2016 News

An Introduction…

December 2016

By Glen Bupp, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Commercial Horticulture Agent

Glen Bupp

My career in growing plants started out at a young age at around 8 years old, with utter failure. I bought a bromeliad and dutifully put water in the center cup of that plant twice a day until it promptly rotted. I was disappointed, but it sparked my curiosity in how to grow plants well.

Years later, I went on to receive my B.S. and M.S. in Ecology from the Florida Institute of Technology. My master’s focused on determining the genetic variability within and between populations of one of Florida’s rarest plants, the scrub lupine. That graduate work led me to become the Rare Plant Curator at Bok Tower Gardens overseeing one of the largest collections of seeds and living material from endangered plant species from Florida. I was very excited to be involved in researching, propagating, and growing some of the most underrepresented and beautiful plants in Florida; but, I also missed Brevard County.

When I moved back to Brevard I took a position with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as an Environmental Specialist I. This position provided me with an opportunity to become familiar with the regulatory aspect of commercial horticulture, and furthermore to witness firsthand the pests, diseases, and unique growing conditions found in this county.

As the new commercial horticulture extension agent in Brevard County I look forward to sharing UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County resources, and to helping the variety of plant-based businesses here thrive. My goal is also to help protect the water quality of Brevard County through teaching Florida-Friendly™ Best Management Practices. So, if you’ve got black spots on your mangos; brown areas of turf; or need a pesticide license, please do not hesitate to contact me. I want your plants to grow well!

Holiday Safety

December 2016

Holiday Safety

By Gayle Whitworth, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

Holidays are an exciting time of year, but they can also be a time of increased injury. During the hustle and bustle of the season, safety issues may be overlooked. This holiday season, take the time to put safety on the top of your list. Whether traveling or staying at home, there are steps you can take to keep children and family members safe this holiday season.

Travel Safety

In the Car

  • Ensure everyone in your vehicle is restrained. In a crash, an unrestrained passenger could be seriously injured, killed, or could cause injury to other occupants.
  • Properly restrain children under the age of 13 in the back seat. Riding in the back seat rather than the front reduces the risk of injury by 40%, and it is the safest place for children to ride.
  • All passengers in seat belts, including those in booster seats using seat belts, should ride upright with the lap belt on the hips, and with the shoulder belt falling across the collarbone. Passengers should avoid lying against doors and windows, and should keep all seats in the upright (not reclined) position.
  • Be sure you are using the correct child safety seat for your child’s height, weight, and development. Make sure your child’s seat is properly installed, and that you are using it correctly. Consider scheduling an appointment to have your child’s safety seat inspected. The University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Brevard County office has a certified child passenger safety instructor who can check your seat for you.

In the Air

  • Although not required on U.S. aircraft, children under 40 pounds are safest when secured in child safety seats. If using a child safety seat, make sure it is certified for aircraft travel (the label must clearly state it meets Federal Aviation Administration requirements), and that its width does not exceed 16 inches. Booster seats are NOT approved for travel on airplanes, as they require both a lap and shoulder belt.
  • Children 40 pounds and over should remain restrained by aircraft lap belts throughout the flight.
  • Plan activities for the flight in 10-minute segments, the approximate length of the average child’s attention span. Plan extra activities to cover any delays and time spent in airports between flights.

Home Safety


  • If purchasing or using an artificial tree, make sure it has a "Fire Resistant" label on it.
  • Check live trees for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between fingers, they do not break. The butt end of a fresh tree trunk is sticky with resin. When tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  • Place trees away from sources of heat, such as fireplaces, candles, radiators, portable heaters, lights, and the like. Keep them out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
  • To keep your tree fresh, and to help keep it from drying out and becoming a fire hazard, cut approximately 2 inches off the trunk of the tree to expose the fresh wood before placing it in a stand.
  • Keep the live tree stand filled with water daily to keep tree from drying out. Be aware that heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly.

Lighting and Decorations

  • Use holiday decorations carefully, and choose those made with flame-resistant, flame-retardant, or non-combustible materials.
  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
  • Choose lights and electrical decorations labeled with the name of a qualified, independent testing lab, and follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation and maintenance.
  • Carefully inspect new and previously used light strings, and replace damaged items before plugging lights in. Do not overload extension cords.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions regarding the number of lights strands to connect.
  • Always unplug lights before replacing light bulbs or fuses.
  • Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use. To hold lights in place, string them through clips or hooks. Do not use staples, nails, or tacks. Never pull or tug lights to remove them.
  • Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.
  • If you have small children in the home, avoid the use of decorations that are sharp or breakable, or those with small removable parts that children may accidentally swallow. Avoid using trimmings that resemble candy or food, as these may tempt a young child to eat them.
  • Never leave home or go to bed without turn off all light strings and decorations.

Holiday Entertaining

  • Place candles in areas away from pets and children.
  • Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on the range.
  • Provide plenty of large, deep, sturdy ashtrays for those who smoke and check them frequently. Keep all smoking to outdoor areas. Make sure cigarette butts are completely out before discarding.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high, out of sight and reach of children (preferably in a locked cabinet). When smokers visit your home, ask them to keep their smoking materials with them so young children do not touch them.
  • Test your smoke alarms, and let guests know what your fire escape plan is.
  • Clean up immediately after a holiday party, and put away all alcohol or tobacco.
  • When visiting others’ homes, keep an eye out for danger spots, as they may not be child-proofed.


  • Never light a fire until all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorations are removed from the fireplace area. Check to make sure the flue is open before lighting fire.
  • Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace, as this may result in a flash fire.
  • Use screens or gates to keep young children away from fireplaces that have glass fronts, as the doors can become extremely hot and remain hot long after the fire is extinguished.


Dine in Day – December 3rd Take the challenge

December 2016

Dine In

Submitted by Beth Shephard UF/IFAS Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

Between work, school and afterschool activities, finding time for a homemade meal can be a challenge for many families. But mealtime is more than just a chance to hear about one another’s day. According to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences experts, sharing food around the dinner table also helps us feel more connected, make healthier choices and save money along the way.

UF/IFAS Extension is encouraging families, friends and coworkers to experience the benefits of “dining in” by share a meal together on December 3 for National Dine In Day, an initiative started three years ago by the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS).

“Family and consumer sciences is all about helping people live more healthful lives through the relationships we nurture, the food we eat, and the money we spend and save,” said Michael Gutter, associate dean for UF/IFAS Extension and 4-H youth development, families and communities program leader. “The family meal is at the center of all of these choices.”

Since Dine in Day is about both eating together and eating healthy foods, parents of picky eaters may be wondering how their family can participate without causing a dinner table revolt.

Simply telling kids to eat their vegetables won’t do the trick, said Terry DelValle, horticulture agent with UF/IFAS Extension Duval County, who oversees several school garden programs in the Jacksonville area.

“One of the reasons why we began school gardens here is because we have an urban population with kids who may not know that a carrot or a potato grows underground. Seeing that whole process of growing and harvesting the food helps them appreciate the taste of fresh vegetables,” DelValle said.

While gardening with your kids is a great way to get them interested in eating fruits and vegetables, just taking kids to the grocery store and letting them help pick out what the family is going to eat can make them more open to trying new things, DelValle added.

Families and individuals can also participate online by pledging to dine in on December 3 at http://www.aafcs.org/FCSday/commitment.html or sharing their experiences on social media using the hashtag #FCSdayFL.

Surviving Holiday Cooking Disasters

December 2016

Surviving Holiday Cooking Disasters

By Melinda Morgan-Stowell, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Community Development Agent

Thanksgiving is over, but just when you thought it was safe to go back into the kitchen...cue up a foreboding bumpbumpbuum here...Christmas dinner, a meal fraught with possibilities for culinary missteps, is just around the corner.

All right, please refrain from hiding in the pantry, or under the kitchen table. I really didn’t mean to frighten any of our timid cooks out there. I come with good tidings this month, and some great advice on how to fix the worst cooking disasters from cooks who have been there, and have done (gasp) that.

Let’s start with the thermo-nuclear meltdown of any holiday meal, an overdone turkey, ham, beef joint, etc. which results in a stringy main course. What can the home chef do…other than hitting the cooking sherry a little harder than usual? The answer is simply sauce. Rather than serving a bird or piece of meat that looks as if it has spent some quality time in the Gobi desert, slice the meat as attractively as possible. Refrain from channeling your inner-psycho and hacking at the poor thing…it’s suffered enough. Layer slices on a serving platter. Now combine equal amounts of butter and cooking stock (or whatever juices may still reside in the roasting pan) and whisk over low heat. When the ingredients are warm and have combined, drizzle the mixture over the slices on the platter and place it in an oven on low heat until the juices soak in. Dress the platter with roasted vegetables or fresh herbs for a face-saving presentation.

Speaking of sauces, perhaps you’ve stepped away to see to one of the hundreds of details for a holiday meal and have scorched a sauce. Here’s a possible way to save it! First, immediately remove the pan from the heat. It’s tempting, but DO NOT stir it. Fill the sink with enough cold water to cover the bottom of the pan. Place the pan in the sink in order to stop the cooking process. Again, DO NOT stir the sauce. Now, pour the top 3/4 of the sauce into a new pan, leaving the charred bits behind. Be sure to taste the sauce to make sure it has been salvaged. If not, take a breath, step back for a few moments and re-group. It’s simply a sauce folks, not the cure for some dread disease. It can be re-made if necessary.

How many of you out there have also left the veggies on a bit too long, and have created a watery mass worthy of an old-school cafeteria? Here’s where creativity comes in…well that and your new mantra, “I meant to do this all along.” Come on, say it with me, and then choose one of two options. The first is to place the remains of the vegetables into a blender or food processor with some butter and a dash of cream for an easy puree of carrot, asparagus, or whatever. If you are controlling the plating, use the puree as a decorative element on the plate, anchoring slices of the main course on a swirl or small pool of the puree. Hey, if it’s pretty, it simply had to be planned, right? If not, relax, place the puree in a pretty bowl, and let your guests decorate their plates however they like. The next option is a wonderful soup comprised of the soggy veggies and chicken stock. Again, throw the lot into a blender or food processor and reduce to the desired consistency, while slowly adding the heated stock. Strain the liquid through a sieve if you can’t manage to get the lumps out and add a little cream, and perhaps some sherry…the good stuff mind you…if you won’t drink it, for heaven’s sake don’t cook with it.

Now, here’s the best tip of all. I honestly can’t remember where I either heard or read this one. When these disasters happen, just remember back over all of the holiday meals you’ve had. Do the “perfect” ones stand out? Nope, the meals that stand out are likely those where a new cook left the giblets inside of the turkey and cooked them…where the dog decided that ham in the middle of the dining table was a lovely present meant just for him, and dragged it outside to enjoy your largesse…when the fire department had the opportunity to enjoy your homemade eggnog as they extinguished the flaming turkey-of-death that was expelled like a mortar round from your home fryer. Face it folks, perfection can be quite boring, so relax, be safe, enjoy your families, and laugh at your mistakes!

Welcome to UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County!

November 2016


We are delighted to once again welcome Gus Koerner to UF/IFAS Brevard County Extension as one of our new 4-H Program Assistants!

Raised in Texas, Gus graduated in Agricultural Education from Utah State University, where he also served as the Principal Research Technician for the Crop Physiology Lab growing crops for food in space. That experience brought him to Florida to work at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Space Biology Research and Education.

As a Project and Program Manager at KSC he was able to facilitate joint research and education programs between NASA, USDA, and several universities. His team produced programs such as Space Ag in The Classroom for middle school and The Spaceflight and Life Science Training Program for undergraduate students. He also collaborated on programs such as Tomatoes In Space and The Land display at Disney’s Epcot Center.

The proud father of six children and eight grandchildren in a blended family, Gus served as one of our 4-H Agents from 2005-2012, and is once again bringing his passion for youth engagement and education to Extension!

Celebrate National STEM Day with 4-H!

November 2016


Andrea Lazzari, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard 4-H Agent

How are you planning on celebrating National Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics (STEM) Day on November 8th? This day is meant to inspire youth to explore and pursue their scientific interests. Getting youth excited about STEM is imperative in today’s world. The United States has fallen behind many other nations in science and math education. However, many of today’s fastest growing careers are in the STEM fields. Further, women are typically underrepresented in these fields, and building interest in STEM is critical to their future potential.

To get youth excited about STEM, we need to provide fun, engaging, and educational STEM programming both in and out of schools. One way to do this, and to celebrate National STEM Day at the same time, is to participate in 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD). This National Science Challenge is the world’s largest youth-led science experiment, which focuses on important STEM topics. Each year, thousands of youth take part. This year’s challenge is Drone Discovery, a hands-on engineering design challenge that explores the science behind drones, and how they are being used to solve real world problems. Youth learn about everything from flight dynamics and aircraft types; to safety and regulations; to remote sensing and flight control. This curriculum can be completed both in or out of school, and can be adapted for many age groups and time frames.

For more information on celebrating National STEM Day, and getting involved in 4-H National Youth Science Day, contact Andrea Lazzari at a.lazzari11@ufl.edu.

Handling Food Waste During the Holidays

November 2016


Submitted by Beth Shephard, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

When it comes to food waste, are you part of the problem? According to the Wall Street Journal, the average American family of four wastes anywhere from $500 to $2000 a year on food. This discarded food wastes precious resources such as water, land, and oil. It is also a factor in methane emissions in the form of greenhouse gas in landfills. In fact, according to the New York Times, globally these greenhouse gasses weigh 2.2 billion metric tons a year. There are lots of components to food waste, particularly in the next few months as we gather for the holidays and create additional food waste! What’s to be done? Follow these tips from the EPA on food waste prevention to begin doing your part for both the environment and your finances!

