Tag Archive: FloridaFriendly

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!

 

PG

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/

Know How to Choose Florida-Friendly Plants

One of the main Florida-Friendly Landscaping principles is to plant the right plant in the right place. In Florida, not only does this apply to the zone you’re in, soils you have, and light conditions in your garden, but also ensuring that invasive, exotic plant species are not used. While most of us have heard about invasive, exotic plants – those that invade and disrupt our unique natural habitats – some may not know where or how to find out which plants are, in fact, invasive and exotic. Some of the more famous invasive, exotic plant species, such as kudzu and hydrilla, are familiar to us and we may have an idea of a plant in our garden that is “aggressive”, but how do we know for sure? Since only a handful of the worst invasive, exotic plants are legally prohibited from being sold, how do we know if a plant we are considering purchasing at our local nursery or another plant already in our gardens is an invasive, exotic? A quick internet search for Florida invasive plants gets you various sources of information. How do you choose which to use?

The unique habitats of Florida need our help. Prevent the spread of invasive, exotic species by planting Florida-Friendly plants. Source: Mark Tancig/UF/IFAS.

Fortunately, the researchers at UF/IFAS want you to be able to find the best information in one spot – the UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-Native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas. This site systematically reviews individual plant species and provides a recommendation as to whether it should be used in North, Central, or South Florida landscapes. Many landscape plants have been reviewed – over 800 – and more are added to the site as reviews are completed. The UF/IFAS Assessment also reviews cultivars of known invasive, exotic plants to ensure that they are sterile and will not revert back to their wild type or hybridize with known invasives, or even closely related native species.

The UF/IFAS Assessment is a simple, convenient source for deciding if a plant should be used in your Florida landscape.

To use the site, simply visit the main web address – assessment.ifas.ufl.edu – and begin typing in your plant name in the search bar. You can begin spelling the scientific or common name and it will start showing possible results as you type. Once you select the plant you’re interested in, it will take you to a new page with photos of the plant, some general information, additional links, and, most importantly, the assessment conclusion for each zone. The conclusion will be one of the following:

  1. Not considered a problem species at this time,
  2. Caution, or
  3. Invasive

Of course, if it’s not a problem, then feel free to use and share that particular plant. If it is a caution plant, then it may be used, but you will want to be extra careful in where you plant it. Those may be better suited as potted plants or planted in areas that are confined, to limit its potential spread. If it’s invasive, don’t plant it.

Caution plants are reassessed every two years while those that are not considered a problem species or are considered invasive are reassessed every ten years.

Another way to use the UF/IFAS Assessment is to filter all reviewed plants by various criteria you’re interested in. If you select assessments on the main page, it will lead you to a list of all reviewed plants. A filter button allows you to choose geographic zone, conclusion type, and growth habit, among some other criteria. This will create a list that can then be exported to a Microsoft Excel table.

As you can see, UF/IFAS is trying to make it easy for you to determine which plants can be used in the landscape without potentially spreading and causing disruption to our unique natural areas.

If you have any questions about individual species that have or have not been assessed, contact your local County Extension Office.

PG

Author: Mark Tancig – tancig00@ufl.edu

Mark Tancig

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/05/25/know-how-to-choose-florida-friendly-plants/

Florida-Friendly Landscaping is the Law!

 FFL_logo

It doesn’t take expert gardeners or landscapers to create a Florida-friendly yard.  All it takes is a willingness to learn and a desire to build a beautiful yard that helps protect Florida’s environment.  Florida-friendly landscaping is now part of state law. Florida Statute 373.185 prohibits government entities and homeowners associations from enacting or enforcing any governing document to prevent homeowners from implementing Florida-friendly landscaping (FFL) principles.  A guideline to ease the development of a manual can be found at this link on the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods website. “Florida-Friendly Landscape Guidance Models for Ordinances, Covenants, and Restrictions.”  fertbagFlorida Statutes 482.1562 states that all commercial fertilizer applicators must have a license from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) by January 1, 2014.  To get this license, each Green Industry employee must be trained in Best Management Practices, which teaches professionals how to implement FFL principles.  Additionally, to address water conservation Florida Statute 373.62 says the following: “Any person who operates an automatic landscape irrigation system shall properly install, maintain, and operate technology that inhibits or interrupts operation of the system during periods of sufficient moisture, regardless of when the system was installed”.  Irrigation contractors are required by law to ensure that there is an operational rain shut off device on site before they can perform any services.  If it doesn’t exist or isn’t working, the contractor can be fined for not reporting the property owner or by completing the repair work without installing or repairing the rain shut off device.

watering in the rainFertilizing Appropriately and Watering Efficiently are just two of the nine Florida-friendly landscaping principles.  Right Plant, Right Place; Mulch, Attracting Wildlife, Managing Yard Pests Responsibly, Recycling, Reducing Stormwater Runoff and Protecting the Waterfront.are the other principles.  Utilizing landscape techniques that reduce the inputs that can negatively impact natural resources is the foundation of Florida-friendly landscaping.  By implementing the practices, the user saves money, reduces their workload and protects the environment.  Many of the Florida-friendly landscaping principles are common sense applications.  For more information visit the Florida Yards website.

 

PG

Author: Sheila Dunning – sdunning@ufl.edu


http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu

Sheila Dunning

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/11/11/florida-friendly-landscaping-is-the-law/