Hillsborough Extension Garden Blog

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January’s Garden Money-Saving Tip: Make Your Own Vegetable Stock January 17, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 9:04 am
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Make Your Own Vegetable Stock
by Nicole Pinson, Urban Horticulture Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator and
Dr. Mary Keith, Food, Nutrition and Health Extension Agent UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County

I love to cook, and this year one of my resolutions is to make more meals at home. I find chopping vegetables (like weeding!) cathartic, and preparing a tasty, elegant meal for myself is a gift. So, while cooking tonight’s mushroom barley soup (it’s getting really cold in Florida- time to start making and freezing soups!), I thought of this month’s tip.

We chop our veggies and add them to meals. And, some of us are smart enough to save those kitchen scraps and throw them on the compost pile, with the understanding that our kitchen scraps will add nutrients to the compost pile, rendering them into a rich, fertile soil we can later add to more crops or our landscape beds.

I have a suggestion to make those kitchen scraps go even further: use them for stock and then compost them! Two uses for the same valuable “scraps.”

Celery stalks and leaves can be added to soups and stocks. Photo: Carolyn Keeney

Celery stalks and leaves can be added to soups and stocks. Photo: Carolyn Keeney

Homemade stock is easy and lends a delicious base to soups. When I cook, I keep a zip top bag next to the wood chopping block for tops of carrots, onion skins, tomato cores. For tonight’s dinner, my bag was stuffed with onion and garlic skins, carrot tops and bottoms, celery stems and leaves (I actually love to use celery leaves in dishes and as a garnish) and mushroom stems.

Zip top bag filled with stock ingredients. Photo: Nicole Pinson

Zip top bag filled with stock ingredients. Photo: Nicole Pinson

If you have space in the freezer, you can gradually accumulate a good mixture of vegetable scraps over time, to get a better blend of flavors. Vegetables in the cabbage family in particular – turnips, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli – are quite strong-flavored and can overpower the flavor. Once your frozen bag is full, follow Mary’s directions below to make your stock.

Place clean kitchen scraps in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered from 15 minutes to 1 ½ hours. The longer cooking will release more flavor if you have the time. Then squeeze or strain all the water out of those vegetables. Just straining them makes a clearer stock, while pressing them will often make a cloudy but thicker stock. I use a wooden spoon in a sieve for pressing, but a potato masher would work well too.

Use the stock immediately in soups or freeze and save for later. Stock will keep for 3-5 days in the refrigerator or 8 months in the freezer. Freeze it in quantities that you will use at one time, so that you can thaw just enough for your next recipe.

After you’ve made your meal with fresh vegetables, use the pieces to make your stock. By making your own homemade stock, you’ll create delicious meals, add more minerals and maybe a few vitamins to your food and use more of the produce you’ve purchased. You will also be able to make it with little or no salt, a big benefit since most commercial stocks and broths are very high in sodium. Then, discard those veggies on your compost pile.

Compost your scraps after using them in stock. Photo: Nicole Pinson

Compost your scraps after using them in stock. Photo: Nicole Pinson

Now, you successfully got “more bang for your buck,” cooking meals at home, making fresh stock and composting. Bon appétit!

Nicole Pinson
Extension Agent – Urban Horticulture
Master Gardener Coordinator
UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County
5339 County Road 579
Seffner, FL 33584-3334
p: (813) 744-5519 X 54145
nicolepinson@ufl.edu
pinsonn@hillsboroughcounty.org

 

It’s Phytophthora, Not a Lichen December 31, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 6:59 pm

Lichens often get a “bad rap.” They are a common “mistaken identity” and blamed for tree and plant death and decline.

A lichen (pronounced lī-ken) is a relationship between an algae and a fungus, but the fungi do not exist independently and therefore are not capable of causing disease.  Lichens have structures called rhizoids, or fungal hyphae, and the rhizoids attach to rocks, bark, branches, and soil. As with Spanish moss, lichens do not parasitize the structures they are living on. They obtain minerals from atmospheric moisture such as rainwater, fog and dew, plant leachates and organic debris.