Tips from the Environmental Protection Agency

Planning Tips

By simply making a list with weekly meals in mind, you can save money and time, and eat healthier food. If you buy no more than what you expect to use, you will be more likely to keep it fresh and to use it all.

  • Keep a running list of meals and their ingredients your family already enjoys. That way, you can easily choose, shop for, and prepare meals.
  • Make your shopping list based on how many meals you’ll eat at home. Will you eat out this week? How often?
  • Plan your meals for the week before you go shopping and buy only the things needed for those meals. Include quantities on your shopping list noting how many meals you’ll make with each item to avoid overbuying. For example, “salad greens - enough for two lunches.”
  • Look in your refrigerator and cupboards first to avoid buying food you already have; make a list each week of what needs to be used up; and plan upcoming meals around the list.
  • Buy only what you need and will use. Buying in bulk only saves money if you are able to use food before it spoils.

Storage Tips

It is easy to overbuy, or to forget about fresh fruits and vegetables. Store fruits and vegetables for maximum freshness; they’ll taste better and last longer, helping you to eat more of them. In addition:

  • Find out how to store fruits and vegetables so they stay fresh longer inside or outside your refrigerator.
  • Freeze, preserve, or can surplus fruits and vegetables - especially abundant seasonal produce.
  • Many fruits give off natural gases as they ripen, causing other nearby produce to spoil faster. Store bananas, apples, and tomatoes by themselves, and store fruits and vegetables in different bins.
  • Wait to wash berries until you want to eat them to prevent mold.
  • If you like to eat fruit at room temperature, but it should be stored in the refrigerator for maximum freshness, take what you’ll eat for the day out of the refrigerator in the morning.

Prep Tips

Prepare perishable foods soon after shopping. It will be easier to whip up meals or snacks later in the week, saving time, effort, and money.

  • When you get home from the store, take the time to wash, dry, chop, dice, slice, and place your fresh food items in clear storage containers for snacks and easy cooking.
  • Befriend your freezer and visit it often. For example:
    • Freeze food such as bread, sliced fruit, or meat that you know you won’t be able to eat in time.
    • Cut your time in the kitchen by preparing and freezing meals ahead of time.
    • Prepare and cook perishable items, then freeze them for use throughout the month.
    • For example, bake and freeze chicken breasts, or fry and freeze taco meat.

Thriftiness Tips

Be mindful of old ingredients and leftovers you need to use up. You’ll waste less and may even find a new favorite dish.

  • Shop in your refrigerator first! Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more.
  • Have produce that’s past its prime? It may still be fine for cooking. Think soups, casseroles, stir fries, sauces, baked goods, pancakes or smoothies.
  • If safe and healthy, use the edible parts of food that you normally do not eat. For example, stale bread can be used to make croutons, beet tops can be sautèed for a delicious side dish, and vegetable scraps can be made into stock.
  • Learn the difference between sell-by, use-by, best-by, and expiration dates.
  • Are you likely to have leftovers from any of your meals? Plan an eat the leftovers night each week.
  • Casseroles, stir-fries, frittatas, soups, and smoothies are great ways to use leftovers too. Search for websites that provide suggestions for using leftover ingredients.
  • At restaurants, order only what you can finish by asking about portion sizes, and be aware of side dishes included with entrees. Take home the leftovers and keep them for or to make your next meal.
  • At all-you-can-eat buffets, take only what you can eat.

Landscape Recycling

November 2016


Sally Scalera, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Urban Horticulture Agent

Hurricane Matthew blew through the county and created a large amount of yard debris. If there wasn’t so much at once…much of it consisting of large diameter limbs and tree trunks… it would be great organic matter to recycle! So, instead of taking all of your typical landscape debris out to the curb to be picked up and hauled off to the landfill, why not use it in your own yard? All yard debris is valuable organic matter that our sandy soils desperately need. Check out the following suggestions to see if there is anything new that you can do to keep your organic matter on your property!

Allowing the grass clipping to fall back on the lawn is one of the easiest ways to recycle. Most mowers have mulching blades which chop the grass blades into small pieces so they make their way down to the soil. Not only do the grass blades add organic matter, they also return their nutrients.

Another easy practice to adopt, for all insect and disease-free plants, would be the chop and drop method. It is as simple as the name implies. After you have trimmed or removed a plant, just cut the debris up into smaller pieces and leave it in place. For annuals and vegetable plants that reach the end of their lifecycle, just cut them off at the soil line. This will leave the root system in the ground for the soil microbes can feed on it. Another benefit is that the soil won’t be disturbed so, weed seeds won’t be brought up to the surface where they can germinate and grow! If the annual or vegetable is not sturdy, just lay them on the mulch or ground to dry up and decay. If the plant is large and sturdy (i.e. broccoli) cut it into smaller pieces before scattering. Woody branches should be cut up into smaller pieces, with the smaller pieces breaking down the quickest. To simplify this step, a chipper/shredder would come in handy. If your yard contains a number of trees, this could be a very beneficial gardening tool for you. Chipping up the branches creates instant mulch that is wonderful for the soil.

The simple application of leaves, grass clippings, or wood chips as mulch is considered cold composting. This process is much slower and takes more time for the organic matter to break down but it still works well. The up-side is that is doesn’t take any extra effort so, if you are into low-impact gardening, this may be the practice for you!

If you are interested in truly composting, you will need to create a compost pile or bin. A compost pile is created by alternating layers of green and brown materials, watering it, and then allowing it to heat up. After it reaches approximately 140°F, mix up the pile, water it, and allow it to heat up again. You can repeat those steps as often as needed until the pile has completed its process and has produced humus. When done, the pile will no longer heat up and the humus will have an earthy smell. Humus is a fantastic soil amendment that increases both the water and nutrient holding capacity of the soil. If you are interested in composting, check out our bulletin, Compost Tips for the Home Gardener at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP32300.pdf

There are a number of ways that you can recycle your yard “trash” to keep the organic matter where it belongs, in your yard. Even adopting a couple of these ideas can reap benefits without causing any extra effort. After all, it takes effort to collect all the yard debris, place it in the recycle bin, and cart it out to the curb. Take the easy way out and just leave it in the landscape to benefit both the soil and plants!

Fall and Fish…October is National Seafood Month!

October 2016

Fall and Fish…October is National Seafood Month!

By Holly Abeels, Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent

Have you had your 8 ounces of Seafood today? Seafood (which includes fish and shellfish) is good for you, and it’s recommended that we should eat about 8 ounces of a variety of seafood per week ("2010 Dietary Guidelines." health.gov. January 31, 2011. Web. 29 September, 2015). Here in Florida, we certainly don’t lack a variety of choices. Florida ranks among the top 12 states for fresh seafood production with over 80 varieties of both wild-caught and farm-raised seafood products. So celebrate National Seafood Month by purchasing and consuming Florida seafood!

There are many reasons to purchase Florida seafood.

  • First, it stimulates the local economy. Florida’s seafood industry has an economic impact of nearly $16.5 billion annually and employs approximately 82,000 people throughout the state ("NOAA Reports Show Strong Economic Gains from Fishing, Continued Improvement in Fish Stocks." noaa.gov. April 29, 2014. Web. 28 September, 2015). Buying local helps local jobs and also ensures that the ecological footprint, from catch to plate, is minimized.
  • Second, in many cases, local seafood will get to the consumer faster than imported seafood that needs to be transported by ship, plane, or rail.
  • Third, Florida fisheries are considered sustainable because of effective state and federal management. Florida fishermen have to follow local, state, and federal regulations to ensure its fisheries are and remain sustainable for future generations. Consumers should feel confident when purchasing Florida seafood because it is managed responsibly.

Here are some tips for buying Florida seafood in your area:

  • Make sure you buy from reputable dealers and talk to your retailer about where the seafood they have showcased comes from. All seafood is required by law to be labeled with country of origin, but you can ask specific questions as to whether the seafood was harvested in Florida.
  • Look for the “Fresh from Florida” logo, which by law requires the product be harvested or raised in Florida. It’s important to realize that it might not always be possible to buy local seafood. The product might be out of season, may be too expensive, or may be a type of seafood Florida doesn’t harvest.
  • If there is something you want that is not available, ask the retailer what local products are available that would be comparable to what you are looking for.

Look at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website for information on Florida seafood recipes and the peak months of Florida seafood availability.

Also, check out the FREE Florida Seafood at Your Fingertips mobile app available for download at www.flseagrant.org/seafood. The mobile app provides a listing of popular Florida seafood species, recipes on how to cook them, where to find Florida seafood in your area, and Florida seafood events across the state.

Savoring Seafood as Part of the New Harvest Season

October 2016

Savoring Seafood as Part of the New Harvest Season

Mel Morgan-Stowell, UF/IFAS Brevard County Community Development Agent

The Brevard County Farmers’ Market is gearing up for another year of the best fresh, local produce our county has to offer, but while we’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of produce from mid-late October, keep in mind our county also offers a variety of local seafood to please nearly every palate; including some wonderful swordfish (currently in season) that has even made a fan of my husband. I bring this up because he is a self-proclaimed “non-picky” eater who will not touch nearly 80 percent of foodstuffs…including most green vegetables, and any produce he deems “unfinished looking.” Suffice it to say the interior of tomatoes renders them unfit for the menu…and the puree button on my Cuisinart sees a lot of action, but I digress…

Considering the fact that the quality of our fish has won over my much-loved food critic, I thought I might appeal to others by canvassing the health benefits of local seafood.

As a nation, we experience a high level of heart disease. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 34 percent of adults in the United States have hypertension, or high blood pressure; the main component of heart disease, which is our leading cause of death.

So, how does tuna, Spanish mackerel, and other seafood high in omega-3 fatty acid enter into the discussion? Eating fresh seafood regularly has numerous benefits, including improved heart health. The Mayo Clinic reports consuming fish oil from oily fish or fish oil supplements seems to help slightly reduce high blood pressure.

High triglyceride levels also increase the risk of heart disease. According to studies, eating fish or taking fish oil supplements can help reduce high triglyceride levels by up to 50 percent. The FDA approves taking a fish oil supplement containing 375 milligrams of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and 465 milligrams of the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) to help lower triglycerides, but studies have shown consumption of a single serving of fresh seafood can exceed these benefits.

An article published in the 2010 edition of Current Atherosclerosis Reports examined studies on the effects of omega-3-rich fish, and fish oil supplements on heart health. Oily fish and fish oil supplements appeared to help protect against heart disease and to reduce mortality in those suffering from congestive heart failure. Seafood is also a rich source of protein, B vitamins, vitamin D, iron, etc. according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database. Take a look on the next page to find which Florida fresh species offer the greatest fatty values…and in addition to the bounty of veggies to come, start the harvest season with a healthy and delicious addition to the menu!

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Values for Florida Seafood Species

Yes, it’s National Seafood Month in October, but We Are Profoundly Pumpkin as Well!

October 2016

By Mel Morgan-Stowell. UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Community Development Agent

Since fall is upon us...well almost everywhere else...visions of pumpkins have been dancing in my head. Other than the fact that our orange friends are the symbol of all things fall, what is there to know about these squash? You just knew I had to tell you, didn't you?

The word originated from the Greek word Pepõn which means large melon and was gradually morphed by the French, English, and Americans into the word we now know, "pumpkin."

Pumpkins themselves are believed to have originated in the ancient Americas, although you might not have recognized them as such. Ancient pumpkins did not resemble the traditional Jack-O-Lanterns as we think of them today. Earlier versions were more crooked-neck gourds cultivated with maize (corn), and beans by Native Americans along river and creek banks.

The practice of growing these crops together has become known as the "Three Sisters" tradition, and is still used today in sustainable agriculture. Corn forms a natural trellis on which beans to grow…the beans’ roots set nitrogen in the soil which nourishes the corn…bean stems stabilize corn stalks on windy days…and squash plants shade shallow corn roots; discourage weeds; and preserve moisture in the soil.

Long before the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans roasted pumpkin strips over campfires and used them as a food source through long, cold winters. Blossoms were also added to stew; pumpkin flesh was roasted, baked, boiled, and dried; seeds were dried and eaten both as a food source and as a medicinal; dried pumpkin was also ground into flour; and pumpkin shells were dried and used as bowls and containers.

Legend has it that Columbus carried pumpkin seeds back to Europe as pig feed…he didn’t know what he was missing!

When the Pilgrims settled in the New World, Native Americans introduced them to pumpkins to help the hapless new-comers in surviving the winter. Who hasn’t seen paintings of starched Pilgrim ladies holding pies any modern chef would drool over? Uhm, the image is a bit false; the form of the pie that is; the actual form of the first pumpkin dessert would still cause a bit of drooling, however.

I owe this bit of knowledge to Chef Bearl, UF/IFAS’s official chef. The Pilgrim version began with a whole pumpkin. Its top was first cut off and its seeds removed. The cavity was then filled with cream, honey, eggs, and spices, and the top was replaced. The whole pumpkin was buried in a cooking fire’s hot ashes until its exterior was blackened. When the pumpkin was removed it contained a creamy custard that was scooped out along with the cooked pumpkin flesh.

Had it not been for the introduction of the pumpkin into the Pilgrim’s diet, they may have well starved their first year in the New world. An ode to the pumpkin was written by the settlers:

  • For pottage and puddings and custards and pies
  • Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
  • We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
  • If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.
  • Pilgrim verse, circa 1633

Of course their flight into poetical appreciation of the pumpkin might have had something to do with another use Pilgrims devised…pumpkin beer. This potent brew was the result of fermenting persimmons, hops, maple sugar, and pumpkin…and here you thought micro-breweries were the first to create such ales.

