November 25, 2009

Pinellas County Extension Makes the Holidays Bright with the Gift of Knowledge!

Attend Pinellas County Extension’s December Classes

Pinellas County Extension offers residents a wide variety of classes to help them make sustainable decisions.

Be sure to check out our lunch break, on-line classes, Solutions in 30. Each week this month you will learn how to use living Christmas trees and holiday plants, tips to make your office or work environment more “green” and how to reduce financial stress during the holidays.

Solutions in 30:
December 2nd - Reducing Financial Stress During the Holidays
December 16th - Green Office

Pathways Adventure Series:
December 5th - Nature’s Holiday Ornaments

Lawn & Garden:
December 15th - Rain Harvesting Workshop

Commercial (Pesticide/FNGLA/ISA) CEUs: Fall Pest Update
December 1st - Fumigation
December 1st - CORE
December 1st - General Household
December 1st - Termites
December 9th - Lawn / Turf Ornamental Pest Control
December 9th - CORE

Sustainable Living:
December 11th - Financial Incentives for Energy Efficiency
December 15th - Pinellas County Green Business Partnership

You can register for classes on-line at Please look for the “Online Class Registration” button on the right hand side, near the top of the page.

November 23, 2009

Common Citrus Problems

By Jane Morse, Commercial Horticulture Agent, Pinellas County Extension

Rust mites: A common occurrence this time of year is to see oranges that have brown, rough areas. This is most likely rust mite damage (unless it smells rotten). Rust mite damage is nothing to worry about as it doesn’t affect the taste of the fruit, it just makes the outside not look completely orange.

If you want perfectly orange rinds, spray your trees in March or April with a horticultural oil (use an oil that lists paraffinic oil as the active ingredient). Always read and follow directions exactly as indicated on the label of pesticides.

Leafminers: This is another common problem on citrus. Leaves will look misshapen and one can see serpentine tunnels on the leaf surface. Mature trees are not harmed by this slight damage to their leaves. Not much control is available. Either accept the damage and do nothing, or during the spring growth flush spray the tree with horticultural oil twice, spaced two weeks apart. Very young trees can be hurt by the loss of leaf surface that leafminers cause. Young trees should be treated with horticultural oil during the spring growth flush.

Citrus scab: Water is the single most important factor affecting the severity of this disease. This disease only needs to be controlled on fruit intended for the fresh fruit market. It is only a serious disease on certain varieties of citrus. It mainly affects lemon, Murcotts, Minneola and Temple varieties and if often a problem on grapefruit. Avoid overhead irrigation that spreads scab. Install drip or micro- sprinkler irrigation. Copper sprays also can be applied 2-3 weeks after petal fall, and again 2-3 weeks later to control scab.

Greasy spot: This can be seen on both the top or the underside of the leaf. It looks just like a spot (or many spots) of grease. The main impact of greasy spot is reduction of tree vigor. This is a disease that occurs in the summertime from infected leaves that have fallen on the ground. Once you have greasy spot, the cheapest, simplest, most effective control strategy is to remove and destroy the infected fallen citrus leaves near tree. Make sure you pick up and dispose of these infected leaves. Leaving them around the tree or using them as mulch will cause the disease to recur. Make sure the old infected leaves are destroyed before summer rains occur. Spray the tree with horticulture oil between June 15th and July 15th to control this disease. Copper sprays can also control greasy spot.

Foot rot: This is a very common disease. The first symptoms of foot rot are water soaking of the bark in irregular patches and oozing of varying amounts of gum. Over time, the diseased bark dries out, settles, cracks and weathers off, with the wood beneath the bark stained brown. The canopy may show nutrient deficiency symptoms, especially nitrogen, reduction in leaf and fruit size, leaf drop and dieback, and a general reduction in tree vigor.

The fungus that causes this disease belongs to a group of organisms called “water molds,” which do well under high soil moisture. Symptoms usually occur after heavy rains or excess watering which promote infection of plant tissue. This same fungus also causes brown rot to occur on fruit.