Examples of common lichens mistaken as disease. Photo credit: Nicole Pinson

Examples of common lichens mistaken as disease. Photo credit: Nicole Pinson

If your tree appears diseased, consider other contributing factors such as stress, drought, disease, insects and water. For example, if your citrus tree is declining and you see a gummy sap, the problem may be phytophthora, not a lichen.

Lichen on citrus tree.

Lichen on citrus tree.

The UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center provides a website for management and field diagnosis of phytophthora and other citrus diseases. You can access the site at this link: http://www.crec.ifas.ufl.edu/extension/plant_pathology/phytophthora.shtml

Phytophthora is a soil-borne disease. Signs and symptoms of phytophthora include yellow veins, shoot dieback and leaf/fruit drop, trunk damage (often from mechanical equipment), gummosis, sloughing off of roots (root rot) and bark peeling in the crown roots and trunk located near the soil level (foot rot).

Causes of phytophthora or foot rot include poor drainage or soils with hard pans or clay layers, areas with a high water table, overirrigation, tree damage, planting too deep and mulching around the base. Use of mulch under citrus trees can make your tree prone to infection by limiting air circulation. Be sure to maintain a grass and weed free zone beneath your tree.

Phythophthora, also known as foot rot. Photo credit: UF/IFAS

Phythophthora, also known as foot rot. Photo credit: UF/IFAS

You can try to scrape off the discolored bark until you reach healthy wood, and apply a copper fungicide to affected areas. Treatment with a copper fungicide may help, but foot rot is very serious and your tree may not recover. In addition, disease occurs when three conditions favor disease development: susceptible host, environment and pest or pathogen. All three need to be present for disease to occur. If you treat with fungicides or replant, and do not address conditions such as poor drainage, the problem may continue to occur.

The UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County provides information about citrus diseases. Contact our office if you have questions about how to care for your dooryard citrus.

Nicole Pinson
Extension Agent – Urban Horticulture
Master Gardener Coordinator
UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County
5339 County Road 579
Seffner, FL 33584-3334
p: (813) 744-5519 X 54145
nicolepinson@ufl.edu
pinsonn@hillsboroughcounty.org

http://hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu

 

Indian Hawthorne Spots

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 5:55 pm

Have you noticed spots on your Indian Hawthorne plants?

Leaf spots on Indian Hawthorne can be evidence of Entomosporium leaf spot, Cercospora leaf spot or anthracnose. All are caused by fungi that spread by spores.

Temperatures between 59°F and 77°F favor Entomosporium leaf spot. Warm temperatures and wet conditions favor anthracnose and Cercospora leaf spot. Dry conditions are less conducive to disease development.

Although it is difficult to control the weather, you can reduce disease potential by:

  • replacing overhead irrigation with drip irrigation (which also helps conserve water).
  • watering in early morning, or close to dew point, to reduce the amount of time moisture remains on leaves.
  • changing irrigation practices when weather (for example, rainfall) favors disease development.
  • improving air circulation around plants.
  • pruning and removing dead and diseased branches.
  • collecting leaves with symptoms and disposing them in the trash (not in the compost pile).
  • following the 3rd Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM principle and fertilizing appropriately, to discourage disease development.
  • following the 4th Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM principle and applying a two to three inch layer of mulch.
  • selecting disease resistant cultivars.
  • using and rotating fungicides when appropriate.
  • learning what is normal in your garden and scouting regularly for pests and diseases.

The UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County provides information about plant disease and can assist you with symptom identification. Contact our office if you have questions or need assistance with sample submission. In some cases, sample analysis by a laboratory may be necessary to determine the exact cause of disease.

 

Nicole Pinson
Extension Agent – Urban Horticulture
Master Gardener Coordinator
UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County
5339 County Road 579
Seffner, FL 33584-3334
p: (813) 744-5519 X 54145
nicolepinson@ufl.edu
pinsonn@hillsboroughcounty.org

http://hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu

 

Identifying Citrus Greening

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 4:16 pm

A Hillsborough County resident contacts the Extension office, asking how to tell if her citrus trees are infected with citrus greening. She mentions over the past few years, her trees have declined and some of the leaves look similar to pictures she has seen online.