The practice of carving pumpkins and filling them with a candle began long before the Pilgrims reached our shores. One story has it that the term “Jack-O-Lantern” originates from an Irish fable about one “Stingy Jack”. It seems that Jack invited the devil for a drink and then attempted to skip out on the bill by pleading poverty. Anticipating a quick sale on Jack’s soul, the Devil allowed himself to be persuaded to turn himself into a coin to settle the bar tab. Jack had other ideas it seems…he decided to keep the coin and to place it in his pocket next to a silver cross, trapping the devil. Jack negotiated his soul’s release in return for the devil’s freedom. Clever Jack had not counted on a few twists however. First he was so careless as to die; Heaven apparently could not picture him in a set of wings and would not admit him’; and keeping his word, the Devil turned Jack away from hell. Lucifer did, however, offer Jack only a burning coal to light his way as he wandered the earth. Jack placed the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since, becoming Jack of the Lantern, or Jack-O-Lantern.

The habit of carving scary faces into turnips and potatoes was meant to frighten away stingy Jack and other things that bumped in the night in Ireland and Scotland where people placed them into windows or near doors. Settlers brought the custom to America where the large, sturdy pumpkin served as the version of the Jack-O-Lantern we know today!

Here in our part of Florida, the Halloween form of the pumpkin is not often seen, but there are a couple of adventurous growers in Brevard and Volusia counties who are attempting to do so...The Farm at Rockledge Gardens and Sledd's U-pick in Mims...check them out...or visit Tomazin Farms for the Calabaza and Seminole that are the more recognized versions in our neighborhood!

Beekeeping With Youth

September 2016

Beekeeping with youth

By Andrea Lazzari, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County 4-H Agent

Honey bees often get a bad rap, but in reality they are a vital part of our ecology, and provide countless learning opportunities for youth. Beekeeping can help students learn about everything from biology and agriculture; to small business management; and the importance of cooperation and hard work.

Youth can become involved with beekeeping in a number of different ways, based upon individual abilities and comfort level. Younger children can observe beehives from a distance to learn about bee behavior, or they can watch worker bees pollinate in a school or community garden. Older children can take a more active role in beekeeping by caring for their own hives, and learning how to extract honey. These children can even create and market products such as bottled honey or beeswax candles. Youth who become experienced beekeepers can even teach classes on beekeeping to other interested youth or adults in the community.

If you’re interested in becoming a beekeeper or starting a youth beekeeping program contact Andrea Lazzari, Brevard County 4-H Extension Agent, at a.lazzari11@ufl.edu.

Butterfly Gardening

September 2016

Sulphur Caterpillar

By Sally Scalera, UF/IFAS Extension Urban Horticulture Agent

People of all ages enjoy watching butterflies fluttering around the yard. Not only are they enjoyable to watch, they also help to pollinate plants. Here are some ideas on how you can "garden" for them. To create a butterfly garden you will need two types of plants. The first type of plants needed are those butterflies will use as food (nectar plants). The second type of plants needed are those caterpillars eat (host or larval plants.) The host plants are where butterflies lay their eggs, and where caterpillars feed on foliage, and sometimes on flowers as well. Be prepared, they may eat up all of the leaves on plants, even to the point of death!

To be a successful butterfly gardener, it is helpful to understand their life cycle. There are four stages including the egg, caterpillar (larva), chrysalis (pupa), and butterfly (adult) stage.

For some butterflies, eggs can be laid only on a specific plant. Other butterflies may have a few larval plants from which to choose. It may take a butterfly up to 30 minutes to determine if a plant is the right one on which her caterpillars can feed. Eggs may be laid in a group or individually. The total number of eggs laid by a single butterfly can range from 20 to 200. Most eggs hatch between 3 to 14 days.

During the next stage, the caterpillar emerges from the egg and begins to eat…all it wants to do is eat! This means some plants will be sacrificed so the caterpillars can grow and eventually become butterflies while they reside in the yard. Our main host plants include passion flower, Hercule’s club, pipevine, coontie, milkweeds, cassia, dill, fennel, and parsley. Caterpillars eat so much, they must to shed their skin (molt) four or five times. Within two to eight weeks, caterpillars are full-grown. Once they reach this stage, they stop eating and begin looking for a place to molt one last time. The last time caterpillars shed their skin, their chrysalis is revealed (I have seen a chrysalis hanging both from the eaves of my house, and on the undersides of a leaves).

While caterpillars are in their chrysalis, they do not eat. It is actually in this stage that the entire cell structure of caterpillars breaks down and re-forms into a butterflies (the final stage of complete metamorphosis). After one to four weeks, the butterflies are ready to emerge.

When butterflies emerge from the chrysalis, their wings are very crumpled and small. Butterflies typically emerge at night, or very early in the morning, when the humidity is high. Once they emerge, body fluid must be pumped into their wings until they are fully expanded. After the wings are pumped up, they need time to dry before the butterflies can take flight. The normal life expectancy for butterflies is only about two to three weeks.

Brightly-colored, single flowers that are not too deep attract butterflies. They also display color preferences, preferring red, yellow, and blue blossoms most often. Flowers in the composite family (e.g. daisy and aster) and flowers in clusters (e.g. milkweed) are good choices.

To protect butterflies and caterpillars it is best not to use broad-spectrum insecticides in the landscape or Bacillus thuringensis (Bt) on or around the host plants. The easiest way to begin butterfly gardening is to identify the butterflies already visiting your landscape. Visit the website for Butterflies of North America at http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org. On the top menu bar, click on Regional Checklists. Click on the down arrow under “Species Type” if you want to choose a specific butterfly. Next, click on the down arrow under “Region” and choose “United States.” A new box will appear, and you may choose “Florida.” A third box, offers the choice, “Brevard.” Click on “Apply.” The list created will include both butterflies and skippers (great pollinators). There are links to each insect including photos and information regarding host plants and nectar sources. If you don’t have internet access, you can visit your local library to use a computer or to find a reference book on butterfly identification.

It is also helpful to provide water for the butterflies. Where there are bare areas of soil in the garden, create shallow depressions; line them with plastic; cover the plastic with sand; and fill with water. Male butterflies in particular gather to drink, “puddling” from these depressions. If there is no open space available, construct at least one watering station for the butterflies because they cannot drink from open water. Construct a watering area by adding sand to a bird bath or a clay saucer filled with water. The sand will reduce the water depth, and placing a rock in the center of the sand will provide a resting spot for butterflies. Since butterflies drink from the moist sand, avoid leaving standing water over this layer.

Butterfly gardening is easy to do, and instantly gratifying. If you don’t have a host plant in your landscape start by planting one of them first. Even if you don’t own a yard, you can still grow host and nectar plants in containers on your balcony or porch!

Pollinators and Agriculture

September 2016


By Joe Walter UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Agriculture Agent and Mel Morgan-Stowell UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Community Development Agent

Animals are responsible for the pollination of approximately 75 percent of all plants that are grown for food, fiber, spices, and medicines.

According to Marla Spivak, professor of entomology at the University of Minnesota, we have approximately 50 percent of the bee hives we had in 1940. About 20 years ago, we were at a 15 percent loss, and would currently expect 30 percent of hives to die each winter. In the winter of 2015-2016 this loss grew to 44 percent.

Why is this important? It has been calculated that without the help of the approximately 4,000 species of bees in North America, our food production would be reduced by 25 percent. If we are going to be able to feed the ever-increasing human population on planet earth, it should be clear that we need to protect and provide for pollinators. This consideration is magnified when one considers the additional economic impact of honey bee pollination in the United States is 24 billion dollars, with an additional 9 billion dollars from native insect pollination, according to a 2014 fact sheet released by the White House Office of the Press Secretary.

What can we do to propagate pollinators? First we need to consider not all insects are bad, and do not necessarily require extermination! The underlying principle of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is to use the least intrusive, most cost effective management tools to control “pests” at a level with which we can live. Second, we need to provide food sources for pollinators year round. Where gaps in the food supply exist, we need to provide plants that will ensure their survival. As Dr. Spivak noted in her TED talk, “We're kind of at a tipping point. We can't really afford to lose that many more (bees). We need to be really appreciative of all the beekeepers out there. Plant flowers.” Finally, we must also consider diversification in agriculture. While monoculture may make farming easier in the short-run, it may not contribute to long-term sustainability.


At Home with Honey Bees

September 2016


By Linda Seals, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Director

We frequently receive calls from homeowners asking how to removing honey bees from structures on their property. While a honey bee colony can cause structural damage—think about all of the honey oozing between the studs—safety is usually the primary concern. There are preventative measures to take reducing the risk of a honey bee invasion, and there are some specific steps to follow if bees take up residence in the yard. But first we should review some bee basics.

Bee Basics

Honey bees (Apis mellifera Linnaeus) are social little critters who abide by a strict caste system consisting of drones, queens, and workers.

  1. Drones are male honey bees who are responsible for mating with queens from other colonies—this aids in genetic diversification.
  2. The queens’ job is reproduction.
  3. The workers, mostly non-reproductive females, do all of the work. What’s fascinating is the fact that a worker’s job is assigned according to the bee’s age. This is called temporal polyethism. For example, generally the senior citizen bees are responsible for working outside the hive to guard against predators (you); remove dead bees; and forage.
drone, queen, worker

Most calls from homeowners occur in the spring and early summer. Here’s why--the queen bee produces 10 to 20 daughter queens. When the daughter queens are at the right age—late pupal stage—the queen and about two-thirds of the adult workers leave the colony in search of a new home. While the scouts are out looking for the perfect place to start a new colony, the queen and the remaining workers “swarm” in a safe place foraging for pollen until a new home is found. It’s these swarms that often invade our structures.

Wondering what happens to those daughter queens in the original colony? If a daughter queen emerges first—remember, they are in the late pupal stage when the original queen leaves—she will likely kill her siblings and become the queen bee. If the daughter queens all emerge around the same time, they will fight until one queen survives. The surviving queen then mates with about 15 drones (Rinse, repeat).

Back to those swarms. Swarms will generally last up to four days, and during this time, bees may occupy on just about anything in your yard, including tree branches, fence posts, mail boxes, or even lawn furniture. Colonies, however, will ideally settle in cavities with adequate protection from the elements; featuring a small opening for easy defense; and located three or more feet above ground. Africanized Honey Bees (AHB) are less particular about where they form a colony, so you can find them in water meter boxes, cinder blocks, tires…any place where a bee can access the cavity. European Honey Bees are more particular, so they are often found higher in structures.

Swarm and Colony Removal

If you find a swarm that poses a danger to humans, or you find a colony in a structure, you will probably want to have the bees removed. Unfortunately, there are no free removal services, so you will have to hire a registered beekeeper or a trained pest control operator.


Any structure that has a small opening into a cavity is a potential nesting site for honey bees. Look for small holes around your house. Even a small hole in home siding can become a potential colony location. To prevent nesting, here are a few tips:

  • Use hardware cloth or insect screen to cover holes. This works well for cavities in trees, closing off vents, drains, downspouts, plumbing, etc.
  • Seal cracks with 100% silicone caulk, expanding/insulating foam sealant, wood filler, duct tape, or concrete patching.

If you have detected bees in a cavity, do not seal the hole until the bees have been removed. If the bees become trapped, they may move deeper into the cavity, which may result in expensive repair bills.

Honey bees are a great asset to our world—they provide us with honey and they pollinate our crops. But in some cases, they can cause us harm. Inspect your yard and home frequently to identify potential honey bee colonies. If honey bees are found, hire a professional to remove the bees in the safest and least harmful (to you and the bees) method.

Bee removal tools


Ready, Set, Garden!

August 2016

Wickham Park Community Garden

By Angelika Keene, Public Health Coordinator, Andrea Lazzari, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County 4-H Agent,and Mel Morgan-Stowell, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Community Development Agent

Our wish for a community garden at Wickham park has been granted by our amazing Parks and Recreation partners, and we can’t wait to begin! This UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County project, which is also part of a master plan including our wonderful Brevard County Farmers’ market, will offer members of our community a chance to give their green thumbs a work-out. Our goal is to provide participants with the opportunity to grow healthy, nutritious food while experiencing the joys of gardening. We also plan to provide plots which will act as a “Row for the Hungry,” and plots for our Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.

What is a community garden and how could it benefit you? The standard definition is, “a piece of land gardened by a cooperative group of people living in the same area,” but we believe it is so much more! These gardens are public resources that provide green space in urban areas; offer opportunities for social gatherings; contribute to community beautification, education, and recreation; and offer urban food security support. In addition to these communal benefits, studies have shown that community gardeners and their children eat healthier, more nutrient rich diets than non-gardening families.

Located adjacent to our 4-H Market Poultry project barn, our fenced garden will feature forty 4’ x 16’ raised garden beds with micro-irrigation. We will provide time-tested vegetable varieties for our gardeners as part of the program. We will also offer a number of ways in which to participate. Community members may choose to be a part of our garden as sponsors, volunteers, or renter/growers. Our sponsors will be integral in providing funding for produce grown by volunteers, and given to the recipients of their choice. This is going to be a fantastic way to give back to the community, and to provide a much needed source of healthy food for underserved members of our community.

Speaking of 4-H, gardening is just one of the many great ways for youth to become involved at Wickham Park. UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County 4-H is a development program that teaches our youth real-world life skills helping them to become productive members of society later in life. One of our most successful programs is the Market Poultry project. Youth who participate in this project receive two to three day old chicks they raise over a six-month period. For families who would like to participate, but cannot keep chickens at home, we provide two cooperative coops; one in Cocoa at the UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Office, and the coop at Wickham Park.

Youth who keep their chickens at Wickham Park share responsibilities, and rotate chores such as feeding, watering, and cleaning the coops. The culmination of the Market Poultry project is the 4-H Association Social and Auction Extravaganza, where youth, volunteers, community members, and potential buyers all come together to support our community. During the event, our chickens are auctioned off to farmers and community members who’d like to take them home. For more information on how to get involved in the Market Poultry project, contact Andrea Lazzari at a.lazzari11@ufl.edu or (321) 633-1702 ext. 223.

We will begin construction on the Wickham Park Community garden with the help of our wonderful partners, RSM, on August 3rd, and will hold a ribbon cutting event on October 6th, 2016. So, strap on your sun-hat, dig out the gardening gloves, and join us at the garden! For more information on sponsoring a plot or participating as a gardener or volunteer, please email Linda Seals at lseals@ufl.edu.

Water Quality Monitoring in the Indian River Lagoon

Water Quality

August 2016

By Holly Abeels, Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent

Water quality has been a hot topic in our area, especially with regard to the Indian River Lagoon, for many years now. We often hear more about this term when news and events bring up various subjects such as algae blooms, seagrass loss, oyster restoration, fish kills, fertilizer bans, septic tanks, and freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee. More and more people are talking about water quality and want to learn more about the current water conditions in the Indian River Lagoon. Fortunately, there are actually many agencies with websites that show water quality conditions in our Lagoon. Additionally, many of these agencies have remote water quality stations that collect samples of water at various intervals during the day, and display real time data for what’s happening in the water. All you have to know is where to look.

The most common parameters that are taken at all water quality stations or monitoring sites are temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen. Stations may also collect data on specific conductance, nitrates, nitrites, chlorophyll, turbidity, water color, phosphates, wind speed, pH, precipitation, gage height, and many others. The list depends mainly on which parameters matter most to the organization collecting the data, and cost of the device that can collect the desired information. Not all sites or stations have the same parameters, but most try to collect as much data as they can within the budget and personnel they have.

Here is a list of websites where you can find water quality data online. It’s important to note that some agencies have automated, real-time water quality stations where data is collected remotely via a device, and is then downloaded or transmitted. These are generally more expensive systems. Some agencies sample locations at various intervals (usually monthly), so data may not be timely, depending on how long it takes to analyze the sample and input the data. All monitoring systems or sampling types generally have some type of Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) system set up to ensure accurate data. Take some time looking at each site and the types of data they are providing. You can definitely learn a lot about water quality monitoring in our area just by learning more about these programs.

USGS National Water Information System

This website features data for Haulover Canal near Mims, FL. They take daily measurements of 6 parameters. You can see what the current conditions are at this site at any time. They also have data for a couple of our local streams, namely Crane Creek and Turkey Creek. You can view all their monitoring stations and check out the data here.

ORCA: Ocean Research & Conservation Association

ORCA uses Kilroy deployed at several sites in the Indian River Lagoon to monitor water speed, direction, temperature, depth, and much more. Their stations provide real-time, automated water quality monitoring over an extended period of time. You can view the sites where Kilroy™ are deployed here, and view the live data here. You can also plot historical data over time to see how the parameters have changed. You can see trends or even plot data during a period of time when an event occurred, such as a fish kill, to see what the water quality was like during the time of the event.

FAU Harbor Branch Indian River Lagoon Observatory

Harbor Branch has a network of land/ocean biogeochemical observatory (LOBO) units and weather sensors that provide real-time, automated water quality data for nine sites in the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie Estuary. You can view current and historical data for all of their sites and choose from the 11 water quality parameters and the 8 weather parameters that they measure.

St Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD)

The SJRWMD has 2 sites they monitor in Brevard county, one is located in the Indian River and the other is located in Crane Creek. You can view data for both of these sites by clicking on their name at the website listed above. Each page talks more about the site itself, and water quality data that you can download may be found at the bottom of the page. Both sites have been monitored since 1996. These sites are sampled either every other month (Indian River site) or monthly (Crane Creek site).

SJRWMD Continuous Sensor-based Water Quality Data

The SJRWMD also has several continuous water based sensors that collect data at several sites in the Lagoon. You can view both current and archived data. Simply choose the water body of interest, and the data type, then click on the dot representing the station site to download the data.

Florida Oceanographic Society

You can view water quality data that has been collected by Florida Oceanographic Society volunteers over the years. Once a week volunteers test the water quality in the St Lucie River Estuary for 5 parameters, and they post the information each week on Thursday. Their reports also give a grade to each area of the estuary so you can visually see how good or bad the water quality is in a given area.

US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) STORET and WQX

State EPA agencies store their water quality data in STORET (STOrage and RETrieval) and WQX (Water Quality eXchange). Since it’s a national data storage site it takes a bit of digging to get information for Florida, but if you want to see data that is collected by FL Department of Environmental Protection then this is the place to look. They actually have quite a lot of data for the Indian River Lagoon.

Water-CAT: The Florida Water Resource Monitoring Catalog

This website contains metadata for thousands of monitoring stations across Florida. You can filter the data to search only those sites in Brevard county, and estuary stations alone. Brevard county has 811 data points that you can view. Once you search for a particular site or type of sites, you can click on the station name and find out more about where the site is located; if it’s still active; which project is monitoring this site; how often it is monitored; and the parameters that are collected. Some sites have data you can view, but others don’t. You can find out more information about this database at this website.

Agricultural BMPs Protect our Waterways


August 2016

By Linda Seals, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Extension Director

Did you know that according to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture, there over 145,000 acres of farmland in Brevard County? Our primary commodities are cattle, sod (we currently rank fourth in Florida), honey, and nursery/greenhouse crops. With all of that land in production, you may be wondering about the impact of agriculture on our water quality. That’s where Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) enter the picture.

Florida Statute 403.067 paved the way for the development and implementation of BMPs that protect our water quality. For those of you who are ambitious, you can find the entire statute at www.leg.state.fl.us. As described by FDACS, agricultural BMPs are “…practical, cost-effective actions that agricultural producers can take to reduce the amount of pesticides, fertilizers, animal waste, and other pollutant entering our water resources, and to conserve water supply.” There are BMPs for several commodities such as citrus, sod, nurseries, vegetables, fruit, and cow/calf operations. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is the agency that oversees agricultural BMPs, and you can find them at www.freshfromflorida.com.

Some examples of BMPs for a cow/calf operations include nutrient management, prescribed grazing, conservation buffers, and wetlands/springs protection. Examples of BMPs for vegetable producers include irrigation system maintenance; sediment and erosion control; and recycling and waste management.

Adopting BMPs is voluntary, but there are many benefits to producers who do implement them. They can be cost-effective, help protect the environment, and may satisfy water management district requirements for permitting.

BMPs are just one way that agricultural producers reduce the amount of pollution entering our water resources, however. Learn more about agriculture BMPs at www.freshfromflorida.com.

Helping to Heal the IRL in a Few Small Steps

Photo by Linda Seals, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County

August 2016

By Linda Seals, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Extension Director

Unless you live under a rock, and I admit that sounds pretty good some days, you have heard about the challenges facing the Indian River Lagoon (IRL). Cleaning up the IRL will be no easy task. It will take a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of scientific research, and some major lifestyle changes. Yes, lifestyle changes. To save the IRL, we have to learn to think differently about our lawns and landscapes; we have to approach ordinary tasks such as washing our vehicles differently; and we have to all get involved in our community.

Let’s start with lawns and landscapes. First, accept the fact fertilizer will not solve all of your lawn problems. I recently met with a large homeowner’s association in Melbourne to address some lawn issues. Several homeowners admitted they add fertilizer to their lawn after the “lawn guy” fertilizes. Not only are they harming the environment and wasting money, they are also increasing their lawn problems…but we will save that topic for another day.

Second, more water does not equal better lawns. I know some of you will disagree, but the research clearly shows that overwatering St. Augustine grass leads to shallow roots, which are less drought tolerant, and can increase fungal diseases and weed infestations. Not only is overwatering bad for your lawn, it also aids in the leaching and runoff of fertilizers into our waterways.

Finally, Florida’s climate is tough on grass! Sandy soils, year-round pest problems, overly ambitious weeds…all make growing that perfect, neon green lawn nearly impossible without harming the environment with excess fertilizer. If you struggle with growing turf in some areas of your lawn, consider replacing it with Florida-friendly plants that can thrive with little maintenance. For those areas where turfgrass performs well, comply with your local fertilizer ordinance, and call your UF/IFAS Extension office for recommendations on following Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM principles.

Other lifestyle changes that you can make to help protect our water quality and aid in the recovery of the Indian River Lagoon include:

  • Wash your vehicle at a commercial car wash or wash it on a pervious surface such as your lawn.
  • Fix oil and anti-freeze leaks immediately.
  • Pick up pet waste!
  • Check your septic system for leaks.
  • Use rain barrels to collect water from your roof.
  • Create rain gardens in swales instead of trying to grow turfgrass.
  • Dispose of and store pharmaceuticals and household hazardous waste appropriately.
  • Reduce stormwater runoff by using less paved surfaces—install pavers instead of pouring concrete.

If all of us work together and make a few simple lifestyle changes, we will make a significant contribution to healing our Indian River Lagoon. For more information on how you can help, contact the UF/IFAS Extension office in Brevard County at 321-633-1702, or email lseals@ufl.edu.

Is Your Lawn Care Professional Certified?

Lawn Professional

August 2016

By Linda Seals, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Director

Surely you have heard the old adage, “You get what you pay for,” and this rings true when hiring a lawn care professional. Hiring the lowest priced company, even if it’s simply to mow your lawn, may cost you more money in the long run. Florida lawns are not as easy to maintain as lawns in other parts of the country. Consider our sandy soils, which present numerous nutritional challenges; our mild winters, which allow insects and diseases to flourish year-round; and last but not least, those pesky weeds! When hiring a lawn care professional, ask a lot of questions. After all, it’s your hard earned money you are spending. Spend wisely, and hire a company that will take good care of your lawn for a fair price.

Money is just part of the equation. Water quality is something that you should consider when hiring a lawn care professional. Improper fertilizer application and overuse of pesticides are major contributors to pollution in our waterways, so make sure that your lawn care professional is trained to apply these products safely and responsibly.

Here are a few questions you should ask:

  1. Are you GI-BMP Certified? Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMPs) teaches lawn care and landscape professionals environmentally safe practices that protect water quality. Do you have a fertilizer license? Florida Statute 482.1562 states that all commercial fertilizer applicators must have a license from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). A commercial fertilizer applicator is anyone who applies fertilizer to the landscape for pay.
  2. Do you have a pesticide license? Even if your lawn care professional applies nothing more than Roundup®, he or she must have a pesticide license. Are you International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) certified? If you are hiring a professional to prune trees, you should hire a certified arborist. Trees are one of our greatest assets, and incorrect pruning can put your property at risk, or result in the death of the tree.
  3. Are you familiar with my local fertilizer ordinance? All lawn care professionals should be aware of fertilizer ordinances and the basic requirements of the ordinance. For example, phosphorus must not be applied to the landscape unless a soil test indicates a deficiency.
  4. Before you prune a palm, do you sterilize your pruning equipment? Palms are highly susceptible to a number of diseases that are easily spread by infected pruning equipment. Mature palms can be quite costly to replace, so you should insist that your lawn care professional sterilize pruning equipment.
  5. Do you clean your mower between properties? Mowing equipment is one of the primary causes for weed infestations in previously healthy lawns. Your lawn care professional should clean his equipment before he mows your lawn.
  6. What if I have a problem with my lawn? Your lawn care professional should have resources to help him diagnose pest problems and nutrient deficiencies—no guessing allowed!
  7. Are you a member of any professional associations? Professional associations provide educational opportunities and professional development. While this may not be a requirement on your part, it will provide some insight into a company’s level of professionalism.

In addition to the above, look at the company’s vehicles and equipment—are they well-maintained? Do the employees wear uniforms, or at the very least, are they dressed appropriately for the job? Do the employees behave in a professional manner? There are many more questions relevant to your yard you might ask, but these are some basic questions that will help save money over time, and reduce pollution in our waterways.

Additional Resources:

Freezes = More Delicious Citrus?

Freezes = More Delicious Citrus?

July 2016

Sally Scalera UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Urban Horticulture Agent

It seems as though every winter when a good cold front moves through, people who have lived in Florida for a few years hear a statement along these lines, “The cold snap we just had will be good for sweetening up citrus.” Well, science actually shows that there is no validity to that statement!

I first heard this commonly held belief was not true when I was touring the Florida Citrus arboretum in Winter Haven, well over a decade ago. The arboretum is operated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), and contains more than 250 species and varieties of citrus plus a collection of their relatives. Established in 1975 to ensure that citrus and citrus-related germplasm was available for both research and use within the state, the facility encompasses 6 ½ acres, and is open to the public.

My tour guide was raised in a citrus grower’s family. During our tour, she explained that cold weather merely causes the citrus rind to change color. It does not change the flavor of the fruit. She said that the even with a green rind, citrus fruit can be ripe. Just because oranges may be green and lemons may not be yellow, doesn’t mean that they are not ripe. She mentioned there had been a great deal of testing (both before and after cold snaps) confirming cold temperatures don’t cause fruit to sweeten.

For those of you who are growing citrus, UF/IFAS has a publication titled Florida Citrus Varieties that can be accessed online. A chart with harvesting periods for all citrus grown in Florida may be found on page 3. For example, the harvesting period for Navel oranges is October through January. When growing navel oranges, you may want to start trying the fruit in October, just to see if it is ready after all!

In 2012, when a cold front was forecasted to move through Florida, ABC news aired a story titled A Bit of Cold Weather, the Sweeter the Orange? The news story noted while Florida prepared for freezing temperatures, some said sweeter oranges may have been a bright spot amid the heavy coats and teeth chattering. The forecast called for multiple hours of temperatures below the freezing mark of 32°F. A spokeswoman for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association was quoted as saying, "It is true that a little bit of cold weather is good for the citrus crop". Her statement was followed by an interview with Fred Gmitter, a professor of citrus breeding and genetics at the University of Florida, who told ABC News that he was not aware of any data proving this theory, and that he believed it was a "sort of wives' tale." The myth had been busted.

Citrus does not require cold temperatures to sweeten up. They may, however, look tastier when their green rind turns to an orange or yellow color!

For more information on the Florida Citrus arboretum, call (863) 298-3041 or visit their website. .

Lovebugs=Laboratory Experiment Gone Awry?

Lovebugs=Laboratory Experiment Gone Awry?

July 2016

Frank Prince UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Intern

1953, Gainesville, FL – In a dark laboratory somewhere on the campus of the University of Florida – maybe in the entomology department, maybe in a genetics lab – a vial of insects stirs. Velvety wings whir. Orange heads flash against blue labels which read, “EXPERIMENTAL BIOCONTROL – DO NOT RELEASE”. But that label didn’t stop a sleep-deprived over-worked graduate student. With a misplaced hand and a loud crash, the vials are Knocked to the floor. Lovebugs fled into the night.

Contrary to popular belief, lovebugs aren’t a failed rogue genetic experiment designed to reduce the Florida mosquito population. There is no Dr. Bug-enstein’s monster. In fact, the species, Plecia nearctica, was originally an invasive from Central and South America. The insect arrived in Florida by migrating through Texas and Louisiana where they are also found.

Now well-established in the Southeast, the lovebug is a familiar sight to see hovering in mating pairs or adorning the hoods of passing motorcars. For the latter reason, lovebugs are widely considered to be a nuisance. If not properly cleaned off of your vehicle, the acidic nature of their innards can cause unsightly damage to your paint-job.

But they aren’t all bad. They don’t bite or sting, and they certainly aren’t shy. After all, as nectar-feeders, lovebugs help to pollinate Florida’s wildflowers as well as those in your home garden. Our native birds and insects, like robins, find them to be the occasional snack as well!

Controlling Lovebug Populations:

Ironically, it is very difficult to control the fabled biocontrol. There are no known chemicals which can be used to treat lovebugs.

However, there are a few natural controls:

  • Cool temperatures – lovebugs are most active in temperatures of 84 degrees Fahrenheit and up.
  • Natural predators – birds and other insects will feed on lovebugs, however many are deterred by their acidic flavor.
  • Fungi – a natural fungus in the environment which is sometimes ingested by the lovebug.
  • Vehicular collisions – while unpleasant for motorists, incidents with automobiles can greatly help to reduce lovebug populations. Just remember to wash your car to avoid permanent discoloration!

Helpful Resources:

After 50 = 401K Funding Fatality?

After 50 = 401K Funding Fatality?

July 2016

By Gayle Whitworth, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

Many people mistakenly think it’s too late to make an impact on their financial future after they reach age 50. However, as people are living longer than ever before, there is often still plenty of time to make a significant difference.

More than a third of Americans today say that they don’t plan on retiring until age 70 or older. That gives folks at age 50 at least 20 more years to save, and that can make a great difference.

While it is true the earlier you start saving, the more you will have in retirement (thanks to our friend Compounding Interest), even those who start later can make significant gains to their retirement accounts. When it comes to contributions to employee-sponsored retirement accounts (401(k) - excluding SIMPLE 401(k), 403(b), & 457), employees can contribute up to $18,000 to their accounts (this is the maximum amount to all accounts, if you have more than one account). However, for those over age 50, an additional $6000 can be contributed as a catch-up contribution (2016 amounts - maximum contribution amounts are set by the Internal Revenue Service and are adjusted for inflation) at the end of the calendar year. Since most employers allow catch-up contributions, all an employee over age 50 has to do is to reset the percentage of salary deferred into the plan. This can be done at any time during the year. If you’re not able to contribute the full $6000, contribute what you can up to that amount.

By taking advantage of catch-up contributions, employees 50 and over can make good progress towards reaching their retirement goals.

Click here for more information on employee-sponsored retirement plans and contributions.

Local Foods = Pricey Produce?

Local Foods = Pricey Produce?

July 2016

By Mel Morgan-Stowell UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Community Development Agent

Sauntering with lattes in hand, a young, upwardly mobile couple surveys stunning displays of baby, heirloom, and exotic produce at a local farmer's market. The frame widens to include dozens of elites searching for the freshest and the best…and paying far more than the average person could or would. This image is one many hold of farmer’s markets as places where perfect, pricey people and perfect, pricey produce meet. Is this the real picture of a farmer's market and its patrons? Research indicates this is not generally the case.

First, many studies show that farmer’s markets are often less expensive than grocery chains, while there has been no formal research to indicate the model described above. A study for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) indicated prices for conventionally grown produce at these markets were actually lower than those at grocery chains. Further, for organic items, farmer’s markets featured the best price every time.

I can hear the snap of communal eye-rolling out there, complete with snorts of, “Well of course, an organization dedicated to organic farming would come to that conclusion, wouldn’t it?” Had this been the only study of its kind that reached this conclusion, a bias might be indicated. However, this is but one of many such studies.

Consider a paper produced by the Project for Public Spaces in concert with Columbia University's Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Researchers studied eight farmer’s markets in low to moderate income neighborhoods. They noted, “Among our survey sample almost 60% of farmer’s market shoppers in low-income neighborhoods believed their market had better prices than the grocery store.”

In another study, California Farmer’s Markets Price Perceptions, 54% of sellers at California farmer’s' markets were found to have “actually charged lower prices than supermarkets on a cumulative 345 items.”

A fourth study, created by University of Seattle economics professor, Stacey Jones, found farmer’s' markets charged lower prices per pound than supermarkets for 15 items studied, including items such as apples and carrots.

Does this mean farmer’s markets always provide the lowest price per product? No, there have been comparisons of proteins, for example, indicating higher prices at farmer’s markets than those found in grocery chains. Pricing for any commodity is seldom monolithic. As with any commerce, it is up to the consumer to determine the value-to-price ratio. In other words, what is an item worth to an individual?

Ah, and speaking of consumers, does that picture of a “veggier-than-thou” elitist truly depict the average market patron? While one assumes the picture is at times accurate, studies show it is not the norm. If not this picture, then, what is the appearance of the average farmer’s market patron? The answer, at least according to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) 2010 publication, Local Food Systems Concepts, Impacts, and Issues, is there is no definitive answer. The study noted some of the difficulties in tracking customer demographics nationwide:

“Similar to studies discussed earlier, findings related to demographic characteristics were not consistent across studies. Gender was a significant determinant in three of nine studies (conducted), but with opposing results—female respondents were more likely to pay more in Missouri and South Carolina, while the likelihood of male respondents paying more was higher in Ohio. Income was statistically significant in five studies, but willingness to pay was not always higher at higher incomes. In a study of Knoxville, TN, consumers by Eastwood et al (1987), the second-lowest income group ($10,000-20,000) was more willing to pay a premium for local apples than the lowest income group (< $10,000), but willingness to pay was not higher for higher income groups. For locally produced broccoli and cabbage, higher income individuals were significantly less willing to pay a premium. College education was also associated with lower willingness to pay a premium for broccoli, cabbages, and peaches.”

In other words, that couple (or plethora of posh customers) is a stereotype that is simply not supported by research either. As was mentioned earlier, worth is a relative standard when applied to any commodity. What influences us as consumers is…well…us. We’re the sum of many parts including means, education, tastes, etc. and no one of those parts necessarily defines our individual purchasing patterns.

What’s the point of this examination? Debunking stereotypes places information, and power, into the hands of consumers, enabling them to make better informed decisions for themselves and their families!


  • (Claro, James. Vermont Farmers' Markets and Grocery Stores: A Price Comparison. January, 2011)
  • (Project for Public Spaces and Columbia University Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP). Farmers Markets as a Strategy to Improve Access to Healthy Food for Low-Income Families and Communities. Web 6 June, 2016)
  • (Ahern, James and Wolf, Marianne. “California Farmers' Markets Seller Price Perceptions: The Normative and the Positive”. Journal of Food Distribution Research. Volume 33, Number 01. March, 2002)
  • (USDA Economic Research Service. Martinez, Steve, et al. Local Food Systems Concepts, Impacts, and Issues. Economic Research Report No. (ERR-97) 87 pp. May, 2010)

Speedy Storage=Safe Food?

Speedy Storage=Safe Food?

Mythbusters for Food Safety… by Fightbac.org

July 2016

Beth Shephard, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

Sometimes we think of the refrigerator as a magic box. If we quickly place food inside, everything is going to be just fine. That is not necessarily the case, however. There are some bacteria that survive in the cold--and there are things that need to be done to keep the refrigerator a safe food place. Click here to learn about keeping your refrigerator safe.

Enjoying Summer Outdoors in Safety

June 2016

Enjoying Summer Outdoors in Safety

Andy Thompson, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent

This month is National Safety Month and it’s also the beginning of summer, a time when many people spend more time outdoors. Before heading to the beach, river, lake, trail or even backyard barbeque, there are a few safety tips to keep in mind to help you enjoy the Florida summers even more.

For any and all outdoor activities this summer, make sure you are fully prepared for the heat and sun. It is very easy to find yourself sunburned and dehydrated, so before any activity have plenty of water on hand and stay continuously hydrated throughout the entire day. Don’t wait until you become thirsty to begin drinking water. If you are thirsty, you have already become dehydrated. Drinking plenty of water is crucial while enjoying outdoor activities to prevent dehydration and heatstroke.

Sunscreen is also important. Just as with hydration, protecting yourself from the harmful effects of the sun requires attention throughout the day. Be sure to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. Covering up to limit exposure to the sun is also recommended.

In addition to sun protection, covering up with long sleeves can also help in preventing insect bites. Mosquito bites in particular are cause for concern, as some mosquitoes can carry harmful diseases. Mosquito repellent is also recommended for enjoying summer. Sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and water are three essentials all of us should have while spending time outdoors this summer.

Certain wildlife may also be of concern in the summer. Snakes are common in Florida, especially in the summer months. As with any other wildlife, keep your distance and give any snake its space. Encroaching on the animal will make it feel threatened and therefore, more likely to defend itself. If it is in your path, walk around the snake slowly while maintaining your distance. Keep in mind that some snakes can strike two thirds of body length. Never attempt to pick up or handle a snake in the wild, and do not agitate a snake by poking at it. Snakes will typically flee when threatened, but not always. A snake may coil, hiss, shake its tail, and as a last resort or when suddenly startled, will strike. Most snakes are likely non-venomous, as there are more non-venomous species in Florida. However, there are six venomous snake species in Florida, which include Copperheads, Cottonmouths/Water Moccasins, Coral Snakes, and three rattlesnake species (Eastern Diamondback, Pygmy, and Timber/Canebrake). No matter the species, it is a good idea to simply leave them alone and give them a wide berth. If bitten by a snake, remain as calm as possible, clean the wound and immediately seek medical attention.

Another animal many think about this time of year is the shark. Despite the attention shark bites receive, the number of incidents and the chances of being bitten are quite low. However, just as when dealing with the sun, heat, snakes and mosquitoes, there are precautions to minimize risk. Below are 10 tips to make a shark encounter less likely if swimming in the ocean:

  • Do not wear jewelry in the ocean-Sharks and other fish are attracted to shiny things
  • Sharks can see differences between colors really well, so avoid bright swimwear
  • Use the buddy system when swimming-Sharks are more likely to target lone swimmers
  • Keep away from areas where people are fishing-Bait is meant to attract fish, including sharks
  • Stay out of the ocean if you are bleeding or have a bad wound or cut-Sharks have an incredible sense of smell, and the smell of blood can make them curious
  • Avoid activities in the ocean early in the morning and throughout the night-Dusk, dawn, and night are times when sharks are most active and likely to feed
  • Avoid swimming and playing far from shore and on/around sandbars
  • Do not splash-Splashing and loud noises attract sharks, as do shiny things and blood
  • Swim and play in areas where there are lifeguards
  • Pay attention to the flags at the lifeguard stations-Two red flags mean stay out of the water, and a purple flag means there are dangerous sea animals in the water

Florida is a fantastic place to enjoy the outdoors. However, there are some things to keep in mind while out on summer adventures. A little preparation and awareness can help you to enjoy the natural beauty of Florida even more this summer. For more information on these topics please visit the following:

Following Farm Safety Rules

June 2016

Farm Safety

By Joe Walter, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Agriculture Agent

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) website: “Agriculture ranks among the most hazardous industries. Farmers are at very high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries; and farming is one of the few industries in which family members (who often share the work and live on the premises) are also at risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries.”

In 1990, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed an extensive agricultural safety and health program to address the high risks of injuries and illnesses experienced by workers and families in agriculture. NIOSH supports internal research and funds external research and prevention programs at university centers in 10 states. These programs conduct research on injuries associated with agriculture, as well as pesticide exposure, pulmonary disease, musculoskeletal disorders, hearing loss, and stress. Their research has produced the following information:

Who’s at Risk?

  • Approximately 1.9 million full-time workers were employed in production agriculture in the US.
  • Approximately 1.4 to 2.1 million hired crop workers are employed annually on crop farms in the US.
  • An estimated 1 million youth under 20 years of age resided on farms with about 0.5 million performing farm work. In addition to the youth who live on farms, an estimated 0.25 million youth work on US farms.

What are the statistics for fatalities?

  • In 2012, 374 farmers and farm workers died from a work-related injury, resulting in a fatality rate of 20.2 deaths per 100,000 workers. Tractor overturns were the leading cause of death for these farmers and farm workers.
  • The most effective way to prevent tractor overturn deaths is the use of a Roll-Over Protective Structure (ROPS)
  • On average, 113 youth less than 20 years of age die annually from farm-related injuries (1995 -2002), with most of these deaths occurring to youth 16-19 years of age (34%).
  • Of the leading sources of fatal injuries to youth, 23% percent involved machinery (including tractors), 19% involved motor vehicles (including ATVs), and 16% were due to drowning.

What are the statistics for injuries?

