September 11, 2013

Extension Launches New UF/IFAS Blog

The University of Florida/IFAS Extension has developed a new blog that will provide information through our on-line newsletters. In the next week, we will be launching the new site which will provide the same selection of topics for your use, plus the Extension Timely Topics. Extension Agents in Pinellas County strive to bring you the most up-to-date science on topics important to you.

Pinellas County Extension offers several newsletters in a blog format: Timely Topics, Thinking Green, Planting Pinellas, 4-H Youth Development Blog and Commercial Connection. You can sign up for blogs on the new site and access all the previous articles. If you have been receiving Extension newsletters, there should be no interruption and you will receive a notification through e-mail. Extension is the doorway to the University of Florida and provides practical education you can trust, to help people, businesses and communities solve problems, develop skills and build a better future.

September 4, 2013

September Programs & Events

Presented by 
Pinellas County Extension, 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo. (727) 582-2108
Brooker Creek Preserve, 3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs. (727) 453-6800 
Weedon Island Preserve, 1800 Weedon Drive NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 453-6500

September 5
Book Time at Brooker: Children ages 3 to 5 connect to the wonders of the natural world through a story and a craft, game or other hands-on activity. 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. Free; advance registration required. Brooker Creek Preserve.

September 5
Managing Your MoneyJoin the Florida Master Money Mentors for a workshop that will cover evaluating wants and needs, setting financial goals, steps to building a spending and savings plan, and using a money management calendar as a tracking and planning tool. Participants in the class can request a Florida Master Money Mentor, a personal money coach, to help with money questions. 1 to 3 p.m. Free; advance registration required. Palm Harbor Library, 2330 Nebraska Ave. Palm Harbor. (727) 582-2104;

September 7, 21, 28
Brooker Creek Guided Hike: See how the land has changed over time and the ecological footprints left by those changes on this 0.75-mile walk. Closed-toe shoes, water and hat recommended. Best for ages 6 and older. 9 to 10:30 a.m. Free; advance registration required. Brooker Creek Preserve.

September 7, 14, 21, 28
Weedon Island Guided Hike: Learn about the ecosystems and the early residents of Weedon Island Preserve while hiking the coastal uplands and the boardwalks through mangrove forests. Best for ages 6 and older. 9 to 11 a.m. Free; advance registration required. Weedon Island Preserve.

September 7
Citizen Scientist Workshop: Free training to engage volunteers in the collection of local ecological information and an introduction to Nature’s Notebook, a project of the USA National Phenology Network. Class will include both indoor and outdoor components so come prepared to make some observations outside. Free; advance registration required. 9 a.m. to noon. Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center

September 7
Archaeology Works: Learn to identify different prehistoric pottery types from around Florida and the ways archaeologists use them to learn about people in the past. 10 a.m. to noon. Free; advance registration required.. Weedon Island Preserve.

September 12
Roundup License Training: LCLM Training & LLO Review: This class provides training and testing necessary to obtain a limited commercial landscape maintenance (LCLM) license or as a review and testing for the limited lawn and ornamental (LLO) license. This class is NOT for renewal CEUs. $60. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pinellas County Extension. Register at

September 11
Sustainable FloridiansSM: Learn how citizens can make a difference in the community by attending this 8-week discussion to action training program. Participants will meet each Wednesday through Oct. 30, to explore a range of topics including energy, food systems, and water. 6 to 8:30 p.m. Free, seating is limited. Pinellas County Extension. Advance registration required at

September 12
Fertilizer/Pesticide BMPs: Training to obtain limited certification for urban landscape commercial fertilizer (LCULCF). BMP certification awarded upon passing the exam. Four FDACS pesticide CEUs provided. 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Cost is $15; free to employees of Pinellas County and the Pinellas County School Board and Pinellas County Master Gardener volunteers (must present ID on day of class). Advance registration required. Pinellas County Extension. Register at

September 12, 26
Wee-Time at Weedon: Every second and fourth Thursday of each month, children are treated to a variety of stories and hands-on activities that connect them to their environment. This activity is recommended for ages 3 to 5. 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. Free; advance registration requested. Weedon Island Preserve.

September 12
Micro-Irrigation Basics: Participants will learn about the design, installation and maintenance of the systems and how to retrofit from a traditional irrigation zone to micro. Incorporating micro-irrigation in your landscape can contribute to water conservation and reduced stormwater runoff. Two opportunities to attend this presentation, 2 to 3:30 p.m. and 6:15 to 7:45 p.m. Palm Harbor Library, 2330 Nebraska Ave., Palm Harbor. Advance registration required. (727) 582-2630;

September 13
Great Weedon Bird Quest: Learn the identifying marks and behaviors of our feathered year-round residents and seasonal visitors while assisting in compiling an annual checklist of the preserve’s birds. This hike is designed to take advantage of all levels of birding experience. Binoculars and bird guides are available. 8 to 10 a.m. Free; advance registration required. Weedon Island Preserve.

September 14
Pinellas Home Energy Symposium: From irrigation to photovoltaic panels, here’s the opportunity to get information from expert panelists to help in making water and energy improvements both inside and outside homes. This three-hour symposium features a keynote address by Dr. Jennifer Languell. 9 a.m. to noon. Free; Pinellas County Extension, advance registration required at

September 14
Birds of Brooker Hike: Join this hike to identify common birds of Brooker Creek Preserve. Meander along the one-mile trail to gather information on the birds seen and heard. Binoculars will be helpful. Bring water. 8 to 10:30 a.m. Brooker Creek Preserve.

September 14
Wetland 101: Learn how to interpret the characteristics that define wetlands. This class is helpful for those wanting to extend their knowledge of wetland systems and for those who want to learn how to identify some common wetland plants. 1 to 2 p.m. Free; advance registration required. Weedon Island Preserve.

September 19
Vegetable, Herb and Tropical Fruit Garden Tour: Explore the vegetable garden and compost demonstration areas at Pinellas County Extension/Florida Botanical Gardens to learn more about growing your own food. 9 to 11 a.m. Free; tours limited to group of 4 to 16 people; advance registration required. Pinellas County Extension,

September 19
Archaeology Lecture Series: “You Have Guns and So Have We”, an Ethnohistoric Perspective on Seminole Combat Behaviors: Warfare is a topic that has received a high level of attention in the anthropological literature since the inception of the discipline. Much of the literature, however, has focused on the origins and causes of warfare rather than the behaviors associated with it. By tracing the combat behaviors of the Seminoles back through time to those of their ancestors, we are able to see the evolution of the combat behaviors used by the warriors during the apex of their militancy – the infamous Second Seminole War. 7 to 8 p.m. Free; advance registration required.. Weedon Island Preserve.

September 21
Weedon Photography Hike: Hike the preserve in search of that perfect photo. This program provides great opportunities for photographers of all levels to hone their skills. After a brief classroom session, preserve volunteers highlight seasonal features of the preserve, as well as specific wildlife behaviors that help participants capture the natural beauty of Weedon Island Preserve. 8 to 10 a.m. Free; advance registration required. Weedon Island Preserve.

September 21
Birds of Prey: Several live birds of prey will be used to illustrate aspects of predator-prey relationships, adaptations that ensure success as predators, and their role in maintaining healthy, balanced ecosystems. The basic natural history of each species is also discussed along with the impact of humans on their habitats and populations. 10:30 a.m. to noon. Free. Brooker Creek Preserve, 3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs. (727) 453-6800;

September 25
Creatures of the Night: Pinellas County’s Natural Resource Extension Agent, Lara Miller, will discuss the creatures of the night. All of our nocturnal critters form a vital part of our natural environment but are largely ignored. Come learn more about these fascinating creatures. Recommended for adults. 2 to 3 p.m. Garden Club of St. Petersburg, 500 Sunset Dr., S, St. Petersburg. (727) 582-2630;

September 27
Wildlife Hike: Join an experienced naturalist as you hike along boardwalks and natural trails at Brooker Creek Preserve. This will be a learning experience for everyone! Come prepared with your binoculars, cameras, and questions! Any questions your hike guide cannot answer will be researched in the resource room upon return to the Education Center. 9 to 10:30 a.m. Free; advance registration required. Brooker Creek Preserve.

September 28
Guided Photography HikeIn a brief classroom session, local photographers and master naturalists Karl and Kathleen Nichter highlight the seasonal features that help participants capture the natural beauty of the Brooker Creek Preserve, then hike the boardwalk and trails looking for those shots that reflect the season. Recommended for adults and children 12 and older. 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Free; advance registration required. Brooker Creek Preserve.

September 28
Paddling Coastal Clean Up: Be a part of the nation’s largest single-day volunteer event for public lands. Public lands and estuaries provide benefits that are critical to ecosystem health, and the health and well-being of people who recreate on them and live in close proximity to them. Please volunteer to give back to Tampa Bay and the lands of Weedon Island Preserve. Volunteers will use canoes and kayaks to help clean up the difficult-toreach shorelines of Weedon Island Preserve. The cleanup will help to protect wildlife from
entanglement and increase the aesthetic value of our natural surroundings. 9 a.m. to noon. Free; advance registration requested. Weedon Island Preserve.

September 28
Wildflower Garden Club: Join the Friends of Brooker Creek Preserve to get gardening hands dirty in the preserve’s wildflower garden. Bring garden gloves and hat. Morning snacks are usually provided. Free; advance registration required. 8 to 10 a.m. Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center.

Coming in October: Energy Action Month: "Energy Vampires in Your Home"–8% of the average home's electricity bill is wasted through devices like TVs and chargers which are using power even when they are switched off. Learn easy ways to lower your energy bill. October 2, 12, 15, 19 and 22. Free; advance registration requested.  Call (727) 582-2097 for information.

Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age, disability, religion or national origin.

August 26, 2013

Celebrate September–It’s Healthy Aging Month

Nan Jensen,
UF/IFAS Pinellas County
Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent

September is Healthy Aging Month an annual celebration designed to focus attention on the positive aspects of growing older and encourage Americans over the age of 50 to take personal responsibility for their health. Get started by taking these few simple and important steps.

Stay physically active. Regular exercise can help the risk of disease and maintain mobility. Look for daily opportunities to exercise in work and play. Walk by parking your car several parking aisles away from the store or office entrance and walk briskly! Choose an exercise you like and stick with it. Enjoy exercising with a friend.

Choose healthy foods. Eat nutrient rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods. Learn about building a healthy plate at SuperTracker one of the features on the website can help you plan, analyze, and track your diet and physical activity. Find out what and how much to eat; track foods, physical activities, and weight; and personalize with goal setting, virtual coaching, and journaling.

Take care of your financial health. It is important to be educated about budgeting, insurance, and retirement accounts as well as savings and investments. The University of Florida/IFAS offers fact sheets filled with helpful information on various financial topics. Click on Money topics to access or join one of the free monthly classes offered by the University of Florida Master Money Mentors. Register at

Connect with people regularly. Spend time with those who make you feel upbeat and you enjoy spending time with and try to do it daily. Even if you are not close by, call or email frequently to keep relationships fresh.

Give of Yourself. Be generous with your time and volunteer. You can help out at the local food pantry, teach a child how to read or become a Pinellas County Extension Master Food and Nutrition Volunteer. This training will equip you with the knowledge and skills to help others improve their lives through healthy eating and physical activity. Register at

There are many resources to help you learn about healthy aging. Go to to find out more.

August 19, 2013

Meet Brian Niemann

Brian Niemann,
Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Extension Agent 

I cannot tell you how excited I am to be returning to my home county to fill the role of Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) Extension Agent. I welcome the challenge and can’t wait to get started. In fact, you can join me for my first Rainwater Harvesting Workshop on August 31st at Weedon Island Preserve. Register online at

My family originally hails from the suburbs of Chicago, but the warm weather and sandy beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast attracted them in the late ‘70s. When I was growing up, my parents owned a landscape material yard and land clearing business, which meant I spent my summers picking up trash before dad came through with the tractor to make short work of the knee high weeds I had just waded through. By the time I was 13, I graduated to operating the tractor and Bobcat loaders under his watchful eye. I continued to work for them through high school and when college rolled around, I decided I wanted a career within the landscape industry.

I chose the Landscape Architecture path. I wanted to work with the landscape, but I didn’t want to be outside in the Florida heat every day. I spent some wonderful years at the University of Florida and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Landscape Architecture degree in 2006. After graduation, I accepted a landscape architecture position with Phil Graham & Company in St. Petersburg. During my time with Mr. Graham, I was blessed with the opportunity to work on many high-profile projects. Some of these projects include 400 Beach Drive, Museum of Fine Arts, and Ovation in downtown St. Pete.

In late 2007, a position opened up with the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program State Office in Gainesville. I had recently learned about the FFL Program and was intrigued by this very different style of landscaping than what I was currently designing. I got the job, and worked my way up through the ranks during my nearly six years of service with the state office. I wasn’t actively looking to leave Gainesville, but the opportunity to move back to my home county to run an Extension program based on Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ was a chance I couldn’t pass up.

The FFL program provides residents with information on using low-maintenance plants and environmentally sustainable practices. I'll be teaching you how you can have a beautiful landscape that could save you time, energy and money while protecting our future.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or with ideas for programs you would like to see offered in the future.

Brian Niemann
Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Extension Agent
Pinellas County Extension 

August 12, 2013

Fall Vegetable Gardening in Florida: We’re Just Getting Started Here!

Theresa Badurek,
Urban Horticulture Extension Agent
and Master Gardener Coordinator

If you come to us from up north, fall is the time of year you would normally be finishing your harvest and putting your vegetable garden to bed. That’s not the case here in Florida. Fall is a great time to garden and August is the time to get started. So, prepare before the kids go back to school and by the time the snowbirds flock south again, you can have a beautiful vegetable garden to brag about!

What to Grow Now

There are lots of crops for fall in Central Florida. Things like bush and pole beans, corn, eggplant, peppers, squash, and tomatoes are great to plant in August and September. In October and November we can plant crops such as beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, and strawberries. If you have not yet started your garden, it’s time to get diggin’!

Soil Preparation

We have very sandy soils throughout most of central Florida, so organic matter should be worked into your soil at least three weeks ahead of planting. If you are using compost and mulches be sure that there are no large clumps of unrotted organic material. These can harbor disease problems as well as hinder seedlings or their growth. When your conditions are right, these organic materials will be processed by microorganisms like fungi, algae, bacteria, molds, and earthworms. As they do this they make important nutrients available to your plants. For detailed information on various soil amendments, please visit: .

Seeds and Transplants

The most important thing you can do is select the right crops and varieties for our area and plant them at the right time. We are often tempted to plant crops or varieties that we know and love from some other geographic location, but these are often not suited to our unique subtropical climate. How do you know what and when to plant? Refer to the following publication, “Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide” whose link is found at the end of this article. Use this to plan your garden layout and bring it with you when shopping for seeds and plants. Pay special attention to Table 4, “Suggested Varieties for Florida Gardens” and Table 3 “Planting Guide for Florida Vegetables”.

Pests and Diseases

So, how do you keep uninvited guests from eating all of your hard work in the garden? Well, you must have a regular scouting routine for pests. At every step of your gardening adventure you should be looking for signs of pests. Hopefully you selected resistant varieties from the “Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide” publication (see link above) and inspected your plants for pests and diseases before purchase and planting. Learn to recognize the beneficial insects that help control the “bad guys” that cause damage. Not using pesticides will help preserve the “army” of beneficial insects in your garden. A great guide to start learning about beneficial insects is “Natural Enemies and Biological Control”: .

There are more things you can do to help prevent and control pests and diseases, though:

  • Use mulch; vegetables touching the soil may rot.
  • Good garden mulch tends to reduce damage caused by nematodes. 
  • Keep out weeds which harbor insects and diseases. 
  • Water in morning so plants are not wet at night. 
  • Dispose of severely diseased plants before they contaminate others. 
  • Hand-pick insects. 
  • Clean up crop refuse early. 
  • Rotate garden areas.

All of the usual tips and techniques apply when gardening in fall. Things like mulching to keep down weeds and scouting for pests regularly to avoid infestation are always great advice. Keep an eye on plants to make sure they are getting enough water. We usually get plenty of water from rain in the summer, but the rains usually taper off around October. Be sure to avoid letting your garden wilt in the drier weather- check the soil a few inches down near the plant roots to make sure it’s damp but not overly wet. Plants grown in containers will need more frequent watering to avoid wilting.

For even more about vegetable gardening in Florida- at any time of year- please visit the “Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide” at . This handy link will give you the tools to succeed in your Florida garden any time of year, including planting dates, best varieties for Florida, and times to harvest. Once you get your fall vegetable garden in the ground you can start looking for recipes that showcase the fruits and vegetables of your gardening efforts. Enjoy!