March 29, 2013

No Fooling! Free Energy Classes in April!

This PEEP is not a marshmallow bunny. 
It's the Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project!

This Monday, come see Greg Plantamura (Sustainability Educator from Pinellas County Extension) present a free one hour class on lowering your electric bill, at the monthly Seminole Discussion Group on Recycling and Sustainability. 
Click here to pre-register and receive a free energy-saving kit, including an insulated tote bag!

Also at the discussion Group, enjoy an informative presentation by Laney Poire of the Crowley Natural and Cultural History Center from Sarasota.

April 1 at 10 a.m
SPC Seminole Community Library Program Room 
9200 113th St. N
Seminole, Florida 33722

PEEP will also be coming to the following locations. Click the dates to register.

For more information call 727-582-2097.

Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age, disability, religion or national origin.

March 25, 2013

The Water-Energy Nexus: How water and energy are connected

Lara Miller, 
Natural Resources Agent

The Water-Energy who? Complicated relationships are often given complex names, much like the Water-Energy Nexus. Nexus is another way of saying, “a connection linking two or more things”, in this case, water and energy. We use water and energy every day, but how are the two connected?

It might surprise you to know approximately 40% of freshwater used in the United states is for electricity production (DOE, 2006) and about 13% of electricity in the U.S. is used for water supply like pumping, treating, and heating (River Network, 2009). Those statistics mean we use water to create electricity and we use electricity to generate water. Starting to see the connection?

In the Tampa Bay Area, our water is sourced from one of four places: groundwater (the aquifer), surface water (Hillsborough and Alafia Rivers), the desalination treatment plant, or the regional reservoir. At the present time, due to construction on the reservoir and dry conditions, we are currently sourcing our water solely from groundwater sources and the desalination plant. Water from these sources is obtained in different ways, each requiring different amounts of energy. Results from a Tampa Bay Water Case Study revealed energy needs are greatest for the desalination plant, followed by surface water and groundwater respectively.

One way to think about the water-energy nexus is when we flip the switch, we also turn on the tap and when we turn on the tap, we also flip the switch. If you’re like me and you pay a flat rate for your water regardless of how much you use, you might wonder why it matters if you leave the water running? Now you know, because it affects your energy bill.

Want to find out more? Join UF Professor from the Program for Resource Efficient Communities, Craig Miller, UF/IFAS Natural Resources Agent, Lara Miller and Extension Support Specialist, James Stevenson on Saturday, April 13th for a Water-Energy Nexus workshop called “Your Green Home – It is Easier Than You Think!”. Free registration is available at:


Additional Resources:
Water Conservation -
Energy Conservation -
Natural Resources - Follow your local Natural Resources Agent on Facebook or Twitter

March 22, 2013

Pinellas County 2014 Budget Community Forum comes to St. Petersburg College Seminole

As county officials begin preparing next year’s budget, Pinellas County is getting the public involved by bringing the 2014 Budget Community Forum out to the community on Wednesday, April 10, in partnership with St. Petersburg College Seminole.

An open house will be set up in the SPC Digitorium common area from 5:30 to 7 p.m. There, visitors can browse information booths set up by the various Pinellas County departments.

Residents can meet with county officials and their county commissioners, ask questions, provide feedback and learn more about county services.

From 7 to 8 p.m., an eTownHall will take place inside the Digitorium in front of a live audience. County commissioners and the county administrator will respond to comments and questions from the community as they discuss the budget, strategies for the future and the vision of the community as a whole.

This year’s event will be moderated by Bay News 9 senior anchor Al Ruechel.

The eTownHall can be viewed live in the Digitorium, online through the Pinellas County website or over PCC-TV on Bright House Channel 622, Knology Channel 18 or Verizon Channel 44. Large screen viewing areas will be set up at other SPC campuses as well.

Questions to the panel can be submitted via the online blog, Twitter, by calling (888) 409-5380 or via written submissions from the audience.

The eTownHall blog will open 9 a.m. on Monday, April 8, for those who want to submit their questions and comments in advance.

For more information, to view the program or submit a question to the blog, go to

The St. Petersburg College Seminole campus is located at 9200 113th St. N. in Seminole.

For more information on Pinellas County services and programs, visit, now with LiveChat, or create a shortcut to on any smartphone. Pinellas County government is on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Pinellas County complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

March 20, 2013

Organic Vegetable Gardening Toolbox

Theresa Badurek
Urban Horticulture Extension Agent 
and Master Gardener Coordinator

Growing a spring vegetable garden? Let’s take a look at the tools we have to help maintain a successful organic garden. The intention here is not to achieve organic certification, but to grow healthy food for our families and use healthy practices for our planet. If you are starting a new garden or going organic for the first time, you should understand that it may take time to build a healthy garden. The soil structure must be built and you must hone your practices to watch for pests and diseases.

Soil Preparation

Organic matter and any organic fertilizers should be worked into your soil at least three weeks ahead of planting. If you are using compost and mulches be sure that there are no large clumps of unrotted organic material. These can harbor disease problems as well as hinder seedlings or their growth. When your conditions are right, these organic materials will be processed by microorganisms like fungi, algae, bacteria, molds, and earthworms. As they do this they make important nutrients available to your plants. This is one reason why it is important to NOT use pesticides in your garden. Pesticides destroy these critical organisms that work so hard for your garden. For detailed information on the various soil amendments, please refer to the publication link at the end of this article.

Seeds and Transplants

While it may seem obvious to buy organic seeds and starts, or transplants, there is much more to your plant material than that if you want a successful organic garden. The most important thing you can do is select the right crops and varieties for our area and plant them at the right time. We are often tempted to plant crops or varieties that we know and love from some other geographic location, but these are often not suited to our unique subtropical climate. How do you know what and when to plant? Utilize the following publication, “Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide”. Use this to plan your garden layout and bring it with you when shopping for seeds and plants. Pay special attention to Table 4, “Suggested Varieties for Florida Gardens” and Table 3 “Planting Guide for Florida Vegetables”.


A good organic soil will be full of organic materials that help the soil retain water, as will good garden mulch. There is more you can do to use water wisely in an organic garden, though. To begin, a good soaking once a week throughout the root zone will be necessary unless there is sufficient rainfall. Drip or trickle irrigation will help you conserve water while avoiding wetting the leaves. Wet leaves can encourage disease, and disease prevention is an important tool in the organic gardener’s toolbox. If you use overhead irrigation, be sure to water in the early morning hours, not in the evening. Always follow local watering restrictions.

Pests and Diseases

So, how do you keep uninvited guests from eating all of your hard work in the garden? Well, you must have a regular scouting routine for pests. At every step of your gardening adventure you should be looking for signs of pests. Hopefully you selected resistant varieties from the “Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide” publication (see link above) and inspected your plants for pests and diseases before purchase and planting. Learn to recognize the beneficial insects that help control the “bad guys” that cause damage. Not using pesticides will help preserve the “army” of beneficial insects in your garden. A great guide to start learning about beneficial insects is “Natural Enemies and Biological Control”.

There are more things you can do to help prevent and control pests and diseases, though. Here is a sampling from the “Organic Vegetable Gardening” publication whose link you will find at the end of this article:
  • Use a mulch; vegetables touching the soil may rot. 
  • Good garden mulch tends to reduce damage caused by nematodes. 
  • Keep out weeds which harbor insects and diseases.
  • Water in morning so plants are not wet at night. 
  • Dispose of severely diseased plants before they contaminate others. 
  • Hand-pick insects. 
  • For cutworms, place a cardboard or tinfoil collar around plant stems at ground level. 
  • Clean up crop refuse early. 
  • Rotate garden areas; don’t grow plants from the same family in the same location season after season.

There is so much to be gained from a beautiful organic garden- fresh healthy produce, a safe environment for the gardener, and a balanced ecosystem that allows nature to do some of the work for you. For more information and tools for your organic garden, please see the “Organic Vegetable Gardening” publication.

To stay in touch with gardening issues in Pinellas County please visit and “like” us on Facebook at

March 12, 2013

Avoid having the most expensive lawn in the neighborhood

Following water restrictions saves big dollars 

The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Government Board has unanimously voted to implement a Modified Phase III Extreme Water Shortage in the Tampa Bay area, effective March 13, 2013. Watering at restricted times in Pinellas County will result in a fine of $193.00.

Customers can avoid fines by familiarizing themselves with the new rules. If you choose to use a sprinkler timer, check to make sure it is operating correctly and has the appropriate times. One fine can quickly make your lawn maintenance the most expensive in the neighborhood.

Some of the features of the new restrictions include:
  • Watering 1 day per week (Monday to Friday) 
  • Reduced hours before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. 
  • Car washing one day per week on your regular watering day 
  • Fountains can operate 4 hours per day 
  • Low volume irrigation during authorized hours only 

Addresses with
“house numbers”
May only
irrigate on …
Ending in 0 or 1Monday
Ending in 2 or 3 Tuesday
Ending in 4 or 5Wednesday
Ending in 6 or 7Thursday
Ending in 8 or 9Friday
Rights-of-way, common
areas and other
“no address” locations) 

The watering restrictions for St. Petersburg water customers located within City limits is as follows:

● Even numbered property addresses should irrigate on Saturday ONLY
● Odd numbered property addresses, or locations with no address, should irrigate on Sunday ONLY
● Irrigation is allowed between 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. or 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on the assigned day

These mandatory restrictions apply to properties using potable (city) water, private well water, and private connections to surface water sources (lakes, ponds, etc.) for watering. These restrictions do not apply to irrigation with reclaimed water.

More information can be found online at or by calling 892-5300.

For more information about the Modified Phase III Extreme Water Shortage restrictions, please visit and click “Watering Schedule” on the menu.

To receive important notifications by email, customers are encouraged to go to Utilities My eAccount and add or update their email address. To access your account, visit and click on the Utilities My eAccount button. For more information, contact Customer Service at (727) 464-4000.

For more information on Pinellas County services and programs, visit or create a shortcut to on any smartphone. Pinellas County government is on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Pinellas County complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

March 11, 2013

Break the Fast–A Look at the Benefits of Breakfast

Nan Jensen,
Extension Agent Family and Consumer Sciences

Mornings are often a rush and many people bypass breakfast to save time. But running on empty can leave you feeling tired and fatigued. By recharging the brain and body, you'll be more efficient in just about everything you do. There are many reasons why you need to break for breakfast.

Kids Need That Morning Meal
Research shows that children learn better after a healthy breakfast. Eating breakfast may help children do better in school by improving memory, alertness, concentration, problem-solving ability, test scores, school attendance, and mood. Adults may get a brain boost as well. If you and your kids seem unable to make time for breakfast, consider enrolling your children in a school breakfast program.

A Good Investment in Your Day
Kids and adults who eat breakfast get more fiber, calcium, vitamins A and C, riboflavin, zinc, and iron in their diets compared to breakfast-skippers. Foods like whole-grain hot and ready-to eat cereals, fruit and fruit juice are popular breakfast picks that provide those valuable nutrients.

Break the Fast to Manage Your Weight
Often people skip breakfast in an effort to lose weight. Research suggests that adult breakfast skippers are at greater risk for obesity and weight gain, while breakfast eaters tend to have healthier weights. Breakfast skippers tend to make up for it and eat more than usual at the next meal or munch on high-calorie snacks to stave off hunger. High fiber foods like oatmeal and protein packed foods like milk, yogurt and eggs also may help you feel full so you can avoid “the binges”.

