinator!  (Note:  Persimmons can be astringent or non-astringent.  If you plant an astringent cultivar, be sure to let the fruit ripen completely before eating as they are unpalatable until that point.  Most are probably better off going with a non-astringent cultivar such as ‘Fuyu’.)

Persimmon fruit

A lesser-known gem of the coastal south, Loquat is hard to beat.  It’s a great addition to the landscape, the cinnamon colored bark, foot-long “cabbagey” textured leaves and early spring flowers outdo many purely ornamental species.  The yellowish-orange fruit that follow are outstanding picked and eaten fresh off the tree.  Flavor is reminiscent of citrus with a sweet taste and a soft texture.  Loquat flourishes in full sun and once established needs little to no supplemental fertilization or irrigation.  As with Japanese Persimmon, Loquat is self-fertile and does not need a pollinator so just one tree will do (trust me, one healthy loquat will make enough fruit to feed a small army)!

Loquat fruit

If you are indeed a backyard orcharding enthusiast and want to expand your horizons to include more than the same old standard species that everyone else grows or maybe you’re just frustrated with trying to grow popular but ill-adapted species like peach and apple, you could do a lot worse than including one or all of Pawpaw, Japanese Persimmon, and Loquat into your garden!  For more information on fruit trees and any other horticultural questions you may have, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.  Happy gardening!

 

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Author: Daniel J. Leonard – d.leonard@ufl.edu

Horticulture Agent, Walton County

Daniel J. Leonard

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/08/25/struggling-to-grow-fruit-trees-try-these-lesser-known-florida-friendly-edible-options/

The Visual and Delectable Appeal of an Edible Landscape

The Visual and Delectable Appeal of an Edible Landscape

Figure 1: Edible Landscaping.
Credit: Dr. Gail Hansen, Environmental Horticulture-UF/IFAS

Edible landscaping has become a trend for many gardening enthusiasts. A combination of edible plants along with traditional ornamentals can create an artful presentation. There are some challenges when designing such a landscape, but in those challenges opportunities’ may be found. One of the most difficult challenges is making sure your garden or landscape is healthy and vibrant year-round since many edibles are short-lived annuals. These include plants such as eggplant, pepper, lettuce, artichoke and some annual herbs. There is a solution to this concern. First, know your edible plant’s propagation and maturity months. This way you can offset plantings to ensure color in your landscape. Another key measure is to mix some evergreen ornamentals in with short season edibles and long season edibles. Examples of long season edibles include berry shrubs, fruit trees and biennial or perennial herbs.

Table 1: North/Central Florida Front Yard Edibles.
Credit: Dr. Gail Hansen, Environmental Horticulture-UF/IFAS.

When designing your edible landscape, think about style and theme to help guide you through the process. A formal design has more straight edges and geometric shapes, whereas the more natural approach has meandering edges and irregular shapes. A color scheme in harmony is very important. Remember, an edible landscape should not just be a production food garden but a visual treat. The goal is not to grow a high yield garden, but only to produce supplemental edibles to make the endeavor worthwhile.

Dr. Gail Hansen, Associate Professor of Environmental Horticulture at the University of Florida, has developed twelve ideas when creating an edible landscape:
  • Combine reliable, low-maintenance ornamental with edible plants. Use evergreen ornamentals to maintain enough green structure, so that potential cool season bare spots are not visual.
  • Use support structures for an artistic effect and to assist in growth of some plants. Trellises, arbors and even tomato cages are some examples that can be used.
  • Use containers in areas to keep the landscape more organized. Planters will also help in maintenance, as plants will be easier to reach and the soil will be easier to manage.
  • Create some hard edges in your landscape. Raised beds, garden walls and borders will give defining lines to the landscape and promote a clean appearance.
  • A pathway through the landscape will both provide an access to plants and give an inviting appeal. Brick pavers, gravel and mulch are good examples of pathway material.
  • Remember color is key. Create a visually pleasing combination of plant color, form, texture and sizes.
  • Always start by keeping it simple. So, start small and simple. Then, you can begin filling in the landscape.
  • Look for one unique feature to create an added interest to you landscape and provide growth to plants. This could be a shade house for ferns and other hanging baskets or a hay bale, where lettuce, tomatoes or peppers could grow upon.
  • Select appealing and easy to grow plants that you want to eat!
  • Let plants reach maturity before taking them out of the landscape. For example, rainbow chard will grow larger, if allowed to continue to grow after seed has been produced.
  • Use the Florida-Friendly Landscaping principle, “Right Plant, Right Place”, when adding edibles to your landscape. Match the growing needs with the most suitable location.
  • Consider your location and layout for irrigation. All plants need some degree of water. An above ground drip irrigation system is usually the most flexible and adjustable irrigation method in regards to overall plant watering needs in a landscape.