Although mulching can prevent weed growth and conserve water, piling mulch up against the tree trunk makes your tree prone to infection by limiting air circulation. It also provides a path for the fungus to get from the soil to the tree. Anything you can do to encourage air circulation at the base of the tree will help. Prune low hanging branches that scrape the ground (this will also help to control brown rot of fruit) and remove plant and soil debris from around the trunk. Since this fungus usually enters the tree through wound tissue, be very careful when hoeing, mowing or weed whacking around the tree. Any wounds made to the tree can allow infection to occur.

If your tree has already developed foot rot, scrape off the brown, discolored bark and surface wood until you reach healthy wood and paint the exposed area with a copper paint.

Want to know which tools to use for pest and disease management? Homeowners usually only need to apply horticultural oil, insecticidal soap or copper fungicide to control pests and disease.

There are many beneficial-bugs that help to keep pest-bug populations under control. By using horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps most of the beneficial-bugs are saved, while the pest bugs are killed. Beneficial-bugs do us a great service and help to keep most pest-bug populations under control. Using hard chemicals that kill all bugs, including the beneficial-bugs, can actually cause an explosion of pest-bugs to occur. So stay away from the hard, conventional pesticides, especially those that keep killing for a long time. You do NOT need them and they usually make the problem worse.

For other questions about plants call or visit the UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension Service. Our Lawn and Garden help line is available Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 9 AM to noon and 1 to 4 PM at 727-582-2110. Visit our website at:, or come to our office located at 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo. We are open M-F from 8 AM to 5 PM.

Information for this article was obtained from: Your Florida Dooryard Citrus Guide: Common Pests, Diseases and Disorders of Dooryard Citrus.

November 16, 2009

Before You Shop for the Holidays

Vestina F. Crayton, Extension Specialist – Urban Sustainability, Pinellas County Extension

Whether you believe that we are in a recession or not, most will agree that being an informed and smart consumer is important. With the overwhelming media coverage on climate change, being ‘green’ and the need for renewable energy sources, an increasing number of consumers are becoming more aware and concerned about the impact their daily activities are making on their health, finances and the environment. To address these growing concerns, buyers are diligently searching for ways to improve their quality of life without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Research has shown that if everyone on the planet consumes at the rate that the United States is, it will take four earths to replenish the resources to sustain one earth.

This holiday season, buyers can make a difference by simply making better purchasing decisions.

From fruit to hand lotion, retailers are boasting the environmentally friendly benefits of their goods. While these claims are good and will excite the eager buyer, you must be aware of the possible shortcomings of these claims. Always remember, the retailer’s main objective is to sell their goods.

Here are a few key things to consider before you make that purchase. Whenever practical and possible remember to:
~ Buy locally.

~ Buy
fair trade products.

~ Buy low volatile organic compound (VOC) products. If it is time to replace living room
furniture or flooring, make sure you look for products that use low VOC coatings and sealants.

~ Buy
Energy Star appliances and electronics.

~ Don’t forget to take your own reusable bags to the store.

~ Buy in bulk. In addition to saving you money buying in bulk reduces the amount of packaging needed.

~ Buy recycled products.
Products should have the above mentioned attributes clearly visible on the label. If it does not, ask the sales person to assist you with finding these products.

Think outside the box and be creative with your gift giving this holiday season. For example:

Charitable Contributions – There are many reputable organizations that can help you give your hard-earned dollars to a worthy cause. You can contribute in your name or in a friend or family member’s name. The possibilities are endless. From helping to drill a well for underserved countries where clean water is a luxury, to donating funds to help fight global warming.

Re-Gift - Newlyweds often receive two of the same thing or a gift that does not meet their current needs. Consider giving that extra toaster or those plaid shower curtains to someone on your list.

Donate Your Time – As a family, you can pledge to donate a determined number of volunteer hours to a local organization in need. There are many opportunities right in your own backyard. If you are having trouble identifying a place to volunteer, contact your local Extension office for assistance. Volunteerism is the perfect gift to give to your community and it will also strengthen your family bond by enhancing your teamwork skills.

Before you shop this holiday season, take a moment to think about the potential impacts your purchases can make, do your research, and be innovative.

Hammer. M. & , Papadi. J. 2002, Enviroshopping: Buy Smarter FCS 3158 Retrieved from

Environmental Protection Agency

Energy Star

Charity Navigator

November 9, 2009

Tis’ the Season- Food Safety Tips for the Holidays

By Nan Jensen, Families & Consumers Agent, Pinellas County Extension

Soon the smell of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie will fill the air. Family and friends will be gathering around the table for those special holiday dinners. Food safety is something we normally don’t think about when we are busy preparing for the holiday feast. But handling and serving food safely is important to prevent to keep you and your guests healthy during the holiday season.

Here are some simple food safety tips to keep in mind.

Plan ahead and properly defrost your turkey. The rule of thumb for defrosting a turkey is 24 hours for every 5 pounds of bird. Always defrost in the refrigerator and not on the kitchen counter. You can always choose a fresh turkey which should be purchased no more than a day or two ahead of when you plan to cook it.

Cook to proper temperature and use a thermometer. This is the best way to when food is done and to ensure that any potential bacteria are destroyed. For more information on thermometers and internal cooking temperatures check out the following publication.

Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of preparation. Leaving food out too long is one of the biggest holiday food safety problems. After dinner is finished, many of us enjoy catching up with family and friends that we haven’t seen in awhile and forget about the time. However, when food sits out for more than two hours above 40 degrees it is prime for bacterial growth. Therefore, it is important to get food in the refrigerator as soon as the meal is finished. When storing leftovers put them in 2-inch deep, shallow containers and make sure the refrigerator is not over-packed so there is plenty of air circulating around the food so it can be properly cooled. When storing the leftover turkey, cut the meat off the bone. This will allow it to quickly cool to the proper temperature, as well as make it easy to store.

Wash your hands thoroughly and often throughout food preparation. Washing hands is one of the easiest ways to minimize bacterial contamination and keep your food safe. Aim for washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. Use a water temperature that is comfortable for you. Research has shown that water temperature is not as important as the actual mechanical action of hand washing.

Wash all fresh produce. All produce should be thoroughly washed before eating. This includes produce grown conventionally or organically at home, or produce that is purchased from a grocery store or farmer's market. Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking. Washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes is not recommended.

Use care when reheating leftovers. One of the best parts of the holidays is enjoying the leftovers. Always reheat the leftovers to 165 degrees to make sure any bacteria are destroyed. Use those leftovers within 2 to 3 days or freeze them for longer keeping.

For more information on food safety go to

Our best to you and your family for a happy and safe holiday season.

November 2, 2009

Safety Net

Janet Golden, 4-H Agent III, Pinellas County Extension

Today's youth are as comfortable on the internet as previous generations were in brick and mortar gatherings. Youth not only look for information but also develop their own web sites and pages providing information about themselves. In fact many youth know much more about the internet than their parents, especially the social networking aspects. Think about internet as a big city or town with lots of places to go and things to do for young people. Now as a parent would you ever let your child wander free in any city or town without some guidelines or without you there depending on age? I am sure your answer is ‘no’, so the same should hold true for the internet. The following are a few guidelines to teach your youth safety on the web.

~ Make sure your child understands that the internet is not anonymous. Many times young people have email addresses and/or screen names that give away too much information about themselves. Be sure that these never contain their name, town, school, school mascot, favorite sport or activity, or family member names.

~ Chat rooms are very popular with tweens and teens. Remind your child that people online are not always who they say they are. There are many predators that use the internet to engage youth, so just because they say they are a 12 year old girl does not mean it is true. It is important to monitor your child’s chat sessions and/or talk to them about who they are chatting with online.

~ Keep the computer in a family area of the home and not in the child’s room. This allows the parent to monitor and provide support while their child is on the internet. Remember there are not only sexual predators online, but also predators looking to steal identities. Youth are a popular target because they or their parents are less like to run a credit check to see if their identity has been stolen.

~ Understand copyright regulations. Parents are responsible if their child is downloading music and movies without paying for them. It is illegal and you and your child need to understand the regulations.

~ Explore the internet with your child. As I mentioned before, many youth know the internet better than adults so take them time for them to teach you a few things.
If you would like to explore this topic further join me on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 from 12:15-12:45 for a free webinar called Safety Net.