December 28, 2010

Resolve to be More Knowledgeable in 2011!

Attend Pinellas County Extension’s January 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 online classes in January, “Solutions in 30.”

Solutions in 30:
January 5, 2011 - Green Living Resolutions for 2011
January 12, 2011 - Solar Power in the Sunshine State
January 19, 2011 - Become a V.I.P. at Brooker Creek
January 26, 2011 - Low-Cost, No-Cost Ways to Lower Your Power Bill

Commercial (Pesticide/FNGLA/ISA) CEUs:
January 5, 2011 - Best Management Practices
January 6, 2011 - Roundup License Training – LCLM & LLO Review
January 25, 2011 - Landscape Pests and Solutions(IPMU)
January 28, 2011 - Root to Shoots Tree Program

Extension Programs:
January 2, 2011 - Bird & Wildlife Walk
January 5, 2011 - Morning Nature Hike
January 11, 2011 - Focus on Finances
January 13, 2011 - Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project
January 13, 2011, 2:00 pm - Flowering Shrubs
January 13, 2011, 6:15 pm - Flowering Shrubs
January 25, 2011 - Restoring Nature’s Balance
January 25, 2011 - Calculating Your Ecological Footprint

You can register for classes online at

December 20, 2010

The verdict on Vitamin D: Am I getting enough?

By Spencer Webb, CSCS, Dietetic Intern, Bay Pines VA Health Care System, Pinellas County Extension

With a nickname like “the sunshine vitamin” you would think most of us living in the sunshine state would have no problem getting enough vitamin D. Since 2000, the public has received conflicting information about the amount of vitamin D we should be getting to stay healthy. To help clarify this issue, the United States and Canadian governments asked the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) to examine the current information on health outcomes associated with vitamin D and calcium, as well as updating the recommendations for our daily intake.

Where do we get vitamin D?
We get vitamin D from the sun, food and supplements. The food sources of vitamin D are somewhat limited since it is only found naturally in mushrooms, egg yolks, and in some types of fish, like salmon and sardines. Beginning in the 1930’s, milk sold to consumers was fortified to combat a bone deformity called rickets. This disease resulted in a “bow-legged” appearance in individuals who consumed low amounts of vitamin D when they were children. Other foods like orange juice, breads and cereals have been added to the list of fortified foods.

The good news about vitamin D, and what makes it unique, is that we can make it in our bodies. When exposed to sun, the skin makes a compound that is converted to vitamin D in the liver and kidneys. We need 10–15 minutes of direct sun on our face and arms, without sunscreen, two to three times a week to make enough vitamin D.

Another source of vitamin D is supplements. Supplement companies have been cashing in on the controversy. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, sales for vitamin D supplements rose 83% in 2009, generating over $240 million.

Why do we need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D plays an important role with calcium and phosphorus in maintaining the health of teeth and bones. It also keeps the immune system functioning. Vitamin D has been studied for its possible connections to several diseases and medical problems, including diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis. Based on the conflicting and mixed results of the studies, there is currently no evidence to confirm that vitamin D has any impact on these conditions.

How much do we need?
New intake recommendations (Recommended Dietary Allowances - RDA) for vitamin D have been recently released. Below is a table with those new recommendations.

Life StageVitamin D (IU/day)
Children and Teens600
Adults, up to age 70600
Adults, ages 71+800
IU = International Units

It is possible to get too much?
The IOM recently stated that while many Americans don’t get enough vitamin D from the foods they eat, most still have enough in their body, since they can make it from exposure to the sun. This means that the average American probably doesn't need to be taking large amounts of supplements as they have been shown to be toxic in large doses. The upper limit is 4000 IU and less for children younger that 9. Certain people like the elderly, dark-skinned individuals and people with liver and kidney disease may not get enough form the sun so they may benefit from fortified foods or a supplement.

To learn more about this vital nutrient, visit these websites:

National Institute of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS)

December 7, 2010

District asks homeowners to "Skip a Week" of irrigation this winter

Overwatering in winter can encourage pests and disease

The Southwest Florida Water Management District is encouraging residents who irrigate their lawns to "Skip a Week" of watering during the cooler months of December, January and February.

According to research by the University of Florida, grass doesn’t need to be watered as often during the cooler months. One-half to three-quarters of an inch of water every 10–14 days is sufficient. In fact, if your lawn has received any significant rainfall, then you can turn off your irrigation system and operate it manually as needed.

“Overwatering in the winter can encourage pests and disease in your lawn," said Sylvia Durell, Florida-Friendly Landscaping project manager. Skipping a week of watering is as easy as “off” for residents with irrigation timers. “Turn the timer to ‘off’ for the week that you want to skip, and ‘on’ for the week that you want to water,” said Durell.

Homeowners can determine when their grass needs water when:
• Grass blades are folded in half lengthwise on 30 percent of the lawn.
• Grass blades are blue-gray.
• Footprints remain on the lawn for several minutes after walking on it.
Skipping a week of irrigation will help conserve drinking water supplies that the public needs for critical uses during the dry season. In fact, if everyone skipped one week of irrigation this season, it could save an estimated 1.7 billion gallons of water.

In addition to entering the dry season, the region has experienced an extremely dry fall, with dry conditions expected to continue through next spring. All 16 counties within the District are under a Phase I water shortage alert.

For additional information about water restrictions and water conservation, contact your local utility or visit the District’s web site at

December 1, 2010

Christmas Trees and Poinsettias

Andy Wilson, Extension Specialist, Pinellas County Extension

Living Christmas Trees- Southern red cedar (Juniperus virginana) and sand pine (Pinus clausa) are two Florida natives that are grown commercially for both cut and potted Christmas trees. Both southern red cedar and sand pine can be planted in the landscape after use and both are drought tolerant once established. The southern red cedar also has good salt tolerance. Want the experience of selecting your own tree to cut on a Christmas tree farm? Check out this listing of Florida Christmas tree farms from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:

Care of Cut Christmas Trees- The single most important thing to do to keep cut Christmas trees fresh is to keep the base of the trunk immersed in water at all times once it is brought into the home. Most research has failed to show any real benefit from additives to the water like corn syrup, bleach, etc. Depending on the size of the water reservoir in the tree stand it will probably be necessary to check the water level at least once a day. The tree’s ability to absorb water is usually improved by making a fresh cut at the bottom of the trunk before placing the tree in the stand.

Care of Potted Poinsettias- If you receive a poinsettia as a gift or buy one as part of your holiday decorating, follow these tips to keep it in good condition throughout the holidays. If the pot is covered with a decorative foil or plastic wrap, punch some holes in the bottom to allow water to drain out. Water thoroughly when the soil is dry to the touch. A few minutes after watering the plant, pour out any water that has accumulated in the saucer under the pot. Poinsettias can be quickly damaged by waterlogged soil. Locate the plant in an area with bright, indirect light or some filtered sunlight. Dark locations will promote leaf drop. To keep the plants in the best condition, avoid exposing them to temperatures below 65 degrees F. More information on the care and use of poinsettias can be found in the fact sheet “Poinsettias at a Glance” available from our office or here:

Gifts for the Gardener-The University of Florida Bookstore has a great variety of books, flashcards, posters and other helpful references for the gardener on your gift list. Check out the selections here:

Among the selections is Growing Orchids: Easier Than You Think!, a DVD with lots of information on selecting and growing orchids:

November 29, 2010

A Federal Block Grant for Energy Efficiency in Pinellas County

James Stevenson, Extension Specialist, Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project, Pinellas County Extension

In 2009 Pinellas County Government received a block grant from the US Department of Energy. A block grant is a “gift” of money that follows an allocation formula, and is made available to local governments based on the population of the area. This grant, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant or EECBG has been distributed nationally, with the largest amount of funding going directly to US cities and counties.

Pinellas County received about $3.5 million in 2009. Other municipalities in the county received their own funds, including Clearwater ($1 million), Dunedin ($150,000), Largo ($700,000), Pinellas Park ($200,000), and St. Petersburg ($2.5 million).

This money was given to local governments to get major energy-saving projects off the ground. But the clock is ticking, and the money must be spent on these projects before the end of 2012. Pinellas County Government departments have seven projects in the works thanks to these funds. These projects include:

• A comprehensive energy audit for government buildings and practices,

• More efficient air-cooling systems for government buildings,

• Solar-powered flashing lights at county schools,

• Synchronization of traffic signals to reduce idling time on the roads

• Modification of the County’s Land Development Code to include energy efficiency measures

• Energy conservation retrofits for single-family homes, some of which were purchased through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds

• A community energy program delivered to citizens via Pinellas County Extension outreach; the Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project.
Our project includes several facets; all of which work together to provide the latest research-based information on energy efficiency to the public. Earlier this year the grant funds were received by the County and worked into this year’s budget. Then we “went-out-to-bid” for a supplier who could provide us with energy-saving products that we would then give to the public. By September we were ready to have our first official Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project class here at Extension. As of this writing, we have had 14 classes with an additional 30 classes scheduled before the end of June, 2011.

Classes are an hour long and each participant receives a comprehensive energy efficiency kit, valued at $200. During the class, we examine how energy is used in the home, how it is wasted, and how to reduce energy consumption while still enjoying the same quality of life. Participants receive the kit if they agree to share some information on energy conserving habits and home improvements they may have made after attending the class.

By collecting this data, we can make some assumptions on overall, county-wide residential energy conservation. We will then provide this data to the University and the Federal Government. By giving away CFL light bulbs and energy conservation kits, we can measure the amount of kilowatts that have been conserved. To date we have distributed over 8000 CFLs alone. This translates to a savings of 40,000 kWh each year the bulbs are in use and over 4 MILLION kWh over the lifetime of these long-lasting bulbs. In addition, this savings reflects a reduction of the greenhouse gas, C02, by 3000 tons!

Our goal is to distribute 60,000 CFLs in addition to information on overall energy efficiency. Extension believes that by providing people with the facts, and a little incentive we can realize a significant county-wide energy conservation strategy. Everybody wins!

US Department of Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program

EnergyStar® CFL Savings Calculator

Pinellas County Extension’s Energy Efficiency Project

UF’s Easy Steps to Improving Your Home’s Energy Efficiency

November 22, 2010

Eat Your Antioxidants

By Sara Holmberg, Dietetic Intern, Bay Pines VA Health Care System, Pinellas County Extension
Your mother always told you to eat your vegetables, and she knew what she was talking about. One of the best ways to get antioxidants is by eating vegetables. But what are antioxidants and what can they do for you? Many people do not know the answer to this question, or that the way vegetables are cooked can significantly affect the amount of antioxidant that makes it into your mouth.

Why Should I Eat Antioxidants? First, let’s discuss why antioxidants are so important. Antioxidants are a group of important nutrients that include phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring substances in fruits and vegetables that have been shown to have protective properties against diseases. Examples of phytochemicals include allyl sulfides in onion and garlic, and beta-carotene, which can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots, green peppers, and spinach, among others. Antioxidants can prevent disease-causing damage to your cells, as well as repair damage that has been done. An antioxidant works by binding to a cell in your body, preventing an oxygen molecule from binding to that same cell. When oxygen binds to a cell, it allows free radicals to enter. Free radicals enter your body through exposure to cigarette smoke, UV rays (from sunlight and tanning beds), and environmental pollutants like smog. These free radicals damage cells, weakening your immune system and putting you at greater risk for premature aging, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and cataracts. Antioxidants, which kill these free radicals, are found naturally in fruits and vegetables. They can also be found in herbs and whole grains.

Cooking vegetables can kill the antioxidants. As most Americans do not consume the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables per day, it’s important to maximize the nutrients from the vegetables that are eaten. Let’s discuss different ways to cook vegetables with respect to maintaining their antioxidant content.

The Worst: Boiling. Boiling is the most common way to cook vegetables. However, it is considered the worst antioxidant killer: most vegetables lose between 30-50% of antioxidants from boiling. This is because many antioxidants are “water-soluble;” they leach out into the boiling water and are lost when that water is drained. The longer vegetables are exposed to water, the more nutrients they lose. If boiling is your preferred method of cooking, it’s recommended that only a minimal amount of water be used (do not “drown” the vegetables), and make sure to use the shortest cooking time necessary for tenderness. Exposure to heat causes antioxidant losses. Baking is also considered a poor way to cook vegetables as the long cook time kills many nutrients.

The Best: Microwaving and Steaming. It is a common myth that microwaves kill nutrients. In fact, the opposite is true. Shortened cooking times make microwaves the best way to retain antioxidants and nutrients. Again, the trick is using as little water as possible. Frozen vegetables need no added water, and fresh vegetables only require 1-2 tablespoons. Steaming is considered almost as good as microwaving. Cooking vegetables over the water instead of in the water allows the nutrients to remain intact.

The Maybe: Sautéing. Sautéing on the stove is considered a good method as well. Using olive oil is a great choice because it actually increases the antioxidant content of the vegetables. This is because olive oil by nature is full of antioxidants. Other oils, such as canola, do provide some nutritional benefits but not the antioxidant effects of olive oil.

One More Thing. As a general rule: the darker the vegetable, the greater the antioxidant content. For example, choose red onions over white or yellow, orange sweet potatoes over white or russet potatoes, and red leaf or romaine over iceberg lettuce. By purchasing dark colored fruits and vegetables in the grocery store, and by changing your cooking method to microwaving or steaming, you will help your body fight disease and feel younger and healthier.

Florida has an abundance of fresh produce year round. Check out the seasonal availability chart from the Florida department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to see what is in season.

For additional information, please refer to the website below.

November 11, 2010

4-H Grows the Next Generation of Scientists

Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Youth Development Agent, Pinellas County Extension

Today ‘s 4-H Youth Development Program has grown from its agricultural roots to include learning opportunities in subjects like robotics, bio-fuels, alternative energy, climate change, computer science and rocketry. Today, one of the three national initiatives in the 4-H program is 4-H Science, formerly known as 4-H SET. One goal of the initiative is to prepare youth to become the next generation of scientists.

The United States is facing global technological challenges with a shortage of scientists. A recent study showed that only eighteen percent of U.S. high school seniors are proficient in science and only five percent of current U.S. college graduates earn a degree in science, engineering, or technology. These percentages are even more startling when compared to 66 percent of college graduates in Japan and 59 percent in China.

To meet the need for an increase in science and technology professionals, 4-H set the goal of engaging one million new youth in science programs by 2013. Nationally, 4-H Science programs reach more than 5 million youth with hands-on learning experiences in the sciences.

4-H Science is an initiative and not a set program. While more and more 4-H members and groups are using the newer curricula in robotics, computer science, or Project Butterfly WINGS, the older project materials are being used as well. Much of 4-H project work is based in science, but science has not always been stressed. For example, 4-H entomology projects have taught 4-H members to identify, collect, or control insects, but Project Butterfly Wings, teaches youth to become citizen scientists by observing and collecting butterfly data and then sending the data to partnering scientists through group web pages.

A favorite project for the past several years is “Rockets Away” developed by the Ohio State University Extension. This project explores the science behind rocketry through activities that illustrate Newton’s Laws of Motion. The materials used are common, inexpensive supplies, such as straws, balloons, and basketballs; or recyclables such as soda cans or bottles. In fact, the body of the rocket is a 2-liter soda bottle. As the group goes through the activities, they are asked to think as scientists and collect, analyze, and compare data. Then they are asked to think of ways they observe these laws in every day life.

In case you were wondering, here are Newton’s Laws of Motion:

• Newton’s First Law – Objects at rest will stay at rest, or objects in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Think of a punter kicking a football.

• Newton’s Second Law – The acceleration of an object is directly related to the force exerted on that object and oppositely related to the mass of that object. This is why rocket engines are in stages and separate from the rocket after they are spent.

• Newton’s Third Law – For every action there is always an opposite and equal reaction. This is why a lawn sprinkler spins.
To see the Rockets Away project in action, come to the 4-H Open House November 6 at Pinellas County Extension. The Open House is from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. While there will be rocketry activities throughout the day, the rocketry workshop will start at 1:30.

4-H Science information from

For more information on the Rockets Away project book:

November 8, 2010

Alien Plant Invasion!

Theresa Badurek, Urban Horticulture Agent, Pinellas County Extension

It’s October and the Florida Holly is in full bloom. Wait a minute, Florida Holly? Even though that sounds like a beautiful plant, don’t be fooled! What some people call the “Florida Holly” is really an insidious invasive exotic. The real name of this plant is Brazilian pepper, Schinus terebinthifolius. You probably see this plant in so many places that you don’t even notice it anymore. Or maybe you’ve always wondered what that lovely big shrub with all the pretty red berries on it was. Here it is:

This plant was introduced to Florida in the mid 1800s as an ornamental plant. It has since taken over and continues to spread and destroy natural habitats all over Florida. If that wasn’t enough to prove to you what a nasty plant this is, it’s also a member of the same plant family as poison ivy. Yes, that means that contact with the plant may cause a rash or irritation. Some people experience respiratory irritation while it’s in bloom, from late summer through November. Many are in full bloom right now.

Now that you know this alien invasion is taking place, you can help stop it! If you have a Brazilian pepper- remove it! (Note: this is easier said than done…) Talk to a neighbor and let them know if they have an invasive plant that should be removed. While we’re on the subject, there are many other invasive exotics to look out for. Helping control the spread of the plants is one of the many ways you can help protect Florida’s unique ecosystems.

Brazilian pepper links that include control methods:

Here are some other beautifully deceptive non-native invasive exotics you should know:

Camphor tree, Cinnamomum camphora

Camphor tree can grow into a very large tree- up to 65’ tall. It has lovely glossy green leaves that smell like camphor when crushed. Mature trees produce many, many, many round black seeds. This tree also grows into a great dense canopy that provides plenty of shade- so much shade that it shades the native species right out. It invades many ecosystems, but is often found in dry disturbed sites.

Carrotwood tree, Cupaniopsis anacardioides 

This is a small tree that grows up to about 30-35’ tall. It flowers in late winter/early spring with clusters of white to yellow-green flowers. It produces fruit that are capsules that split open to reveal its orange seeds. This is a lovely little tree that primarily invades beautiful coastal habitats. Here it shades out the native species and is especially destructive in mangrove ecosystems.

Mexican petunia, Ruellia brittoniana

This is a pretty little perennial herb with pink, white, or purple flowers. It typically grows up to about 3’ tall and flowers throughout the year. Now this is a particularly tough one since you can still buy this in garden centers and it will grow just about anywhere. But that’s the problem. It invades creek beds, pine flatwoods, hardwood hammocks and other ecosystems and crowds out the native groundcovers along the way.

There are many other invasive exotics plants and here some links where you can learn much more about them and about controlling them:

UF Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants:

Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council:

IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas:

“Living Green” video on invasive exotics:

November 1, 2010

Get Classy Before the Holidays!

Attend Pinellas County Extension’s November 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 online classes in November, “Solutions in 30.”

Solutions in 30:
November 10, 2010 - My Favorite Green Practices: Session 1
November 17, 2010 - Introduction to Green Star

Commercial (Pesticide/FNGLA/ISA) CEUs:
November 3, 2010 - Last Call Fall CEU Update
November 3, 2010 - Fumigation
November 3, 2010 - Core
November 3, 2010 - General Household Pest
November 3, 2010 - Termites

Extension Programs:
November 2, 2010 - Master Money Mentor
November 2, 2010 - Focus on Finances
November 3, 2010, 11:30 am - Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project
November 3, 2010, 1:30 pm - Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project
November 3, 2010 - Landscaping for Wetland Wildlife
November 7, 2010 - Morning Nature Hike
November 8, 2010 - Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project
November 11, 2010, 2:00pm - Native Plants
November 11, 2010, 6:15pm - Native Plants
November 13, 2010 - Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project
November 16, 2010, - The 5 Biggest Myths of Climate Change
November 16, 2010 - Overview of Florida-Friendly Landscaping
November 17, 2010 - Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project
November 18, 2010 - GreenStar ADVANCED
November 20, 2010 - Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project
November 23, 2010 - Early Evening Nature Hike

You can register for classes online at
Please look for and click on the “Online Class Registration” tab on the right hand side near the top of the page.

October 20, 2010

Sustainable Floridians Master Volunteer Program

Mary Campbell, Extension Director, Pinellas County Extension

Are you interested in living a green and sustainable lifestyle? Pinellas County Extension is launching a new University of Florida led program to teach you about green and sustainable practices. This intensive training program creates knowledgeable and motivated volunteers ready to support sustainable education programs in Extension. Volunteers will share this information in the community through programs, events, schools and outreach activities. A required number of volunteer hours (30) are necessary for completion of the program and certification. This can be accomplished through many community activities in partnership with Extension Agents.

The Sustainable Floridians Program will benefit those who complete the training by providing ways to incorporate sustainable practices into their daily lives. The program will provide information to motivated individuals to connect personal decisions with information about sustainable practices. The seven week course combines group discussions, weekly action exercises and resource materials for an interactive and informative program. Participants will be provided with course materials, books, energy conservation devices for the home, and other products that relate to sustainable living. Each week participants will meet for a half-day session to learn about topics such as energy conservation, local foods, land use issues, water conservation, ecological footprint, and community leadership.

Sustainable Floridians is an action program directed at volunteers who want to continue to promote sustainable practices through activities such as outreach events, supporting educational programs in schools, participating in the new Pinellas Green Home and other exciting programs provided by Extension. The newly developed program follows along the lines of the Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs. The program is designed to be interactive and brings in local knowledge, creates group discussion, and promotes lasting behavior change. The program involves participants in record keeping for key indicators of sustainability: energy and water usage and vehicle miles traveled. In addition, weekly hands-on exercises are included that provide opportunities for implementing changes discussed in weekly topics. The final activity is the creation of a personal sustainability action plan.

Be a part of the first Sustainable Floridian program! The program is provided at no cost in 2011 and all resources are provided.

It will be held in three locations:

January 20 – March 3, 2011
Brooker Creek Preserve
3940 Keystone Road
Tarpon Springs, FL

April 7 – May 26, 2011
Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center
1800 Weedon Drive NE
St. Petersburg, FL

September 15 – October 27, 2011
Pinellas County Extension
12520 Ulmerton Road
Largo, FL

If you are interested in this new and exciting program, please provide us with your name and e-mail address and you will be contacted (not all applicants will be selected for the program – only 12 participants per class) .

For more information contact:

Mary Campbell


Ramona Madhosingh-Hector

October 18, 2010

Trick or Treat? The Sweet Truth about Sugar

10/18/10 |
Amanda Bachman, Dietetic Intern, Bay Pines VA Health Care System, Pinellas County Extension

With Halloween and the holiday season right around the corner, families are bombarded with candy, treats, and sugar filled parties. How can these sweet treats impact your family’s health? Let’s take a look at the truth about sugar.

Risks of Too Much Sugar
Despite what popular diets may say, the body does actually need carbohydrates to function. Sugar, a form of carbohydrate, is found naturally in healthy options such as fruit and milk, but is added to many products, such as:
  • Regular Soda
  • Punches, Lemonade, Fruit Drinks
  • Sports Drinks
  • Cakes, Cookies, Brownies
  • Candy
  • Ice Cream
  • Toaster Pastries, Sugary Cereals

Excess added sugar in your family’s diet from items, such as those listed above, add extra calories with no nutrient benefits. While in moderation treats can have a place within the diet, high intake of added sugar can ultimately lead to unwanted weight gain. Children also consuming sugary treats and beverages, such as excess juice and soda, instead of fruit, vegetables, and milk can be at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiency.
ADHD and Sugar
Although it has been rumored that too much sugar leads to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and can cause children to “bounce off of the walls”, research has shown that this belief is actually a myth. ADHD has shown to be a result of genetics and environmental sources such as cigarette smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy. However, a diet low in added sugar is suggested for all children for optimal health.

Sugar Addiction

There has also been suggestion that a diet high in added sugar can be classified as an addiction, or rather a sugar-dependency. Research shows that eating high amounts of excess sugar can actually trigger the same areas of the brain as addictive drugs. What does this mean for your child? A diet high in added sugar could lead to a slippery slope of a strong liking and dependence on sugary options. Therefore, the key is to prevent or stop such habits while your child is young.
How to Reduce Sugar Intake

To help your child avoid acquiring a strong liking for sugary foods, encourage a well balanced diet filled with 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 3 servings of low-fat or non-fat dairy, and whole grains on a daily basis. Save high sugar items for special occasions keeping in mind small portion sizes. Sugar substitutes can also provide a healthy alternative for those with a strong desire for sweetness. Overall, these products have shown to be safe, however, use caution since “sugar free” products may not always be a nutritious choice. For instance, diet soda and reduced sugar beverages should not take the place of milk and water, and items marked as “sugar free”, such as cookies, candies, and prepackaged snacks, can still be very high in calories and fat. 
So how do you tackle the large jack-o-lantern of candy after Halloween? Here are a few tips:
  • Feed your child a healthy meal prior to trick-or-treating to avoid overindulgence on candy when the night is over.
  • Have your child select 3-5 miniature pieces of candy that they will enjoy that night.
  • Establish a plan for what to do with the leftovers
    • Keep the candy out of sight and accessibility
    • Decide with your child how many pieces will be allowed per day, such as 1-2 piece
    • Divide the leftovers into plastic bags to portion out a small daily trea
    • Give the candy away to others (friends, family, co-workers)
    • If overindulgence is a major concern, consider throwing away the leftovers

October 11, 2010

National 4-H Week

10/11/10 |
Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Agent, Pinellas County Extension

October 3-9 is National 4-H Week and the perfect time to look at the state of 4-H today.

4-H is alive and well in Pinellas County, the state of Florida, and throughout the United States. Nationally, there are six million youth involved in 4-H. These youth live in urban and suburban neighborhoods, as well as rural communities. The 4-H program continues to thrive and grow in large part due to 540,000 volunteers who lend their experience and expertise to make a difference in a child’s life.

In Florida, there are over 244,000 youth participating in 4-H activities with 15,842 adult volunteers. 4-H youth participated in over 306,000 projects including public speaking, robotics, environmental education, theater arts, and leadership.

In Pinellas County, youth participate in 4-H community clubs, 4-H afterschool clubs, and 4-H partnership schools. There are 22 community clubs and five afterschool clubs with over 400 members. The grades with the highest number of 4-H members are the 5th and 6th grades. In the community clubs, the most popular projects are horse, gardening, and dog. The afterschool clubs focus on cooking, performing arts, and photography. The project choices for all 4-H members range from Aerospace to Workforce Preparation. There are approximately 80 adult volunteers working with the club program, in addition to the episodic volunteers who may judge or help with certain events.

To showcase the positive outcomes of 4-H, whether the youth are involved in the traditional agricultural projects or the newer urban program projects, here are the results of a comprehensive research project. Tufts University released a study in 2008 called the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development. This research began in 2001 and has surveyed over 5,000 youth in 34 states. The results show youth engaged with 4-H are:
  • 25 percent more likely to positively contribute to their families, themselves, and their communities
  • Nearly two times more likely to get better grades in school
  • More likely to see themselves going to college
  • 41 percent less likely to engage in risky behaviors
In the 2008 data collection, the researchers added questions regarding science, engineering and computer technology interests and attitudes. They surveyed 1,309 4-H participants and 788 non-4-H participants in the10th grade. Key findings show that 4 H youth are more likely to:

  • Participate in programs science, engineering and computer technology programs
  • Perform better in subjects related to science compared to their classmates
  • Plan to pursue careers in science
  • Have higher levels of female involvement in science programs 
4-H can consistently produce these outcomes through a variety of delivery methods and project areas because it is the goal of the national, state, and county 4-H programs to ensure all participants in 4-H experience the Essential Elements of 4-H youth development. They are:
  • Belonging – to have a sense of connection and relationship with a caring adult
  • Mastery- to experience success in meeting challenges and building self-confidence
  • Independence – to know one can influence people and events through decision making
  • Generosity – to have a connection to the community and knowing one’s life has purpose

Those of you who were 4-H members as children may want to think back and find how your 4-H memories fit into the Essential Elements. Then think about how 4-H fits into your life today. 

For more information on 4-H research and the Tufts study:

To learn more about the Florida 4-H Program:

September 27, 2010

Fertilize Your Yard Responsibly

Dale Armstrong, Coordinator Florida Yards & Neighborhoods, Pinellas County Extension

It’s that time of year when homeowners start thinking about fall fertilization of their lawn and landscape. This year Pinellas County residents may give a little more thought to fall fertilization since this was the first summer that the new county ordinance prohibited the application of fertilizers containing nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P).

As a reminder, the Pinellas County Fertilizer Ordinance contains a “black-out” period between June 1 and September 30 when fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus may not be used. The reasoning is that if N and P are not applied during the rainy season then these nutrients cannot be carried by stormwater to pollute our surface waters and groundwater. Excessive N and P in our surface waters are responsible for harmful algae blooms and undesirable growth of aquatic vegetation. For additional information about the fertilizer ordinance please see the link at the end of this article.

So, if you decide to apply fertilizer during the fall, how do you do it responsibly? If you are hiring someone to fertilize for you, the responsible thing to do is to ensure they are a state-certified fertilizer applicator, which becomes mandatory after January 19, 2011 in Pinellas County. Ask to see their license. If you plan to fertilize your own yard you should educate yourself about how to properly select and apply the product. Following are some important factors to consider if you are going to apply fertilizer yourself:
• First, do a rough measurement of your turfgrass area to determine approximate number of square feet. Fertilizer application rates are calculated based on pounds of nitrogen per thousand square feet. Once you have calculated how many square feet you will be fertilizing you can determine how much fertilizer to purchase.
• Since you will be buying a fertilizer with at least 50% slow release nitrogen as required by the Pinellas County Fertilizer Ordinance and recommended by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, you will use table 1a in this fact sheet: “Figuring out Fertilizer for the Home Lawn”. Table 1a is for application of 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet.
• Looking at table 1a you will see that the number of pounds of fertilizer you purchase varies depending on the percentage of nitrogen (the first of the three numbers listed) in the bag. A 15-0-15 formula has 15% nitrogen, no phosphorus, and 15% potassium.
• The higher the percentage of nitrogen, the less fertilizer you will be spreading. Referring to table 1a you will see that for a 15% N fertilizer the application rate is only 6.5 pounds per 1,000 square feet. So, on a lawn that is 3,000 square feet, for example, you would purchase a 20 pound bag of 15-0-15 because 3 times 6.5 equals 19.5 pounds total fertilizer needed. Since several fertilizer formulas may be available you may want to take table 1a with you when shopping.
• It is very important to keep fertilizers and all other pollutants off of hard surfaces like driveways, sidewalks, and roads so rain runoff will not carry them into storm drains. Remember, only water (nothing else) down the storm drain.
I suggest you read the instructions on the fertilizer bag, the Pinellas County Fertilizer Ordinance, and the fertilizer fact sheet for additional tips and instructions about responsible fertilization. A healthy lawn can be maintained by using the correct quantity of fertilizer and by applying it properly and at the right time of the year. By following these instructions you will also be protecting the environment from the detrimental effects of nutrient runoff and leaching.

Additional Resource
Pinellas County Fertilizer Ordinance

September 13, 2010

Choosing a Financial Planner

9/13/10 |
Karen Saley, Extension Specialist, Pinellas County Extension

Now more than ever it may be time to think about speaking with a certified financial planner. It’s always a good idea to get some sound financial advice, but in difficult economic times when resources may be limited it could mean the difference between losing or saving money.

Choosing a financial planner is just as important as choosing a doctor, lawyer, or accountant. You want someone that is reputable and has your best interest in mind. So how do you go about finding someone you can trust?

Start by asking family and friends. You may also want to consult your banker, insurance agent, accountant and other people in the financial industry. Many financial planners work with these professionals and may have well established relationships with them. It’s usually best to have an in-person interview with your potential planner. Body language says a lot about a person plus you will notice immediately if you have a sense of comfort with the person. Remember, you will share a lot of personal information and you want to feel secure in the knowledge it will be kept confidential and used appropriately.

The Financial Planning Association recommends that you ask these basic questions when interviewing a financial planner:
  • Financial planning and other financial designations a planner holds
  • Educational background and work experience
  • Licenses to sell certain financial products, such as life insurance or securities
  • Services the planner provides
  • The planner's basic approach to financial planning
  • Areas of specialization
  • Types of clients the planner serves, and any minimum net worth or income requirements
  • Professional affiliations, including membership in the Financial Planning Association
  • How the planner prepares a plan
  • How the planner might address your particular needs
  • Whether the planner or others will implement recommendations from the plan
  • Business relationships the planner has that might present a conflict of interest
  • How the planner is paid for services and typical charges  
You can also check with the Certified Financial Planner Board at 888-237-6275 to determine if any complaints have been filed against the planner you are considering.

Once you have chosen a planner you will want to gather all your relevant documents to take to the meeting. Some of the information you should take with you are: 
  • Bank Statements
  • Credit Card Balances
  • Mortgage or Loan Payment Books
  • List of Employee Benefits
  • List of Assets & Liabilities
  • Retirement Account Statements
  • Investment Statements
  • Tax Return  
For a complete list visit

Having all of your documents organized will save time during your meeting which could mean saving you money. There are a number of ways financial planners charge for their services and you will want to discuss this with them prior to your first meeting unless the initial meeting is free. Many times you won’t really know what services you will need in the future until the planner has gone over your portfolio.

All of the financial planner's compensation from his or her client work comes exclusively from the clients in the form of fixed, flat, hourly, percentage or performance-based fees.

There is no charge for the planner's advice or preparation of a financial plan. Compensation is received solely from the sale of financial products you agree to purchase in order to implement financial planning recommendations.

Combination Fee/Commission 
A fee is charged for consultation, advice and financial plan preparation on an hourly, project or percentage basis. In addition, the planner may receive commissions from the sale of recommended products used to implement your plan.

Some planners work on a salary and bonus basis for financial services firms.

Keeping your money secure and growing is one of the corner stones to building a secure financial future. It just may be time to look into getting some first-rate financial advice.




September 7, 2010

4-H Teen Council Pilots Intergenerational Technology Class

9/7/10 |
Andrew Yuan, 4-H Youth Mentor, Pinellas County Extension

The Pinellas County 4-H Teen Council has just finished its first iteration of a highly successful Intergenerational Technology Class. In this increasingly technology-oriented world, the gap between generations has been exponentially widening due to rapid advancement in new technologies. The purpose of the Intergenerational Technology Class was to bridge this gap by having young people give some of their knowledge to an older generation of adults.

The Teen Council hatched the idea many months ago along with Dr. Larry Forthun, a University of Florida professor and expert in Intergenerational Approaches to Healthy Families and Communities, and former 4-H Agent Janet Golden. Through meetings and conference calls with Dr. Forthun, the group developed the details and goals of the program. The Teen Council developed the curriculum over the months in the form of two PowerPoint presentations and handouts for the senior citizens. The Teen Council used valuable resources such as a glossary of internet and computer terms for older adults developed by the National Institute on Aging. 4-H curricula such as project books Newbie Know-How and Teens Teaching Tech provided information and inspired ideas for the class.

On June 14, 2010, Dr. Forthun came down from the University of Florida to train the youth instructors on different learning styles associated with the generations. Based on our projected age group, Dr. Forthun gave tips such as presenting the “big picture” first with quick overviews of the days’ lessons or using real world examples by comparing things on a computer to things in an office.

The Teen Council held its first session of the two-part class on June 28th and June 30th in the computer lab of Seminole Library. For the first session, seven ladies from the local Freedom Square Community center came to learn. In addition to Teen Council Co-Presidents Melissa Sharp and Andrew Yuan, four youth volunteers helped to facilitate the program. Extension staff member James Stevenson accompanied the youth. With a focus on basic computer skills such as navigation, keyboard, and mouse functions for Part I, and a focus on internet and email for Part II, the senior citizens gained a total of 3 hours of instruction.

The Council held its second session of the class on July 12th and July 14th, this time accompanied by Extension staff member Vestina Crayton. This time there were five new students (again all female) and two returning see if they could learn even more. The class ran smoothly once again, despite the absence of the majority of the youth volunteers who were at 4-H Camp.

The class was very well-received. The seniors were very receptive and quick learners. They were also very determined learners with an average age of about 83 years old. The youth also enjoyed the class since they had the chance to work with an interesting and friendly bunch of senior citizens. One woman appreciated the class so much she offered to give a $200.00 donation to 4-H towards the purchase of a portable sound system. The sound system could be used for programs such as this one where the students were hard of hearing or to address larger groups.

Based on evaluation sheets that asked the seniors to rate components of the class and give input for future classes, there was positive feedback all around. Comments praised the patience and knowledge of the youth instructors. Ten out of the fouteen evaluations showed the seniors were more comfortable using computers, thirteen out of the fourteen stated they would use the skills they had learned, and thirteen out of the fourteen would recommend the class to others. Ultimately everyone benefited as the youth gained teaching and leadership skills while the senior citizens gained useful computer skills. Both groups gained an appreciation of another generation. The most popular question of the day in both classes was, “When is your next class?”

While many youth spent the summer on the beach or at the mall, the 4-H Teen Council illustrated perfectly how 4-H “Makes the Best Better”.

August 31, 2010

Fall into a Class with the Pinellas County Extension

Attend Pinellas County Extension’s September 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 online classes, “Solutions in 30.”

Solutions in 30:
September 1, 2010 - Preparing Your Landscape for Storms
September 8, 2010 - Coastal Invasion – Are We Ready?
September 15, 2010 - Fall Vegetable Gardening
September 22, 2010 - The Scoop on Sugar - Curbing Your Sweet Tooth
September 29, 2010 - Solar Power in the Sunshine State

Commercial (Pesticide/FNGLA/ISA) CEUs:
September 16 - Best Managment Practices (Spanish)
September 22 - Roundup License Training - LCLM

Lawn & Garden:
September 8, 2010 - Vegetable Gardening 2:00pm
September 8, 2010 - Vegetable Gardening 6:15pm
September 11, 2010 - Backyard Composting Workshop
September 18, 2010 - Palms- Keeping them Healthy
September 22, 2010 - Wasps, Hornets, & Bees 
September 25, 2010 - Rain Harvesting Workshop

Families & Consumers:
September 15, 2010 - Focus on Finances

Sustainable Living:
September 15, 2010 - Green Jobs
September 25, 2010 - Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project
September 21, 2010 - Clean Marina and Boatyard Workshop
September 21, 2010 - The Five Biggest Myths of Climate Change

You can register for classes online at
Look for and click on the “Online Class Registration” orange button on the right hand side near the top of the page.

August 26, 2010

Make Your Neighbors Disappear!

