Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi


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Q: Can we grow mulberries here in Northeast Florida?

Mulberry

Mulberry

A:  Indeed, we can grow mulberries here.  Mulberry (Moras spp.) is a fruit producing tree that can provide gardeners tasty fruits. Native red mulberry trees have been enjoyed by people in North America for centuries. On expedition in the mid-1500s De Soto observed Muskogee Indians eating dried mulberry fruits. Over winter the Iroquois mashed, dried, and stored the fruit to later add to water, making warm sauces that were occasionally mixed into cornbread. Cherokees made sweet dumplings by mixing cornbread and sugar with mulberries. The Timucua people of northeast Florida used the fruit, along with the tree’s leaves and twigs, to make dyes, and the Seminoles used the branches to make bows.
When choosing a location, keep in mind fallen fruits stain the hard surfaces, so it’s best to avoid planting over driveways, sidewalks and patios. Selecting a light-fruited cultivar can also cut down on the mess factor; look for ‘Tehama’ or ‘King White Pakistan’.
Mulberry trees require very little maintenance; they rarely require irrigation after establishment and generally do not require fertilization. As far as pruning goes, you can perform light pruning when trees are young to help create a strong framework of branches. With a mature tree, you should only prune to remove dead or damaged wood or crossing limbs, since the wounds caused when removing a major branches are slow to callous. Be careful when pruning your tree, mulberry trees have milky sap which can causes skin rashes in some people.


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Are my grapes Scuppernong or muscadine?

Muscadine_grapeThe muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia Michx.) is native to the southeastern United States and was the first native grape species to be cultivated in North America. The natural range of muscadine grapes extends from Delaware to central Florida and occurs in all states along the Gulf Coast to east Texas. Muscadine grapes will perform well throughout Florida, although performance is poor in high alkaline soils or in soils with very poor drainage.  These grapes do not like to be in areas where water is likely to drain off slowly or near retention ponds. There are three species within the Muscadania subgenera (Vitis munsoniana, Vitis popenoei and Vitis rotundifolia ). Wild muscadine grapes are functionally dioecious meaning they have male and female vines.  Male vines account for the majority of the wild muscadine grape population. Muscadine grapes are late in breaking bud in the spring and require 100-120 days to mature fruit. Typically, muscadine grapes in the wild bear dark fruit with usually 4 to 10 fruit per cluster. Bronze-fruited muscadine grapes are also found in the wild, and they are often referred to as scuppernongs. There are hundreds of named muscadine grape cultivars from improved selections, and in fact, one that has been found in the Scuppernong river of North Carolina has been named Scuppernong. So to directly answer your question, not all muscadines are Scuppernong but all Scuppernongs are muscadines and yours is a muscadine.  How about that for a tongue twister! There are over 100 improved cultivars of muscadine grapes varying in size from 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 4 to 15 grams in weight. Skin color ranges from light bronze to pink to purple to black. Flesh is clear and translucent for all muscadine grape berries. One reason for the popularity of muscadine grapes is that they are a sustainable fruit crop in the southeastern United States. They are tolerant of insect and disease pests, and homeowners can successfully grow muscadine grapes without spraying any pesticides. For more complete information on planting, fertilization, pruning, etc. look over the following UF/IFAS publication:  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs100