June 28, 2012

150 Years of Solutions for Your Life

One hundred and fifty years ago, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Act, which created the land‐grant university system, made higher education more accessible to more people, and promoted agricultural science and the mechanical arts. The University of Florida is proud to be a land grant university which supports the local Extension offices in all 67 counties of Florida. Extension and the land grant universities support education, research, and outreach. Today, the land‐grant system includes 107 institutions in all 50 states and several U.S. territories.

Today’s land grant fact:

Tired of watering, fertilizing, and mowing your lawn?

Photo by Tyler Jones,
University of Florida, IFAS
In 2010, UF/IFAS formally announced the release of perennial peanut as an attractive groundcover.

Used also to feed livestock, its dense green foliage and small yellow-orange flowers are popular in neighborhoods.

After IFAS researchers collected wild specimens in South America in the 1950s, they created two types of the new perennial peanut and gave the plants away to ensure genetic diversity.

Full article at

June 21, 2012

Backyard Poultry in Pinellas County

Mary Campbell,
Extension Director and Urban Sustainability Agent

If you are considering keeping chickens in your backyard, there are specific requirements based on the community you live in. Please refer to the local ordinances for your municipality or unincorporated Pinellas County for more information. Homeowner Associations may also have specific requirements that override local ordinances.

Municipalities that Allow Chickens
City Chickens Other
Restrictions Limit Noise
Bellair Yes Yes May not be raised for commercial purposes. Coops must be kept clean. Permit required. 5 domes-
tic animals
Dunedin Yes Yes Fowl must be kept within an enclosure, apply to city codes and regulations, and not constitute a nuisance. Yes
Gulfport Yes No Chickens must be contained in the backyard and all coops must be kept clean.
No roosters.
10 hens
Largo Yes Yes Fowl must be securely fenced and coops and runways must be kept clean. Yes
St. Petersburg Yes Yes
Fowl must be securely fenced and coops and runways must be kept clean.
Not within 100 ft of neighbors without their approval.

Summary of Pinellas County Ordinance for Unincorporated Areas 

  1. Fowl may not be raised for commercial purposes; fowl may not be slaughtered. 
  2. Up to 4 hens may be kept; no roosters. 
  3. Must not create a nuisance of noise, odor, pests, or any other nuisance condition. 
  4. Fowl must be securely fenced and the coop must be covered and ventilated. The coop must be completely secured from predators. 
  5. Chickens must be kept in the backyard. 
  6. Coops and runways must be kept clean. 
  7. Chicken enclosure must be kept a minimum of 10 feet from neighbor’s property and not be taller than 6 feet. 
  8. The chicken enclosure must be screened from neighbor’s view, using an opaque fence and/or landscape screen 
  9. If coop exceeds 100 square feet in size, a building permit must be acquired. 
  10. A minimum of 3 square feet is required per hen. 
  11. All stored feed must be kept in a rodent and predator-proof container. 

Chicken FAQs 
Here are some common questions that Pinellas County Extension has received from citizens who are interested in keeping chickens.

  • What types of breeds are recommended for backyard poultry? Buff Orpington, Rhode Island Red, Ameraucana, White Leghorn, Australorp, and Barred Rock. 
  • How long do chickens live? Chickens live an average of 7 years although they can live 10 years or more. 
  • What temperature do chickens need to survive? Chickens thrive in ranges between 70-75 °F, and may die in temperatures exceeding 95 °F. Hens lay eggs the best in temperature ranges between 45-80 °F. 
  • How much space do chickens need? Chickens need about 2 square feet per hen for Bantam breeds, and 3 square feet for other birds. 
  • Should I use chicken wire to enclose the chickens? Chicken wire can be used to enclose a run, but the open weave allows predators to reach through the openings. Rigid hardware cloth is recommended for sleeping or resting areas. 
  • How much food and water do chickens need? Chickens drink about 1 to 2 cups of water each day. Layers drink twice as much as non-layers. Lightweight layers need about 4 to 4½ ounces of feed per hen per day, or about 4 pounds of feed for every dozen eggs laid. 

UF Basic Guide for the Backyard Chicken Flock: 
Backyard Chickens: 
Build A Chicken Coop Easy:
4 H Virtual Farm: Poultry : 
The City 
City Chicks (chicken source) 727-546-3478 located in Pinellas Park

June 18, 2012

Coyotes Are Here to Stay

Lara Miller, Natural Resource Agent
Michael Barr, Brooker Creek Preserve Intern

The coyote is a relative newcomer to Florida, increasing its numbers and range in the state over the past 30-40 years. This expansion can be attributed to the coyote’s opportunistic feeding habits, large litter sizes, and decreases in competing predators. As omnivores, they will eat whatever they can hunt or scavenge including small mammals, snakes, fruit, and plants. Regardless of how or when they got here, coyotes are now an established resident of Florida and can be found throughout the state.

Coyotes may actually be attracted to human expansion. Sightings of these dog-like species are becoming more and more of a common place even in areas as densely populated and highly urbanized as Pinellas County. This nearness to humans inevitably leads to interaction.

While coyotes are usually shy and afraid of humans, their highly adaptable nature has led to a loss of their instinctual fear in urban environments. It is important to point out that there have been no known coyote attacks in Pinellas County and only one documented fatality caused by a coyote in the United States. Feeding them as well as leaving unsecured garbage and pet food outside may result in coyotes losing their innate fear of humans and encourage them closer to human populations.

Coyote migration into Florida raises other concerns besides those directly related to people. Little is known about the effects (both positive and negative) the introduction of this new predator will have on Florida’s ecosystems. It is important to know as much as we can about them in order to make well-informed decisions regarding coyotes. What impact might they have on prey population, competing predators, and other native species? What effect will they have on the Florida Panther? Can this harm recovery efforts of this endangered species? Not enough research has been done yet to answer these questions, but one thing that is certain is coyotes are now a permanent fixture in the landscape of Pinellas County and all of Florida.

If you want to learn more about coyotes and other creatures that visit your yard at night, sign up for the “Creatures of the Night” program at Brooker Creek Preserve on July 7th from 10–11 a.m. Free registration is available at:

To keep up to date on natural resource issues around the state and right here in Pinellas County, follow your local Natural Resource Agent on Twitter at:!/Pinellas_Ext_NR


June 6, 2012

Summer Vegetable Gardening: Can you stand the heat?

Black-Eyed Peas
Theresa Barduek
Urban Horticulture Extension Agent

If you come to us from up north, this is the time of year you would normally enjoy vegetable gardening. That’s not usually the case here in Florida. Sure, there’s plenty of sunshine and usually lots of rain… but the heat, oh my, the heat. Most crops people really want to grow just won’t perform in our subtropical summer temps, and it can be downright brutal to weed your garden mid-July. But what if you are determined to garden in the summer anyway? Besides sunscreen and lots of water to hydrate yourself, what do you need to know?

Summer crops for Florida are limited. Things like watermelon, black-eyed peas, okra, and sweet potatoes are best this time of year. If you are more interested in getting ready for the more diverse fall vegetable gardening season, black-eyed peas are a great choice. They are legumes and the help fix nitrogen in their roots. If you grow these as a cover crop and turn the plants into the soil before they produce peas, you will help nourish your soil with more nitrogen for the fall. You can grow and harvest the peas if you like, but this will reduce the amount of nitrogen put back into the soil.

Okra Flower

Sweet potatoes are healthy (superfood anyone?) and they grow on rather beautiful vines. Growing this crop is a great way to keep down weeds in your garden while keeping it beautiful all summer long. I don’t have much to say about okra- can you tell I’m not a fan? But, if you like gumbo this is the crop for you! Finally, watermelon is a fun crop, and a summertime favorite that would be ready late August or early September if you got it planted right now. You’re going to need some space for this one, as watermelon vines can grow up to 12’-16’ long! Plan accordingly.

All of the usual tips and techniques apply when gardening in the summer as well. Things like mulching to keep down weeds and scouting for pests regularly to avoid infestation are always great advice. Keep an eye on plants to make sure they are getting enough water. We usually get plenty of water from rain in the summer, but not always. Be sure to avoid letting your garden wilt in the extreme summer heat. Plants grown in containers will need more frequent watering to avoid this. For this and much more about vegetable gardening- at any time of year- please visit This handy link will give you the tools to succeed in your Florida garden any time of year, including planting dates, best varieties for Florida, and times to harvest.

Or you could just hit the beach… it’s hot out there!