8/26/10 |
Bob Albanese, Extension Specialist, Pinellas County Extension

In this day and age of small lots and big houses at some point in time we all pretty much have the same desire “I wish I had more privacy in my yard”. Whether you like them or not, you really don’t want to see your neighbors waving a pleasant howdy-do to you as you and your sweetie are relaxing in your hot tub with a refreshing drink. Or perhaps you are entertaining friends lounging around the pool, or eating a meal with the family, in any case privacy is a nice thing to have. With some careful planning and a bit of research you can easily make the view of your prying neighbor turn into a pleasant scene of foliage. The first thing you’ll need to ascertain is how tall a screen you will need; for most folks with one story houses a planting that grows 4 to 6 feet tall is frequently adequate. Then factor in the amount of sun/shade and available watering- all of these factors will combine to limit your choices to a plant palette that should serve you well.

Bamboo – there are many suitable choices in the world of Bamboo and other closely related genera. The secret to being successful with these plants is to be sure you choose the right species to do the job you need it to do. When choosing a bamboo be sure to select a clumping bamboo (NEVER A RUNNING BAMBOO), there are hundreds, perhaps thousands to choose from. Mature growing heights vary greatly; I suggest picking a variety that stays under 15 feet tall.

Podocarpus – (Podocarpus macrophylla) If a sheared hedge is needed I strongly recommend this plant. Full to half a day of sun is best and a well drained soil is a must. Recommended spacing for a dense hedge is 3 feet on center (“OC”), once established they are also quite drought tolerant. The needle like foliage combined with its soft bluish green color is very attractive and pruning can be done as few as 3 times a year.

Marlberry (Ardissia escallonioides) – a native shrub that grows in a naturally columnar form makes it ideal for a hedge or screening plant. Full shade to partial shade is ideal for this drought resistant plant. The leaves are a shade of grey-green and the leaf has an unusual satin gloss appearance. Small black fruits are produced in profusion which adds to its curb appeal. It also attracts birds and has a wonderfully fragrant flower.
Sabal Minor

(Sabal minor) is a great native shrub like palm that is one of the most trouble free plants you can plant in central Florida. It will grow in just about any soil, in full sun to full shade and forms a dense hedge. Add its’ incredible drought resistance (when established properly), and the fact that it rarely if ever needs to be fertilized or pruned. They grow to be about 4 to 5 feet tall, thick and full to the ground and they have no serious insect or disease pests.
Dwarf Sugar Date
Dwarf sugar date palm (Arenga engleri) the mature growing height of this clumping palm is described as “9 to 12 feet tall” making it an excellent screening plant. When it is in bloom the fragrance is so sweet it is hard to believe it comes from a palm tree. The foliage is a dark green above and silver below which adds interest to the striking tropical appearance.
Lady Palm

Corn Plant (Dracena fragrans) the common corn plant is an excellent tall narrow screening plant for those of you who live in the warmer areas of the county. They are very shade tolerant and pretty drought tolerant as well. The growing height depends on where you happen to cut it back to and the durable foliage is attractive year round. Blooms on established plants appear at years end and are quite fragrant from sunset till dawn.

Lady palm (Raphis excelsa) makes a very appealing tropical looking privacy hedge that is best in half a day shade to full shade. Being a palm there is little seasonal change. The glossy green leaves dance gracefully in the slightest breeze and are appealing all year long. Drought and cold hardiness are extra bonuses for this superb and under used plant.

August 9, 2010

Christmas in Summer

8/9/10 |
By Karen Saley, Extension Specialist, Pinellas County Extension

With the summer heat hitting the nineties, Christmas is probably the last thing on your mind, but now is the time to start putting into practice all those helpful budgeting tips you read about in November and December.

Lack of planning can lead to overspending during the holidays. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping along with feeling the strain of limited time which can lead to buying gifts at full price and on impulse. With a little advanced planning and writing out a budget you will be able to reduce your stress and save time and money this holiday season.

Before you write out your spending plan there are a few things you may want to consider before getting started.
  • Are there people you can eliminate from your gift list like the mailman, your kid’s teachers, and your hairdresser? It’s very nice to remember everyone during the holidays, but they are probably feeling the financial pinch as much as you and are most likely not expecting a gift. 
  • If your family is one of the many that exchange gifts with everyone you may want to talk to them about a secret Santa or pulling names from a hat. You may want to ask if there is a family gift such as video or electronic games, camping gear, or sporting equipment that the whole family would use.
  • If there is a family member that has their heart set on a more expensive give, take up a collection from the whole family to purchase it instead of buying a lot of little things that may not be appreciated as much.
  • Discuss the idea of family and friends spending time together playing games, watching holiday movies or getting involved in a charity helping others instead of exchanging gifts.
  • Preparing the holiday meal can be very time consuming and expensive. Suggest that this year everyone make a dish, provide beverages, or bring dessert. It’s a good way to get everyone involved in the holiday meal and it will save you time and money. 
Now that you have considered some ways to reduce your holiday expenses, it’s time to write your spending plan and start shopping.
  • Make a list of everyone you are going to buy gifts for and set a dollar amount for each person.
  • Go through your gift wrap, bows, and cards and make a list of what you will need for the holidays. If you want to be really frugal, consider using some of the more colorful pages of the newspaper as gift wrap.
  • Write out your holiday menu and start stocking up on the non-perishable items you will need such as chicken broth, stuffing mix, and canned or frozen vegetables. This will allow you to buy these items as they go on sale.
  • Start gift shopping. Look for those bargains and sales at the book stores, toy stores, department stores, and outlets. You will have two seasonal sales events to make the most of before the end of the year.
  • Sign up to receive email alerts from your favorite stores so you can take advantage of sales and coupons throughout the year.
  • Compare prices on line before making a purchase. Having the time to shop around can save you big bucks. 
With a little planning and a head start on your shopping, you will save time and money and be far less stressed this holiday season. Happy Holidays!