Citrus greening, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB) disease, is one of the more recent diseases affecting citrus trees. Confirmed in Florida in 2005, the disease has spread to all citrus producing counties in the state.

All citrus are susceptible to greening, and the disease is caused by the bacterium Candidatus Liberibacter spp. and the bacterium is spread by a tiny insect vector called the Asian citrus psyllid. When the Asian citrus psyllid feeds on infected citrus trees, it can pick up the disease-causing bacterium and move the disease from tree to tree.

This bacterial disease affects the vascular tissue of the plant (the phloem) and inhibits nutrient transport. When phloem transport is disrupted, signs such as twig dieback occur. Citrus greening causes smaller fruit, inferior fruit quality and taste, less fruit production, increased fruit drop and twig dieback.

To determine if citrus greening disease may be causing your tree to decline, please consider the following symptoms:

  • The early symptoms of citrus greening on leaves are vein yellowing and an asymmetrical “blotchy mottle.”
  • Trees may show twig dieback, causing productivity to decline within a few years.
  • Fruit are often few in number, small, may be lopsided with a curved central core and fail to color properly. You can often cut the fruit in half and notice the lopsided, central core.
  • Fruit drops prematurely from afflicted trees.
  • The fruit may contain aborted seeds and have a salty, bitter taste.
Asymmetrical fruit with lopsided central core and aborted seeds. Photo credit: JoAnn Hoffman

Asymmetrical fruit with lopsided central core and aborted seeds. Photo credit: JoAnn Hoffman

Leaf showing blotchy mottle. Photo credit: Mongi Zekri

Leaf showing blotchy mottle. Photo credit: Mongi Zekri

If your citrus trees are healthy, take care of them by following a routine fertilizer and irrigation schedule. Avoid planting and neglecting citrus trees in the landscape. If trees no longer produce fruit, homeowners must decide to remove them and whether or not to invest in replanting.

Florida oranges supply about 90% of the United States’ orange juice. Citrus greening impacts our lives because it reduces juice quality, decreases revenue and employment opportunities and affects Florida’s culture, as citrus trees and fruit are a sentimental, inherent part of Florida’s landscape and history. There is a lot we don’t know about this disease, but coordinated research efforts focused on psyllid control, tree nutrition, mapping genomes, biological control and disease-resistant trees may provide insight into this disease.

The UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County provides information about citrus greening and can assist you with symptom identification. Contact our office if you have questions about citrus greening or sample submission.

Nicole Pinson
Extension Agent – Urban Horticulture
Master Gardener Coordinator
UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County
5339 County Road 579
Seffner, FL 33584-3334
p: (813) 744-5519 X 54145
nicolepinson@ufl.edu
pinsonn@hillsboroughcounty.org

http://hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu

 

Summer Solarizing and Nematodes August 9, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 11:22 am
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Although you can grow some vegetables in Central Florida during summer, your choices are limited. Many gardeners choose to solarize their vegetable gardens during summer, because soil solarization works best during hot months. Solarization is a practice used to manage weeds, nematodes, diseases and insects in soil.

Image

Solarizing soil kills weeds.

Soil solarization works by heating up the soil and killing or reducing pest populations. However, this is a temporary solution for nematodes, as nematode pests living deep in the soil will survive and can eventually move up into the solarized area. This re-invasion of the solarized soil usually takes about 3-4 months, so after that time the effects of solarization diminish.

According to the UF/IFAS publication Introduction to Plant Nematology, “preventing a nematode population is far better than trying to treat one after it is established.” Nematodes are cylindrical microscopic worms that live in the soil. They feed on living plant tissues and puncture cell walls with an oral spear-like stylet. Nematodes feed on ornamentals, vegetables and lawns.

Illustration of nematode size compared to a cotton thread.

Illustration of nematode size compared to a cotton thread.

