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”.