  • Every day, about 167 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury. Five percent of these injuries result in permanent impairment.
  • 50% of all hired crop worker injuries were classified as a sprain or strain.
  • In 2012, an estimated 14,000 youth were injured on farms; but only 2,700 of these injuries were due to farm work.

How do farmers and farm workers avoid accidents?

  • Most tractors and lawn mowers are built for one operator only. Use this rule… If it didn’t come with a seat for additional rider don’t sit on it. Many children are injured from riding on equipment that was not designed for riders.
  • When using any chemicals read and follow all directions. The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) listed on the label is the minimum required for safe use and by law.
  • Never go into confined spaces unless you are certified in confined space operation. As an example, a ditch deeper than 4 feet is considered a confined space. Many gases are heavier than air and will fill the confined space, replacing the air. Feed tanks, silos, molasses tanks, holes in the ground, or totally enclosed rooms are confined spaces and can be dangerous.
  • Use seat belts whenever present.
  • Keep all guards in place (they were put there for a reason).
  • Never work on equipment while the engine is running and or out of gear.
  • Never work on equipment when a child can access the controls.
  • Never attempt to work on electrical equipment until properly grounded when water is present.
  • Always turn off the electricity before working on electric components.
  • When working in dusty conditions, a properly fitted dust mast is required.
  • Instruct anyone who is permitted to operate a piece of equipment thoroughly before use.
  • Use care when moving equipment across uneven or soft ground.
  • Slow down when driving equipment in water.
  • Check the depth of water before entering with equipment.
  • When working in high temperatures, take breaks and keep hydrated (drink plenty of water).
  • Keep at least 10 feet from bee hives unless properly equipped.
  • Animals cause serious injuries, use caution when handling animals.

For more information, visit the NIOSH website.

As Hurricanes Approach, Please Don’t Pillage Your Palms!

June 2016

By Sally Scalera, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard Urban Horticulture Agent

Our annual hurricane season is coming back around again, and now is the time to check your trees to see if they will need any trimming. This is especially important for large trees that grow at least 50 feet in height. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing your landscape for hurricane season.

  • • Check large trees to see if the canopy is very dense. It is possible for trees such as Live oaks to get thinned out some when we have windy weather, of which we seem to have had a great deal this winter. If you feel a canopy is dense, with very little light showing through the foliage, contact a certified arborist to come out and give you a quote. A professional arborist won’t remove too much of the canopy at one time. When too much is removed at once, it causes the tree to produce water sprouts to make up for missing foliage. Arborists will also remove branches selectively throughout the canopy. A good thinning job will not be that noticeable when completed. To find a certified arborist visit http://www.isa-arbor.com/faca/findArborist.aspx and click on, Find an Arborist. In the Search by Location box click on the arrow, scroll down to the bottom, and choose the United States. Now, type in your zip code, click on the arrow in the box below to choose 50 miles, and then click the search button. Try to get at least three certified arborists to come out, give you a quote, and provide you with their recommendations. If you have any young Live oak trees it would also be a good idea to have a certified arborist access them to see if structural pruning should be started.
  • Are you concerned a tree is too tall? If so, then get a certified arborist to come out and reduce the height of the tree so its structural integrity isn’t compromised. Improper pruning practices that remove the entire canopy (topping) or all of the interior limbs and foliage (lions tailing) are harmful to the tree. It is not uncommon for a tree to be removed from the landscape within a year after it has been topped.
  • For trees of any height, remove all dead wood. This is a good practice throughout the year, but prior to hurricane season it really makes sense.
  • Contrary to popular belief, palms do not require removal of fronds prior to hurricane season! As a matter of fact, the removal of too many fronds can actually expose the central bud to injury and/or death. For example, in 2004 during hurricane Francis, a Bismark palm, Bismarckia nobilis, was killed when the central bud was broken and left leaning at a 45° angle. The more fronds left on the palm, the more the central bud will be protected. Also, the repeated removal of green fronds from a palm can result in nutritional deficiencies, reduced cold hardiness, and stress. Remember, palms do not shed their green fronds because they are necessary for photosynthesis!
  • • The only pruning that should be done on a palm should be the removal of coconuts immediately prior to the forecasted arrival of a hurricane in your area. Coconuts are a perfect projectile in hurricanes, so do your neighbors a favor and cut them off!

If you would like additional information on pruning trees, water sprouts, topping, lions tailing, etc. simply follow this link http://hort.ufl.edu/woody/master-index.shtml . Feel free to scroll down the entire list, or click on the letter of the subject in which you are interested. Being proactive now, and ensuring your trees are in good shape for any type of storm, will aid in a stress-free hurricane season!

Keeping the Family Safe from Poisons

June 2016

Keeping the Family Safe from Poisons

By Gayle Whitworth, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Family and Consumer Science Agent

A poison is anything that can make people sick or harm them if used in the wrong way, by the wrong person, or in the wrong amount. Poisons enter the body through the eyes, skin, mouth, and nose and also through venomous stings or bites from insects or animals. Poisons come in the form of medications, household and personal care products, pesticides, plants, insects and animals, and environmental hazards. Poison control centers receive more than 2 million calls involving poisons each year. Almost 90 percent of these poisonings occur in the home.

To help keep your family safe, use the following tips.


  • Store medications on high shelves, and out of the reach and sight of children. When possible, use medications with child-resistant caps.
  • Store medications in their original, labeled containers and properly dispose of them on the expiration date. Medications are attractive to young children. With their bright colors, pleasant smells, and forms that often resemble candy or their favorite drinks.
  • When dispensing over-the-counter medications, be sure to read and follow the Drug Facts label, and use the dispensing tool that came with the medication. Ask the pharmacist or doctor any questions you may have before dispensing. And remember, never share prescription medications.

Household and Personal Care Products

  • Store all household and personal care products in their original containers with labels intact, and out of the reach of children.
  • Close cleaning product containers immediately after use, and put away in a secure location.
  • Never combine household cleaning products.
  • Keep batteries out of children’s reach.
  • Keep magnetic toys and other magnetic items out of children’s reach.


  • Store pesticides in a shed or locked cabinet at least four feet off the ground. Dry products should be stored above liquid products.
  • When using pesticides, remove toys, children and pets should from the area until the pesticide has dried.
  • Place baits and traps in locations where young children cannot reach them.
  • Pesticide labels contain warning and caution statements and what to do in an emergency. Read and use them as indicated.


Many of the plants in our landscapes and homes have an irritant or poisonous effect. Knowledge of which plants are in your surroundings is important in keeping your family safe. When purchasing plants, try to choose varieties that are non-toxic, or that offer a low level of toxicity. Always teach your children to not put any part of a plant in their mouths.

Insects and animals

Teach children to be cautious around insects and animals, since many of them can cause harm through stinging, biting, or spitting. Reactions such as itching, blisters, irritation of eyes, and breathing difficulties can result from these contacts.

Environmental Hazards

Lead is a highly toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes.

  • If you suspect lead poisoning, or live in a home built before 1978, it’s important to have your child tested.
  • To help combat the effects of lead, feed children healthy, low-fat foods high in calcium, iron, and vitamin C.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. It is produced by the incomplete burning of solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels.

  • Install CO detectors in every home according to the manufacturer's instructions. The Consumer Product Safety Council recommends that one CO detector be installed in the hallway outside each bedroom in the home.
  • Prevent CO buildup by verifying heating appliances are in good working order and used only in well-ventilated areas.

What to Do If a Poisoning Occurs

  • The most important step is to remain calm.
  • If the victim is unconscious, has trouble breathing or is convulsing, call 9-1-1.
  • If the victim is conscious, is breathing normally and is not convulsing, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. Keep this number posted on or beside each phone in your home, or program it on your speed-dial.
  • If a poison is swallowed, do not give any remedy by mouth until advised by the Poison Control Center. Do not induce vomiting unless told to do so.
  • If a poison contacts eyes, hold eyelids open, and wash quickly and gently with clear running water for 15 minutes. Do not use eye drops, chemicals, or drugs in the water.
  • If a poison has been inhaled, carry or drag the victim to fresh air immediately, and loosen any tight clothing. If the victim has stopped breathing, or the skin is blue, perform artificial respiration and call 9-1-1.
  • If a poison contacts skin, take off wet clothing and rinse the skin for 15-20 minutes in the shower or under a faucet. Call the poison control center. If necessary, call 9-1-1. Finally, always remember to follow the safety information on the label of any product that contains a poison.

Learning About Lightning Safety Tips

June 2016


By Mel Morgan-Stowell, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Community Development Agent

Florida has often been called the lightning capital of the world, and while that distinction actually belongs to Rwanda, we hold the record for the highest number of lightning storms, and related fatalities in the United States. Central Florida from Tampa to Titusville is known as "Lightning Alley,” for good reason, since we experience lightning storms an average of 100 days each year.


Here are some lighting safety tips from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

What You Need to Know

  • NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area!!
  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you. Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10-15 miles from the thunderstorm.
  • When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up. Remember, when lightning strikes a vehicle, it goes through the metal frame into the ground. Don't lean on doors during a thunderstorm.
  • Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder. Many lightning casualties occur because people do not seek shelter soon enough or leave it too early.

Indoor Lightning Safety

  • Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.
  • Avoid plumbing…including sinks, baths and faucets…they can conduct electricity.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches. Windows are hazardous for two reasons. First, wind generated during a thunderstorm can blow objects into the window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter. Second (in rare instances) in older homes, lightning can enter through cracks in the sides of windows.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.

Last Resort Outdoor Risk Reduction Tips

If caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may reduce your risk:

  • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
  • Never lie flat on the ground. Lying flat increases your chance of being affected by potentially deadly ground current. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, you keep moving toward a safe shelter.
  • Never shelter under an isolated tree
  • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
  • Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
  • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)

Hurricane Preparedness for You and Your Boat

May 2016

Hurricane Preparedness

By Holly Abeels, Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent

Hurricane Preparedness Week is May 15th-21st, 2016 and it’s the perfect time to start preparing for hurricane season, which runs from June 1st to November 30th for the Atlantic and Caribbean each year. NOAA’s National Weather Service will send out a different daily tip and related links each day during Hurricane Preparedness Week. They also will be hosting and partnering with other agencies on Hurricane Awareness Tours, one of which will be held in Naples, FL on May 20th. You can check out more about Hurricane Preparedness Week and what you can do to prepare for hurricanes at this website.

This guide breaks down the process into 4 steps. Step one is to inspect your boat at the time of purchase. This section is meant primarily for new boat buyers, but it is a good refresher to determine the condition of your boat, and if you need to make any repairs or buy new supplies. Step two is preparing your boat for the hurricane season. This step is especially important if you’re not a full time resident or plan on traveling during hurricane season. Year-round residents should also pay close attention to this section. Step three is securing your boat for hurricanes. This section lists precautions you should take when a hurricane is forecast to strike near your area. Step four is recovering your boat after a hurricane. Making sure you, your family, and your home is safe before checking on your boat is of utmost importance. It is important to delay checking on your boat until after travel hazards are removed from the area. Bring any records, including insurance policies, with you when you go to check on your boat. You may need this information at hand any time after a hurricane.

BoatUS also has a Boater’s Guide to Preparing Boats & Marinas for Hurricanes, which has a lot of great information about developing a plan and knowing what to expect when a hurricane hits. It also has some great diagrams about how to secure your boat in the water. You can find the guide here Also check out the hurricane portion of their website here.

Both the BoatUS and the Natural Resources Department guide have worksheets so you can make sure you have everything you need for preparing your boat. Start now to prepare your boat for hurricane season. It’s never too late to begin your preparedness plan!

Hurricanes and Homeowner’s Insurance

May 2016

Hurricanes and Homeowner’s Insurance

By Gayle Whitworth, UF/IFAS Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

A disaster can happen at any time. In addition to the emotional strain of dealing with such a situation, a disaster can leave you financially devastated. Homeowner’s insurance helps to lessen the financial loss in such an event. However, it is important that you understand your coverage and that you keep your policy up-to-date. When reading your insurance policy, make sure you understand the terms, and if you ever have questions, make sure you talk with your insurance agent. This guide helps provide information on common terms used on an insurance policy.

Coverages: Homeowner’s insurance provides protection to insure against loss of property under four main categories:

  • Dwelling–This is the structure of the house.
  • Other structures–These include structures separate from the house, or connected to the house by a fence, wire, or, other connection, but not attached to the house. They can include structures such as a tool shed or detached garage.
  • Personal Property–This include the contents you have inside your home, such as furniture, appliances, clothing, etc. Some personal property, such as jewelry, firearms, etc. may have limited or no coverage for loss and may be require a special endorsement or rider to cover the full value.
  • Loss of Use–This coverage provides reimbursement of additional living expenses in the event that a home cannot be inhabited due to a loss from a covered peril.

Perils: Insurance policies cover perils, or events that cause loss. It is vital that you understand which type of policy you have, and that you know which perils are covered and which are not.

  • Open Perils – Also called an all-risk policy, this type of policy will cover everything except what is listed as an exclusion.
  • Named Perils – This type of policy will cover only the perils that are listed (named).

Exclusions: Exclusions are losses that are caused by perils specifically excluded (listed as not covered) in an open perils policy. These losses can often be covered by for an additional premium, or by purchasing separate policies.

  • Hurricanes – Hurricanes are often excluded from policies. Hurricane deductibles can be added (and may be required), and are separate from your general deductible. With most hurricane deductibles, you are responsible for paying two to five percent of the cost of repairs before the insurance company will pay. It is important that you know what your deductible is, and that you understand how that payment is made.
  • Mold – Mold is another often excluded peril, and one which may require an additional deductible. For policies with a mold exclusion, damage from mold that is a result of a covered peril is covered only in the event of a sudden and accidental discharge of water (pipe burst), and not from circumstances such as poor maintenance. Review your policy to determine if you have a mold exclusion, and if so, what your base coverage is for these damages.
  • Flood – Flood, as a result of rising waters, is not covered in your homeowner’s policy, and must be purchased as a separate policy. Flood insurance is required if your mortgage is federally insured and the property is within a specified flood hazard area. Flood insurance can also be required by the lender, even if the property is outside a specified flood hazard area. Even if it is not required, it may be prudent to purchase flood insurance. A homeowner is eligible for flood insurance if the home is located within a community participating in the National Flood Insurance Policy. For more information regarding flood insurance, contact the National Flood Insurance Program.