You can decrease nematode populations by:

  • choosing healthy plants
  • adding organic matter (which improves soil structure and fosters natural enemies such as fungi and predatory nematodes that help control pest nematodes)
  • practicing crop rotation
  • propagating/taking cuttings only from uninfested plants
  • choosing nematode resistant varieties and cultivars
  • removing crops after harvest/season to prevent them from harboring pests
  • sanitizing tools and equipment
  • planting vegetables at the right time of the year based on the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide
  • planting cover crops between vegetable crops
  • keeping plants healthy and making plant selections based on the Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM principle “right plant, right place”.

In addition, the Ornamental and Turfgrass Pest Management manual states: “Use mulch and organic matter. Mulch around the roots of plants to protect them from extreme temperatures and minimize water evaporating from the soil surface. Mulches also return organic matter back into the soil, which improves the soil water- and nutrient-holding capacity. Mulches also reduce stress on plants and their roots. This improves plants’ chances to tolerate some nematode root damage.” Mulching is also one of the 9 Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM principles.

At this time, there are no chemicals available for homeowners to control nematodes.

For more information, please contact the Hillsborough County Extension Service at (813) 744-5519 or by email at hillsmg@ad.ufl.edu.

References:

Introduction to Soil Solarization

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in856

Solarization for Pest Management in Florida

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in824

Introduction to Plant Nematology

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ng006

Kinds of Nematodes

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_kinds_of_nematodes

Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021

Florida-Friendly Guide to Plant Selection and Landscape Design

http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/publications/files/FFL_Plant_Selection_Guide.pdf

Hillsborough County Gardening Calendar

http://hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu/documents/pdf/lawn_garden/Gardening%20Calendar-Monthbymonth.pdf

Nicole Pinson
Extension Agent – Urban Horticulture
Master Gardener Coordinator
UF/IFAS Hillsborough County Extension Service
5339 County Road 579
Seffner, FL 33584-3334
p: (813) 744-5519 X 54145
nicolepinson@ufl.edu
pinsonn@hillsboroughcounty.org

http://hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu

 

Summer Flowers Could be Pesky Weed April 17, 2013

It’s April, and you may start to see these “beautiful” yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers falling from the sky or branches of your trees. Although it may resemble Allamanda, it may actually be cat’s claw vine. Macfadyena unguis-cati develops strong vines that grow up trees, fences, and buildings.

"Snake-like” seed pod, yellow trumpet-shaped flower, and young seedling.

“Snake-like” seed pod, yellow trumpet-shaped flower, and young seedling.

Look for identifying clues, such as vines climbing to the tops of trees, woody stems, tuberous roots, terminal 3-forked tendrils that appear “claw-like,” trumpet-shaped yellow flowers, and linear, flat fruit (seed) capsule. The runners may appear to be a groundcover.

Cat’s claw vine, Macfadyena unguis-cati is a nonnative, introduced plant that has become an ecological threat, naturalizing in north Florida and Georgia. Originating in the West Indies, Mexico, and Argentina, it may be confused with our native yellow Jessamine, Gelsemium spp. The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council categorized Cat’s claw vine as a Category I exotic invasive.

For more information on identification and control, please contact the Hillsborough County Extension Service at (813) 744-5519.

Cat’s claw vine.

Cat’s claw vine.

Note: leaves opposite, compound, 2-leaflets, and terminal 3-forked, “claw-like” tendril.

Note: leaves opposite, compound, 2-leaflets, and terminal 3-forked, “claw-like” tendril.

Seedlings- note tuberous roots.

Seedlings showing tuberous roots.

References:

UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/node/259

Visit this website to see the UF/IFAS Assessment, download a recognition card, download a page from  from Identification and Biology of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas – Second Edition, by K.A. Langeland, H.M. Cherry, et al. University of Florida-IFAS Pub SP 257. 2008.