Breakfast Revs Up Your “Engine”
Eating a nutritious breakfast may help the body better regulate insulin levels. According to the research popular breakfast foods such as whole-grain cereals and breads, dairy products, and fruit may help reduce risk for metabolic syndrome. This condition is linked to being overweight and increases the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Good for the Gut
Both the insoluble fiber in whole grain breakfast cereals and breads as well as the “good” bacteria in yogurt products and some cereals help promote good digestive health. The fiber keeps you regular and the friendly bacteria in fermented products helps keep the gut healthy by crowding out harmful bacteria that can cause diarrhea, gas, constipation or bloating. They may also inactivate potentially harmful substances with cancer-causing potential such as nitrites. Buy only yogurts that contain probiotics or those that say "live and active cultures" on the label.

Quick Breakfast Ideas
  • Try oatmeal and toss in raisins or dried cranberries, apples and chopped walnuts.
  • Layer low-fat plain Greek yogurt with fruit and low sugar cereal.
  • Blend up a breakfast smoothie with low-fat milk, yogurt, frozen berries and a banana.
  • Top a whole grain toaster waffle with low-fat yogurt and slices of fresh fruit.
  • Stuff a whole-wheat pita with a sliced, hard-cooked egg and shredded cheese.
  • Spread a tortilla with peanut butter, add a whole banana and roll it up.
  • Top a toasted whole-grain English muffin with lean ham and Swiss cheese.

March 5, 2013

What is the Future for Transportation in Pinellas County?

Mary Campbell,
Extension Director

One of the top issues for residents in Pinellas County is traffic. It clogs our roadways and we have an endless amount of road construction and delays. On February 26, 2013 Pinellas County Commissioners approved putting a question on the Nov. 4, 2014, ballot that will ask residents whether they will pay a higher sales tax to support a major overhaul of the transportation system.

In many large, urban communities, mass transportation options are an important component for the quality of life in that community. Development in Florida favored automobiles and only in the past few decades has it become increasingly apparent that new options will need to be part of future planning in our communities. As the population in Florida continues to grow, providing easier, faster and more economical ways to travel not only supports a thriving community but reduces the impacts on the environment. Exhaust emissions from vehicles is a major contributor to poor air quality. Fossil fuel combustion in motor vehicles has been identified as the largest contributor to air pollution in the world.

Mass transit refers to municipal or regional public shared transportation, such as buses, streetcars, and ferries, open to everyone and it does not require reservations. Mass transit can be divided into fixed route systems (often involving rails), such as streetcars and subway trains, and non-fixed route transit (along streets or water), such as buses and ferries.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) has become a popular method of mass transit. It is a flexible, high performance transit system that combines speed, reliability and amenities of rail-based rapid transit systems with the flexibility of buses. An increasing number of BRT systems are being implemented across the U.S. and the world. Many communities utilize a combination of BRT and light rail transit (LRT). Light rail transit (LRT) is an electric rail-borne form of transport which can be developed in stages from a tramway to a rapid transit system operated partially on its own right-of-way.

The Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA ) developed a Regional Transportation Master Plan for Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sarasota Counties. The plan outlines a long-term vision for the region and was created in cooperation with the Florida Department of Transportation, the region's Metropolitan Planning Organizations, transit agencies and the public.

On the TBARTA website you can view specific routes and the plan proposed. TBARTA provides some interesting data such as: In a breakdown of all household expenditures for the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, it was shown that more money is spent on transportation than any other category including shelter, food or health care. Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, 2007.

Public transportation use saves 1.4 billion gallons of gasoline every year, and can reduce household expenses by $6,200 - more than the average household pays for food in a year.
American Public Transit Association, January 2007


Pinellas Transportation Plan

Pinellas County Alternatives Analysis

Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)

Bus Rapid Transit

Light Rail

City of Vancouver, Canada

Transit Oriented Development

American Planning Association and Transit Oriented Development