May 28, 2011

Summer Fertilizer Ban Starts June 1

By Jane Morse, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Pinellas County Extension

June 1 is the beginning of the summertime fertilizer blackout. During this time you cannot apply any fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorus to your lawn or landscape until October. The County’s strict fertilizer ordinance – aimed at improving water quality - prohibits using these products from June 1 through Sept. 30 or at any time of year the National Weather Service forecasts heavy rains to occur within 24 hours.

During the time of year when you are allowed to fertilize, you still must keep in mind that no more than four pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year can be applied, and that granular fertilizers containing nitrogen must be at least 50 percent slow release nitrogen. Also that phosphorus is not allowed unless a soil test documents a phosphorus deficiency.

Knowing what’s in the fertilizer can help you decide what is best for your lawn and how to apply it correctly. You can check out the three numbers on a fertilizer bag to learn the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium it contains. (The rest is filler that allows uniform application of the nutrients and helps prevent over-or-under fertilizing of certain areas.)

There are other fertilizer “rules” for protecting the environment as well as public health: Use a deflector shield when applying. Don’t apply within 10 feet of a wetland or water body. Fertilizer or grass clippings that get on sidewalks, driveways, streets, etc. must be returned to the landscape areas or swept up immediately. Nitrogen should not be applied to any newly-installed plants for the first 30 days. If you use reclaimed water you may not need any extra nitrogen fertilizer because the reclaimed water contains nitrogen.

Pinellas County’s fertilizer ordinance also requires all lawn and landscape personnel to pass a best management practices class. You should hire only those who display the decal and carry a certification card.

We all want clean water. An important way to protect water quality is to make sure nothing but pure water flows into storm drains. Our storm drains are a direct conduit to our creeks, lakes and marine waters and aren’t treated in any way. All hard surfaces such as driveways, sidewalks and streets drain to storm drains so it is very important to keep these areas clean.

Some easy things we can do to keep our water clean are to keep all grass clippings, leaves, fertilizer, household or vehicle chemicals or anything that isn’t plain water from going down the storm drain. Sweep grass clippings back into the landscape or put them into a compost bin. Use leaves as mulch in plant beds, compost them, or put them in the trash. Keep all chemicals in a secondary container so if the original container springs a leak the secondary one will catch it and keep the leak contained. (One quart of oil creates an oil slick the size of two football fields!) Pick up pet waste and dispose of it in the trash. Wash vehicles over grass or gravel to prevent runoff. Never drain chlorinated water to the street or storm drain. Reclaimed water contains nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus so make sure it isn’t spraying onto any hard surfaces or draining off your property into the street.

Always remember - nothing but rain down the drain.

For any questions on disposal of waste, including fertilizer, pesticides and weed control products, contact the Pinellas County Department of Solid Waste Operations at (727) 464-7500.

For information or to report illegal dumping, you can reach the Pinellas County Watershed Management Division at (727) 464-4425 ext.5 or There is a 24-hour hotline at (727) 464-5060 (non-emergency spills only). Emergencies: Please call your local fire department.

The information for this article came from the Division’s brochure entitled “A Guide to the Fertilizer Ordinance.” All regulatory questions should be directed to the Watershed Division at (727) 464-4425.

May 26, 2011

Let’s get ready for June!

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Regional Specialized Agent, Urban Environmental Sustainability, Pinellas County Extension

Florida residents and visitors agree that the beauty of our state lies in our natural resources – warm climate, celebrated parks and preserves, and world famous beaches. Our access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean is an important recreational and economic asset but when hurricane season approaches, we are quickly reminded that natural disasters are possible.

June 1 marks the beginning of hurricane season and to help us get prepared, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recognizes May 22 through May 28 as National Hurricane Preparedness Week. According to NOAA, you should be able to answer these three simple questions before a hurricane threatens:
• What are the hurricane hazards

• What does it mean to you?

• What actions should you take to be prepared?

With 825 miles of sandy beaches and over 8400 miles of tidal coastline, Florida’s coastline is second only to Alaska and is an extremely large area to manage in the event of a storm. Since the entire state of Florida is considered the coastal zone and each Florida resident lives within 70 miles of the coast, it is important that you
• know your evacuation zone,

• develop a family plan for evacuation,

• create a disaster supply kit, and

• stay informed.
The 2011 NOAA hurricane outlook predicts 12 to 18 storms in the Atlantic with three to six becoming major hurricanes so it is important to understand the Saffir Simpson scale. The scale provides a measure of storm intensity and the chart below describes some possible impacts.

Category Wind Speed Possible Impacts
CategoryWind SpeedPossible Impacts
Category One 74-95 mphGenerally, no substantial damage to building structures; potential damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery and trees.
Category Two 96-110 mphPossible damage to roofs, doors and windows; expect considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes and piers; potential flooding in low-lying areas
Category Three 111-130 mphSome structural damage to small residences expected; destruction of mobile homes; coastal and inland flooding.
Category Four131-155 mphSome complete roof structure failure on small residences; beach erosion; major damage to lower floors in coastal homes.
Category Five Greater than 155 mphComplete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings; some complete building failures; major damage to coastal homes; possible mandatory evacuations issued.

With over 18 million residents in 67 coastal counties, Florida is no stranger to hurricanes. The annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference was held May 15 – 20 in Fort Lauderdale under the theme “25 years: Learning from the Past, Preparing for the Future”. Preparation, teamwork and communication are the keys to increasing Florida’s response effectiveness when disaster strikes.

Do your part by becoming hurricane aware – be prepared for the 2011 hurricane season!


National Hurricane Center

Florida Division of Emergency Management

Florida Coastal Management Program

Pinellas County Emergency Management

University of Florida/EDIS/Hurricanes

University of Florida/EDIS/Disasters

May 25, 2011

Do you want to be a Citizen Scientist?

Are you curious and persistent? Then you would make a great Citizen Scientist. Extension will provide training for you to become a Citizen Scientist on June 18 from 9 am to 12 pm at the Extension office in Largo (12520 Ulmerton Road). You can sign up online using the on-line registration feature at Extension. Any skill and age level can participate in a national program to monitor changes to the life cycles of plants and animals. Instructions are found at Nature’s Notebook. Work is done independently on any plant or animal species chosen – you can select your own site and what you want to observe.

Phenology is the study of recurring life-cycle events such as the flowering of plants and animal migration. Monitoring the changes to life cycle events is very important for addressing applied environmental issues. The data collected are a simple measure that anyone can do to add to the overall understanding of changes to life cycles of local plants and animals. A national network was set up in 2007 to make more data available for a larger variety of plants and animals to assist scientists. The USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) monitors the influence of climate on the phenology of plants, animals, and landscapes. They do this by encouraging people to observe phenological events like leaf out, flowering, migrations, and egg laying, and by providing a place for people to enter, store, and share their observations. Timing of life cycle events for plants and animals helps predict things like the timing of allergy season and other important processes that impact us.

Join us for this exciting new program in Pinellas County and be a part of a national effort to provide scientists with information.


May 20, 2011

Latest Research Shows 4-H Members Are Making Healthy Choices

Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Agent, Pinellas County Extension

You may have read before that studies show 4-H youth have higher educational achievement, are more likely to plan for college, volunteer, and make more contributions to their communities than other youth. It should be no surprise that the structured learning, the encouragement of the club setting, and the adult mentoring that is the core of the 4-H program plays such a vital role in helping 4-H members achieve success. Dr. Richard Lerner, a youth development scholar at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University and his team have been working for nearly ten years to conduct The 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development. The results are published periodically. This study has also shown that girls in 4-H were more apt to participate in science, computer technology, and engineering than their non-4-H peers.

May 17, 2011

Keeping Your Blood Pressure Down

Anna Minter, Bay Pines VA Healthcare System Dietetic Intern, Pinellas County Extension

Blood Pressure Cuff
If you go to your local pharmacy, chances are there is a large blood-pressure machine available for you to test your blood pressure while waiting for your prescriptions. One major reason for the popularity of these machines is the large number of Americans who suffer from hypertension, more commonly known as “high blood pressure.” May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. Even if you do not have high blood pressure, it is important to be aware of the facts. You might be able to pass along some good advice to a friend or loved one suffering from this condition.

May 11, 2011

Join Us in Welcoming Our New Florida Sea Grant Marine Agent!!!

For over 40 years, Earth Day has inspired and mobilized individuals and organizations worldwide to demonstrate their commitment to environmental protection and sustainability. As we approach this annual benchmark, I feel fortunate to have made a career of studying, interacting with, and teaching about Florida’s marine environment for the past 12 years. I am pleased to introduce myself –Libby Carnahan, the Pinellas County Sea Grant Extension agent housed at Weedon Island Preserve in north Saint Petersburg.

I began my career as a marine science educator, teaching school groups about coral reefs, mangrove ecology, and the nearshore sponge and seagrass habitats at Newfound Harbor Marine Institute (NHMI) in the Florida Keys. At NHMI, I gained experience as a science teacher, snorkel instructor, boat captain, and lifeguard and later transferred that knowledge to educate tourists about coral reef ecosystems aboard a glassbottom boat. As a graduate student, I analyzed the relationship between foraminiferal assemblages (microscopic shelled organisms) and heavy metal concentrations in Biscayne Bay, Florida.