Liability Coverage: Insurance policies also protect homeowner’s against personal loss in the event another person is injured or suffers a loss while on your property.

  • General liability – pays for losses of another person for which you are legally liable, including legal fees and damages, up to the limits of the policy
  • No-fault medical payments protection – pays for bodily injury suffered by visitors, regardless of who is at fault
  • No-fault property damage protection – pays for property losses suffered by visitors to your home

Coverage Amounts: Homeowner’s policies pay a certain portion of losses after the deductible (the amount you pay before your insurance does) has been met. The method by which that amount is determined can have drastic differences in the amount you receive for a loss.

  • Actual Cash Value - These policies pay the purchase price of your home and contents less depreciation.
  • Replacement Cost - These policies pay for the full replacement of a damaged or destroyed home and contents without deducting for depreciation.  Most replacement cost policies require the policy holder to insure the dwelling for at least 80% of its replacement cost.
  • To make sure your home is adequately covered, it is important that you inform your insurance agent/company of any additions, upgrades or major purchases to your home so that your insurance coverage can be kept up-to-date.
  • Inflation guard protection that automatically increases property coverage each year by a certain percentage, based upon a local index, is available.  Remember, if your policy is not up-to-date and you have damage to your home, your replacement coverage will be based on the original amount of coverage, not on the present cost of the property, which may not be enough.
  • Some policies may also offer a law and ordinance endorsement which provides demolition of and/or repairs to an older home to meet modern building standards and bring it up to new codes.

Deductible: This is the amount you are responsible for paying whenever there is damage to your home. In essence, this is the amount of risk you are willing to assume in the event that something happens to your home. Generally, if you are willing to assume a higher risk, your monthly/yearly insurance premiums will be reduced.

Renters & Condominium Owners Insurance: : Renters and condominium owners should also review their insurance policies. If they don’t have insurance, should consider purchasing it.

  • Renters insurance – Renter’s insurance is a named peril policy that covers losses to the contents of a dwelling. In addition to protecting against 17 perils, renter’s insurance offers some liability protection and living expenses due to a covered loss.
  • Condominium owner’s insurance - This insurance policy is a named-peril policy that protects condominium owners from losses to content and personal property; provides additional living expenses due to a covered loss; and provides liability protection.

Understanding and keeping your homeowners’ insurance policy current is an important step to protecting yourself and your home. Read your policy and know what is covered and what steps to take in the event of a loss. Take the time now to review your policy and contact your agent if you have any questions or need to make changes. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

For more information about insurance, visit the Insurance Information Institute.

Preparing Livestock for the Storm

May 2016

Preparing Livestock for a Hurricane

By Joe Walter, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard Agriculture Agent

Planning for natural disasters is essential for the whole family, including pets, or livestock. The trick is to plan well in advance, making a detailed, yet flexible strategy for changing circumstances. If an evacuation order is given a plan must include a where, when, how. For instance, what supplies; prior arrangements; cash; fuel; medicine and health papers; food; and water will you and your whole family, including pets and livestock require?

First, when considering an evacuation site it is critical to consider the projected and potential path of the storm. Past locations recommended for horse evacuation are the Tampa State Fair Grounds; the Livestock Breeders Pavilion in Ocala; Ben White Raceway in Orlando; Heritage Park in Osceola; and Perry, Georgia. Keep in mind, if you choose to transport livestock to another state BEFORE a mandatory evacuation is announced, you will have to produce up-to-date Coggins and health certificates to exit the state. However, once a mandatory evacuation is posted, horse owners may only have to stop at the state line Agricultural Inspection Station with a current Coggins certificate. A health certificate may not be required. If so, a document will be provided allowing exit from the state and re-entry for a designated time period without the need for a health certificate. Georgia evacuation locations will accept horses without a health certificate. The Coggins is REQUIRED for all transports, and it is illegal to travel without a current Coggins certificate at any time.

Be sure to take plenty of feed, hay, bedding, and any medication that you might need (events like this often trigger Colic) in event of an evacuation. Also think about taking water in case your horse is finicky. It can be mixed with water from home to prevent dehydration.

Unless a residence is located in a flood zone, it is sometimes it is best to remain in place. If you stay, make sure you have access to water in all circumstances. Access to water for animals was a critical need in past storm seasons. Remember, when the electric fails, pumps won’t work.

Also ensure the barn area is clear of anything that could become flying debris. Ideally, hay storage is on pallets or higher ground in flood prone areas, if rain water floods into the barn. Cover hay storage with tarps should roof damage occur.

Most animals will do well left in their natural habitat during storms. If horses are going to “ride out” the storm in a pasture (pasture is safer than most barns), make sure they are in leather or break away halters. Mark your name, address and phone number on their halters. Spray painting some identification on the horse’s body has also been recommended in the past. The reaction to this is generally, “Not on my show horse,” but this is a great recommendation for pasture horses. Silver wound coat may be an alternative. It won’t harm a show horse’s coat. Another alternative is to make a laminated tag with all the particulars for identification. Include how to reach you and any special feed requirements such as, “Allergic to grass hay” that might be needed if your horse becomes separated from you during a storm. Braid the laminated tag into the mane. If it’s not long enough, braid it high into the tail.

The key to all of these actions is to plan well in advance of storm season, and to carefully consider all alternatives and appropriate responses to ensure the health and safety of the entire family!

As Hurricanes Approach, Please Don’t Pillage Your Palms!

May 2016

Overpruning Palms

By Sally Scalera, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard Urban Horticulture Agent

Our annual hurricane season is coming back around again, and now is the time to check your trees to see if they will need any trimming. This is especially important for large trees that grow at least 50 feet in height. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing your landscape for hurricane season.

  • Check large trees to see if the canopy is very dense. It is possible for trees such as Live oaks to get thinned out some when we have windy weather, of which we seem to have had a great deal this winter. If you feel a canopy is dense, with very little light showing through the foliage, contact a certified arborist to come out and give you a quote. A professional arborist won’t remove too much of the canopy at one time. When too much is removed at once, it causes the tree to produce water sprouts to make up for missing foliage. Arborists will also remove branches selectively throughout the canopy. A good thinning job will not be that noticeable when completed. To find a certified arborist, visit the International Society of Arborists and click on, Find an Arborist. In the Search by Location box click on the arrow, scroll down to the bottom, and choose the United States. Now, type in your zip code, click on the arrow in the box below to choose 50 miles, and then click the search button. Try to get at least three certified arborists to come out, give you a quote, and provide you with their recommendations. If you have any young Live oak trees it would also be a good idea to have a certified arborist access them to see if structural pruning should be started.
  • Are you concerned a tree is too tall? If so, then get a certified arborist to come out and reduce the height of the tree so its structural integrity isn’t compromised. Improper pruning practices that remove the entire canopy (topping) or all of the interior limbs and foliage (lions tailing) are harmful to the tree. It is not uncommon for a tree to be removed from the landscape within a year after it has been topped.
  • For trees of any height, remove all dead wood. This is a good practice throughout the year, but prior to hurricane season it really makes sense.
  • Contrary to popular belief, palms do not require removal of fronds prior to hurricane season! As a matter of fact, the removal of too many fronds can actually expose the central bud to injury and/or death. For example, in 2004 during hurricane Francis, a Bismark palm, Bismarckia nobilis, was killed when the central bud was broken and left leaning at a 45° angle. The more fronds left on the palm, the more the central bud will be protected. Also, the repeated removal of green fronds from a palm can result in nutritional deficiencies, reduced cold hardiness, and stress. Remember, palms do not shed their green fronds because they are necessary for photosynthesis!
  • The only pruning that should be done on a palm should be the removal of coconuts immediately prior to the forecasted arrival of a hurricane in your area. Coconuts are a perfect projectile in hurricanes, so do your neighbors a favor and cut them off!

If you would like additional information on pruning trees, water sprouts, topping, lions tailing, etc. simply follow this link. Feel free to scroll down the entire list, or click on the letter of the subject in which you are interested. Being proactive now, and ensuring your trees are in good shape for any type of storm, will aid in a stress-free hurricane season!

Going Green with Citizen Science Projects

April 2016

Citizen Science

By Holly Abeels, Florida Sea Grant Extension Agent

Earth Day was founded on April 22, 1970 as a day of education about environmental issues. This year, Earth Day celebrates its 46th year and is celebrated world-wide as a day to learn about and engage in discussion regarding current environmental issues. The organization Earth Day Network coordinates global activities and events on Earth Day. This year their theme is “Trees for the Earth” with a goal of planting 7.8 billion trees by Earth Day 2020, which will be the 50th anniversary of celebrating Earth Day. This is the first of five major goals the Network will undertake as they countdown to the 50th anniversary.

One way to become involved in environmental issues in your area is to volunteer with a citizen science monitoring program. Citizen science is, “…the involvement of the public in scientific research – whether community-driven research or global investigations,” (http://staging.citizenscience.org). Citizen science projects are often times used to show how the environment has changed around us and can include years or even decades of information collected by the general public. One of the well-known citizen science projects are the Christmas Bird Count organized by the Audubon Society. The Count, which began on Christmas Day 1900, is the nation’s longest-running citizen science bird project. Another citizen science project found here in Florida is the Florida LAKEWATCH program. This is a citizen volunteer lake monitoring program that began in 1986, and is now one of the largest lake monitoring programs in the country. There’s also an Aquatic Bird Survey in addition to the LAKEWATCH survey. These are just a couple examples of citizen science projects with which you can become involved.

Do you want to get involved in a citizen science project? Check out these websites and hopefully you’ll find an area of interest. If not, you can easily search for citizen science projects in your area online. Look at websites for local environmental centers, colleges or universities, zoos and aquariums, since these all might have projects with which to become involved.


  1. Celebrate Urban Birds – collecting data on how different environments will influence the location of birds in urban areas
  2. eBird – maximizing the accessibility of the vast number of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional bird watchers:
  3. Jay Watch – measure annual nesting success and count total numbers of Florida Scrub Jays at more than 50 sites in 19 counties in Florida
  4. The Great Backyard Bird Count
  5. Audubon EagleWatch – provide information on Bald Eagles, active nest locations, and possible disturbances or threats to nesting activities

Wildlife and Plants

  1. JellyWatch – recording sightings of jellyfish and other marine organisms:
  2. Journey North – a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change:
  3. Butterflies – help locate and track butterflies and larvae with one of these citizen science projects (also specific to Florida)
  4. FrogWatch USA – collect data during evenings from February to August about the frogs you here
  5. Nature’s Notebook – a national, online where naturalists regularly record observations of plant and animals to generate long-term data sets of seasonal changes
  6. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Citizen Science Projects
  7. REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project – volunteer SCUBA divers and snorkelers collect and report on marine fish populations


  1. Microplastics and – documenting where microplastics are found in our local waterways and worldwide (also, Global Microplastics Initiative)
  2. Galaxy Zoo – help scientists classify galaxies right from your own computer
  3. Phytoplankton Monitoring Network – promoting a better understand of harmful algal blooms by volunteer monitoring

How Green Is Your Thumb?

April 2016

How Green is Your Thumb?

By Sally Scalera, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Urban Horticulture Agent

April is National Gardening Month, and when it comes to gardening here in Florida we are lucky in a number of ways! Not only can we garden 365 days a year, but we can also grow a wide variety of plants including palms, orchids, ornamentals, trees, and even edibles. However when gardening directly in the ground, we do often contend with our poor, sandy, nutrient-poor soil. It pays to put the majority of our efforts and resources into correcting our soil issues. That is because a healthy soil will produce healthy plants that live a productive life free of insects and diseases.

A healthy, biologically active soil needs to contain a minimum of 3% organic matter (one should aim for at least 5%), balanced ratios of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. It should also include 25% water and air; a pH ranging from 6.0 to 6.5; a thriving population of soil microbes; and no deficiencies of any macronutrients or trace elements. Compare that ideal to our native Florida soils, which typically contain (at best) around 1% organic matter; are mainly sand with higher percentages of air over water; possess a small population of soil microbes since they have very little organic matter to feed on; have common pH readings either below 6.0 or above 6.5; and it is not uncommon to have find excess amounts of phosphorous, potassium, calcium, and/or magnesium in addition to deficiencies of trace elements like copper, zinc, boron, sulfur, etc. Is it any wonder that our plants are subject to insect damage and disease?

For gardeners who are growing their own food, it is extremely important to balance the soil. This will produce nutrient-dense food which results in better health for those who consume it. Not only can plant and animal (including human) health benefit from balancing the soil, but the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) may do so as well. When organic matter builds up in the soil, reaching levels of 5% or more, both the nutrient and watering holding capacity of the soil increases. At this point, it acts like a sponge, holding onto the rainfall, reducing or eliminating both stormwater runoff and the leaching of nitrogen and phosphorus into the IRL.

If you would like more information on how to grow healthier turf, palms, ornamentals, or edible plants there are upcoming classes that might be of interest. To find out more information on any of the following classes, or to register, please visit our Eventbrite website at , or call (321) 633-1702 ext. 0 to reach the receptionist.

Our free class, Feed the Soil, Not Your Plants, will be held on Saturday, April 9th from 9:30-10:30 am at the UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County office, 3695 Lake Drive, Cocoa, 32926. This talk will be given in conjunction with our Brevard Botanical Garden (BBG) Spring Garden Jubilee plant sale. There are also two other free talks offered that morning about growing orchids and creating succulent dish gardens.