 

Following Dr. Hansen’s ideas will help you create the edible landscape of your dreams. For more information on edible landscaping, please contact your local county extension office for more details.

Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS Publications, “Landscape Design with Edibles” by Dr. Gail Hansen: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP47500.pdf

 

UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.

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Author: Ray Bodrey – rbodrey@ufl.edu

Gulf County Extension Director, Agent II Agriculture, Natural Resource & Community Development

Ray Bodrey

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/03/21/the-visual-and-delectable-appeal-of-an-edible-landscape/

Starting a Fruit Orchard or an Edible Landscape? What Should I Grow? Fall is the Time to Decide !

fruitThe avid gardener has heard on many occasions that fall is the best time of the year to plant trees and shrubs. Correct! Now is the time to start a fruit orchard or an edible landscape.  As the seasons transition into much cooler weather, now is the ideal planting season for hardy trees, shrubs and ground covers (Trawick, 2013). 

In the fall, plants require less water to get established and stress factors associated with planting in full sun are reduced.  Although weather is cool, soil temperatures continue to be warm enough throughout the season to promote root growth.  Thus by planting in the fall, the plant becomes more established by having a better and more vigorous root system than a plant that is planted at springtime.

Deciding what to grow sometimes is limited by what is available in a given area.  Mail and online sales can be tricky if for those unaware about which fruit species perofrms best in Northwest Florida.  To aid in this planning process, Ia link to a University of Florida IFAS publication (HS1218) is included that contains a directory of certified Florida nurseries offering fruit and nut crops.  While it was developed to assist farmers locate fruit and nuts cultivars in Florida, it is helpful to begin thinking about what to grow and where to find it.  The publication also lists recommended fruit and nut species and cultivars for North Florida, including north-central Florida.

 Fruitscapes is a University of Florida website dedicated to fruit trees in Florida, which will increase understanding of fruit tree cultural and pest management requirements for all readers. Also explore “Temperate Fruit Crops” .  Bookmark this webpage and refer to it as needed.  Also, consult with your county extension office in your area.

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Author: Alex Bolques – abol@ufl.edu

FAMU/CAFS, Gadsden County Extension, Horticulture and Small Farms Extension Agent

Alex Bolques

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/10/25/starting-a-fruit-orchard-or-an-edible-landscape-what-should-i-grow-fall-is-the-time-to-decide/

Edible Blossoms For You!

Add the easy-to-grow garden nasturtium to your vegetable or flower garden!

Brightly colored garden Nasturtium

Photo courtesy of the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden

Garden nasturtium, known to botanists as Tropaeolum majus, is an annual that originated in the Andes of South America.  Seed and plants are commonly found in garden centers, although a greater variety is available when purchased from seed catalogues or online. A variety of cultivars are available, from dwarf bushy types to climbing or trailing types. Perky blooms in vivid shades of orange, yellow, pink and red are often produced in abundance.

This annual is easy and fast to grow from seed.  If transplanting from small potted plants, make sure not to disturb the delicate root system during the transplant process. Give them partial to full sun and regular watering, even though they are drought tolerant. They prefer a lighter, sandy, well-drained soil and don’t perform as well in dense, rich soils. Be careful with the fertilizer as too much nitrogen will produce lots of green foliage but few blooms.

 

Warning!

Aphids like to feast on the succulent flowers and foliage as well, so be diligent in scouting for this pest. Control is usually adequate by dislodging them with a spray of water or insecticidal soap. Insecticidal soap will cause the aphid to try out and dessicate.  Be careful to spray the undersides of the leaves as well for complete control. Make sure to apply products that are safe for food crops and follow all label instructions.

 

In the Florida panhandle, garden nasturtium can be a part of the garden year-round. However, they generally decline and stop flowering with the onset of the full brunt of the summer heat unless a bit of afternoon shade is available. When planted late in the fall, they are susceptible to frost damage but often will recover.

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For more information from the University of Florida, please see:

Garden Nasturtium, Tropaeoleum majus L.

Gardening in a Minute: Nasturtium

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Author: Mary Derrick – mderrick@ufl.edu

Residential Horticulture Extension Agent for Santa Rosa County

Mary Derrick

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/08/23/edible-blossoms-for-you/