BioNET-EAFRINET Keys and Fact Sheets

Macfadyena ungus-cati (Cat’s Claw Creeper)

http://keys.lucidcentral.org/keys/v3/eafrinet/weeds/key/weeds/Media/Html/Macfadyena_unguis-cati_(Cats_Claw_Creeper).htm

Invasive Plants of the Eastern United States: http://www.invasive.org

Ward, D.B. 2005. Putting a stop to the cat-claw vine infestation in Gainesville. Wildland Weeds 8(3):17.

Nicole Pinson
Extension Agent – Urban Horticulture
Master Gardener Coordinator
UF/IFAS Hillsborough County Extension Service
5339 County Road 579
Seffner, FL 33584-3334
p: (813) 744-5519 X 54145
nicolepinson@ufl.edu
pinsonn@hillsboroughcounty.org

http://hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu

 

Growing Blueberries in Containers January 23, 2013

Question: We live in Tampa and would like to grow blueberries in containers. What are some varieties recommended for our area?

Several blueberry varieties grow well in Central Florida.

Several blueberry varieties grow well in Central Florida.

Great question!

Now is a perfect time to plant blueberries in Florida. It is easy to grow blueberries in containers and is typically much better than growing them in the ground. Blueberries thrive in a low pH soil. The recommended growing media for containerized blueberries is pine bark fines. You don’t need to plant them in additional soil as they will grow and perform best when planted directly in the pine bark.

Because pine bark is naturally acidic, this is the best media to use. Blueberries require a soil pH of 4.0-5.5. A relationship exists between soil pH and the nutrients available to plants. If your soil pH is higher or lower than the recommended range, you may encounter nutrient deficiencies that lead to poor growth and establishment. Please contact our office if you need information about soil testing to measure pH: http://hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu/residential_lg/diagnostics.shtml

Pine bark fines make great potting medium.

Pine bark fines make a great potting medium.

Since most fruit needs high chilling requirements, proper cultivar selection of low-chill cultivars is important because Florida’s brief and mild winters do not provide periods of high chill. Two types of blueberries that grow well in Florida are rabbiteye Vaccinium virgatum and southern highbush- which includes the hybrids Vaccinium darrowii, Vaccinium virgatum and Vaccinium corymbosum. Southern highbush blueberries are adapted to the Tampa Bay area, as they grow well in areas south of Ocala and north of Sebring. Southern highbush is also recommended for container production.

The best time to plant blueberries is from mid-December to mid-February. Most blueberry cultivars require cross-pollination from another cultivar of the same type to set fruit, so you will need to plant multiple blueberry plants of the same cultivar. You can increase fruit set of your blueberries by encouraging beneficial insects (bees, wasps) and minimizing pesticide use or timing pesticide use when pollinators are less active.

Southern highbush cultivars recommended for Central Florida include:
• ‘Emerald’- very good variety
• ‘Jewel’- also very good variety

Note: ‘Emerald’ and ‘Jewel’ make a good planting combination.
• ‘Star’
• ‘Windsor’
• ‘Springhigh’
• ‘Sweetcrisp’
• ‘Farthing’
• ‘Sharpblue’
• ‘Bountiful Blue’
• ‘Snow Chaser’
• ‘Georgia Gem’
• ‘Sunshine Blue’
• ‘Misty’
• ‘Gulf Coast’
• ‘Biloxi’

To help you choose which cultivar you prefer (based on yield, taste considerations, ripening periods, etc.) and for information about recommended fertilizer application, irrigation, pruning, pests, and diseases, please visit this link and download the UF/IFAS pdf Blueberry Gardener’s Guide:http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg359

Growing several cultivars will lengthen your harvest season. Be sure to protect your blueberries from freezes and bird damage. Because blueberries are susceptible to Phytophthora root rot, do not plant them deeper than the pot. You can set them a little higher than the soil level.

Additional reference:

Blueberry Varieties for Florida: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs215

Good luck!

Nicole Pinson
Extension Agent – Urban Horticulture
Master Gardener Coordinator
UF/IFAS Hillsborough County Extension Service
5339 County Road 579
Seffner, FL 33584-3334
p: (813) 744-5519 X 54145

nicolepinson@ufl.edu
pinsonn@hillsboroughcounty.org

http://hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu

 

 
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