On Tuesday, April 5th I will also be giving a talk at the Lagoon House in Palm Bay, home of the Marine Resources Council, How Our Soils Can Help Heal the IRL. Come join us at noon to find out more and bring your lunch!

Finally, the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Class (a six week series) will begin on Tuesday, May 24th and end on June 28th. This class will be held from 9 am until noon and cover 14 topics for a cost of $60.

Green Side Up...Deciphering Fertilizer Labels

April 2016


By Matt Lenhardt, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Commercial Horticulture Agent

The fertilizer ban, or “blackout," for summer will start on June 1st. This means that no fertilizers containing nitrogen (N) and/or phosphorous (P) will be allowed for application from June 1st until October 1st. The fertilizer ordinance also states that in fertilizers containing nitrogen, at least 50% of the nitrogen content must be slow or control released.

What makes urea nitrogen (a common nitrogen form for landscapers and homeowner grade fertilizers) transform from a ‘quick release’ into a ‘slow release’ form, and how can we tell if the bag of fertilizer reaches the 50% slow release mark?

First, let’s look at urea and what it is called on a bag of fertilizer. Urea nitrogen by itself is considered a quick release form. Typically, sulfur and/or a polymer coat is applied to the outside of the fertilizer pellet during the manufacturing process. Sulfur coating is also called an ‘SCU’ or sulfur-coated urea. The polymer coating is also known as “poly coated” or “PCU” for poly-coated urea. These coatings are often combined in fertilizer and are known as a “poly coat/sulfur coated urea” slow release form.

Being able to calculate how much slow release fertilizer is in the bag is critical to following the fertilizerFertilizer Label ordinance. It can also be confusing, depending on the ingredients and nutrient forms used. A quick way to figure this out is to do a little math. Keep in mind, labels differ, and this may take a little more figuring in some cases, depending on the nitrogen forms. For this example, we’ll use a bag of 16-0-8. All you have to do is divide the percent amount of slow release nitrogen by the overall nitrogen form (16). Typically, there will Ibe an asterisk (*) next to the overall N amount. The asterisk can also be found at the bottom of the label under the term, “derived from”. This section of the Guaranteed Analysis label is a listing of source materials for the primary and secondary nutrients in the product. This is where information on slow-release and slowly available sources of nitrogen are found (see figure right). In our example, the label should state that 8% or 8 units (half of 16%) has a slow release component. Dividing 8 by 16 will give you .5 or 50%. Anything less than 50% by ordinance regulations should not be used in Brevard County.

The Chicken and the Egg

March 2016

The Chicken and the Egg

By Vanessa Spero-Swingle, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County 4-H Agent

Raising animals is a great way to teach youth a myriad of skills including responsibility, animal care, independence, accountability, etc. When those animals are production animals, youth benefit in new and unexpected ways. Youth learn more than caring about the animals, they learn about food systems and real-world agriculture.

Brevard County 4-H youth who participate in the Market Poultry Project have the opportunity to raise poultry for six months before auctioning them off. The animals are laying hens youth raise from day-old chicks. They begin laying in about six weeks--one month before the auction commences. Once the animals start laying, youth are able to take the fresh eggs home.

Youth are taught proper care in handling in both animals and eggs by referencing University of Florida documents such as:

This year our youth have raised a rare heritage breed of poultry called Delaware. The 4-H social and live auction will take place on April 16th, 2016 at the Wickham Park Equestrian Stables, 2500 Parkway Drive in Melbourne, FL. The social is a meet and greet appetizer hour beginning at 2pm, with the auction following at 3pm. Thirty youth will be participating in the auction this year. The public is invited and welcome to attend, and we hope to see you there! For more information about this event contact UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County 4-H, Vanessa Spero-Swingle at Vspero@ufl.edu or 321-633-1702 ext. 231

A Practical Poultry Guide…Raising Backyard Chickens

March 2016

Practical Poultry Guide

By Joe Walter, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Agriculture Agent

Interest in raising small backyard chicken flocks has grown across the nation in recent years. Many urban areas now have ordinances allowing a limited number of chickens, usually female only, to be kept on properties zoned as residential. Brevard County is no exception to this trend, although the ordinances do vary in the number of chickens allowed and housing requirements.

Some believe that a family can save money by raising their own chickens for eggs or meat, but this is seldom the case. The real value of raising backyard chickens lies in the enjoyment of these entertaining animals. For those who have children, caring for the backyard flock can provide a number of learning opportunities. While many of the same lessons can be taught by caring for other pets, few of them return the dividend of wholesome food to families!

Selecting the breed of chicken for a flock is very important. Adaptability of a breed to specific situations is critical to successfully meeting goals. Temperament, egg production, feed requirements, and environmental needs varies between breeds! Breeds can be grouped as egg layers, meat birds, dual purpose, or exhibition birds. Additionally, breeds are also classified as standard size and bantam size. Most standard breeds have a corresponding bantam breed. Bantam birds produce very small eggs, and they contain ultra-low cholesterol per dozen due to their weight. However, the percentage of egg production is the same.

Different breeds of chickens also produce different egg shell colors. For example, birds with white earlobes produce white shelled eggs. Egg color can vary from bright white to off white, light brown, dark brown, speckled, green, and blue. Most commercial eggs are white, but brown eggs are gaining popularity. The egg shell color is genetic, but there is no difference in the interior composition of the egg.

Egg yolk color is dependent on the dietary intake of beta carotene. Green vegetation contains high levels of beta carotene, marigolds are extremely high. Marigolds are added to some diets to turn yolks darker for egg producers and the skin yellower in broiler chickens. As with the color of shell, yolk and skin color are pigmentation elements only and have no effect on taste or nutritional content of either eggs or meat.

Chicken feed is comprised primarily of yellow field corn (not sweet corn) and Soybean oil meal. Vitamins and minerals are added to assure the birds have all the nutrients needed to maximize production potential. Chickens should be allowed to free-feed (feed is available to them 24 hours a day) the same complete feed.

It’s important to note no poultry feed contains any added hormones! There are laws prohibiting the addition of hormones or antibiotics to chickens feeds. Antibiotics may only be added if a chicken is under the care of a veterinarian who prescribes an antibiotic. Antibiotics may then be added to the feed in the amount and for the duration prescribed. Today’s broilers reach 4-5 pounds in just 6 weeks. The rapid growth, heavy muscling, and feed efficiency of modern day broilers has been achieved through breeding and diet rather than through the use of hormones.

Commercial layers will produce in excess of 300 eggs from 6 months to 18 months of age when properly fed and in optimal environments. Chicken egg production is naturally controlled by photoperiodism, the physiological reaction of organisms to the length of day or night. Chickens begin to lay as daylight increases and they reduce or stop laying as daylight decreases below 14 hours. If artificial light is provided to maintain “daylight” at greater than 14 hours per day, most chickens will continue to produce.

Other factors can cause chickens to reduce or stop laying. The fastest way to get chickens to stop laying eggs is to deprive them of water for several hours (this is dependent upon weather conditions). Allowing them to run out of feed; subjecting them to high or low temperatures; moving them from one location to another; allowing other animals in or near the chicken coop; or any other stresses will also result in curtailed egg production.

Chickens, like any other animal, can contract diseases. Chicken can be vaccinated against some of these diseases, but small backyard flocks are seldom inoculated. Most of the vaccines are packaged in doses of 500 or 1000, and are not convenient for small producers. The cost of the vaccine does not justify the small potential loss, and the exposure potential is also very low for small flocks. These flocks are generally exposed by wild birds that fly in for a free meal.

An old farmer once told me the reality is, “Them that have ‘em are going to lose some, them that don’t can’t.” In other words, if you have chickens sooner or later you must expect that some of them are going to die. This can be a valuable learning experience for young people as well.

For more detailed information on raising chickens contact Joe Walter, University of Florida/IFAS Extension Brevard County Agriculture Extension Agent III, jwalter@ufl.edu or 321-633-1702 ex 234 office or 407-948-8810 cell.

Don't Be a Chicken! Cups

March 2016

Don't Be a Chicken!

By Elizabeth Shephard, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Family and Consumer Sciences Agent


  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed or lemon-pepper seasoning
  • 1 9-ounce package frozen chopped cooked chicken breast, thawed
  • 3/4 cup chopped broccoli
  • 1/4 cup purchased shredded carrot
  • 28 to 32 baked scoop-shape tortilla chips


  1. Place mayonnaise and dill weed in the small bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix
  2. Place chicken, broccoli, and carrot in the medium bowl. Pour mayonnaise mixture over chicken; toss to coat. Divide chicken mixture among the 4 storage containers
  3. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours
  4. Serve in baked tortilla chips

Makes 4 servings.

Heart Healthy Dietary Guidelines for the New Year

January 2016

Heart Health

By Elizabeth Shephard, Family and Consumer Science Agent

The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans makes recommendations to help promote health and prevent chronic disease, including heart disease which is the theme for February. While there is a great amount of additional information, healthy eating patterns are the main focus of the Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 released this January. Here are some of the points covered:

  • Nutrient needs should be met primarily through consuming foods rather than through dietary supplements.
  • Eating patterns include both food and beverages and they are not merely a per-meal issue, but are a larger part of an individual’s habitual eating and drinking behaviors.
  • All foods and food groups matter and all fit within broad healthy eating patterns.
  • Make nutrient-dense choices, choosing foods that contain vitamins, mineral, fiber, and other healthful nutrients at the proper calorie level.
  • Be inclusive choosing all forms of foods (canned, frozen, and fresh).
  • Tailor food choices to accommodate personal, cultural, and traditional preferences as well as the budget.
  • One size does not fit all! Individuals have different needs that may change throughout life.
  • Include physical activity.

Local Foods...the Heart of a Healthy Diet

January 2016

Heart Health

By Melinda Morgan-Stowell, Community Development Extension Agent

Here in Brevard County we are seeing the best in local produce from our farmers. When our neighbors to the north have long completed the majority of their harvests, ours are in full swing!

Now is the time to consider the value of eating seasonally and locally. Even with this bounty, the question still may come to mind… why choose seasonal, local produce when groceries are packed with selections from around the world? Here are a few reasons you might want to consider eating in sync with our growing season.

Once of the greatest advantages in purchasing local produce is that it is fresher. Fruits and vegetables harvested for large distribution, have been washed, packed, and shipped cross country or worldwide…and may have also been held quite some time. Foods that are shipped lose flavor and nutrients during each of these steps. Chilling reduces flavor. Transport reduces flavor…and being held in warehouses reduces flavor and nutrient value. Fresh, locally harvested foods retain both full flavor and nutrient value, and will last longer in your home.

As an example, think back to the last time you tasted a fresh tomato either grown by you or a local farmer. What did you think? How did it compare to the tomato you picked up at the grocery? When foods are packaged for sale they are often picked before their peak, depriving them of the opportunity to ripen on the vine, plant, or tree. How does this relate to heart-health? It is a great deal more difficult to choose healthy fruits and vegetables if they don’t live up to expectations. In other words, if that juicy looking red tomato tastes more like soggy Styrofoam, most of us will be less likely to purchase and eat another. There’s only so much culinary heartbreak one can bear after all.

Finding foods that are truly appealing really is half of the battle in developing a heart-healthy diet. Most of us really do eat first with our eyes. Produce at Farmer Markets tends to retain vibrant colors shoppers can use to create a balanced diet, and the tastes live up to the visuals!

Think of the Market as a painter’s palette. Look for the red of those vine-ripened tomatoes, radishes, or strawberries when in season. Add some orange with carrots, cantaloupes, or peaches. Mix in green with cabbage, broccoli, collards, or kale. Splash in a little purple with eggplant or beets, and you’ll be well on your way to creating meals that are as artful as they are healthy.

Finally, there is one other heart-healthy point to shopping locally. Our farmers are part of the heart of our communities, both economically and socially. Local foods support them in their efforts to feed their neighbors, and to support our local economy. Money earned by local farmers and producers who sell directly to the public remains within our community. A recent economic study from UF/IFAS found that for each dollar spent in 2013-2013 through local food channels in Florida, $1.26 was returned to local communities.

Put Your Heart into It

January 2016

Family Heart Health

By Vanessa Spero-Swingle, UF/IFAS Extension 4-H Agent

Two of the four H’s in 4-H are pumped about National Heart Month! As youth pledge their heart and health, they are working towards living healthier. In fact, Healthy Lifestyle programming is one of three major programming areas in 4-H.

According to the Brevard Healthcare Forum, “childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects over 25% of Brevard children and adolescents.” By both teaching youth how to make better choices through nutrition and cooking lessons, and by promoting physical activity in youth, Brevard 4-H is looking to combat these numbers. These changes don’t start at 4-H meetings though, they start at home. See below for some great family tips to focus on the Heart and Health of your family:

  • Promote family meal times. Remember it doesn’t always have to be a family dinnertime meal, breakfast works great too! Or even late night snack time.
  • Promote family cooking. One way to eat healthier is to cook together. When children get involved they are more excited and more apt to eat what they cook. Try simple recipes like a stir fry, grilled kebabs, etc.
  • Create a family exercise plan and set goals. Whether it’s a 5k or weekly walks/bike rides, let each family member pick the activity for the week to make it even more exciting. Add a competitive element or incentives to help keep everyone motivated.
  • Take it to the parks. Bring the family to the local park and play “I Spy” or have a scavenger hunt.
  • Start a garden. Youth love to watch things grow and always enjoy eating what they helped to plant.
  • Introduce your favorite childhood activities to your children. Do they play the same active games you played as a kid? Kickball, tetherball, Red Light/Green Light, etc.

The ideas are endless for families to promote a healthier lifestyle, and 4-H is one way to help teach families as we teach our youth!