Ask Extension

Recent Articles


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tracking Your Weight on the Go

Nan Jensen,
Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

Whether it’s getting rid of those “extra winter pounds”, getting in shape for the beach or having more energy, keeping track of what you eat and your daily activity can go a long way in helping you achieve your goals. There are a number of good weight management apps that make it easy to keep tabs on your calorie intake and stick to a healthy eating plan.The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics features a review by registered dietitians of some of the most popular apps on its website Below is a summary.

Weight Management App Reviews
Registered dietitians review the top-rated free iPhone and Android apps for weight management.

  • Calorie Counter
    Tracks food, exercise, weight and all the nutrients listed on a Nutrition Facts label. Includes daily inspirational articles, healthy recipes and an easy-to-understand help section. RD Rating: 4 stars
  • Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker by MyFitness Pal
    Tracks a combination of fitness goals and nutrition analysis features to help you lose weight. RD Rating: 4.5 stars
  • Calorie Counter by MyNetDiary
    Allows user to personalize a calorie limit for weight loss, gain or maintenance. RD Rating: 3 stars
  • Calorie Counter: Diets & Activities
    Features a classic food diary that tracks calories, water, fitness and the time each food item is consumed and an option to create your own diet and physical activity plan and an Integrated Body Tracker. RD Rating: 4 stars
  • Calorie Tracker by
    Food and fitness diary designed to help you achieve your diet and nutrition goals, whether you want to lose, maintain or gain weight. RD Rating: 4 stars
  • Daily Burn
    Keep track of calories consumed and track workouts to see how much energy is burned. RD rating: 2 stars 
  • Diet Assistant
    Diet Assistant provides diet plans for those who want to gain, lose or maintain their weight. RD rating: 2 stars  
  • eaTipster
    Created by the Dietitians of Canada, eaTipster delivers daily healthy eating tips to your mobile devices. RD rating: 5 stars
  • Lose it!
    Keeps track of foods you eat with this detailed food database; primarily for people wanting to lose weight. RD Rating: 3 stars
  • My Diet Coach
    Touted as a tool to "win the mental game of dieting," My Diet Coach is designed to keep dieters motivated and committed to meeting their weight loss goals. RD Rating: 3 stars
  • Sparkpeople Food and Fitness Tracker
    Fitness and food tracker for people looking to lose a half-pound to 2 pounds per week or to maintain weight. RD Rating: 4 stars
  • Thryve
    Thryve is marketed as a mobile food coach. Originally designed as a way to identify food intolerances, Thryve captures what and how much you eat and your mood after a meal. RD Rating: 2 stars
  • Weight Watchers Mobile
    Follows the Weight Watchers plan step by step, using interactive tools, finding local meetings and creating shopping lists. RD Rating: 2 stars

Friday, March 29, 2013

No Fooling! Free Energy Classes and Kits in April!

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

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

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

April 1 at 10 a.m.–Noon

SPC Seminole Community Library Program Room 
9200 113th St. N
Seminole, Florida 33722

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

For more information call 727-582-2097.

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

Saturday, March 23, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 22, 2013

Urban gardening takes root

Imagine walking out the door of your home, and just a few steps away was some of the tastiest food you have ever eaten. Fresh. Crisp. Vibrant. Full of flavor and vitamins.

This isn’t some type of gourmet’s dream – it’s the reality of urban gardening. Even in highly populated Pinellas County, you can have the garden of your dreams that takes less work, encounters fewer problems and produces more crops with the right know-how.

That’s where the folks at the county’s Extension Service come in. The agents who work at Extension are trained by and have the backing of one of the most renowned agriculture universities in the United States – the University of Florida. They are also keenly attuned to the unique conditions that Florida gardeners face.

For instance, residents can find a bumper crop of information about getting their gardens off to a good start. Proper site location, soil preparation and crop selection can prevent issues from sprouting up later, reducing the need for fungicides, herbicides or other chemicals. From seeds in the ground to harvest time, farmers can bring their questions, concerns or samples to extension for a diagnosis and information on the best way to fix the problem and get ready for record growth.

Of course, a bounty of fruits and vegetables is great, but the enjoyment can be short lived without advice on how to cook, preserve or freeze the bounty for enjoying at some later date. For the tasty morsels you want to cook right now, get advice on how to build a balanced meal that is both nourishing and tasty.

Gardening isn’t just about plants, either. The number of people raising chickens in Pinellas County is growing, and they are getting the freshest eggs for their recipes. Extension agents can also help the aspiring chicken farmer with the know-how to get their brood off on the right wing.

Where to begin? You can visit the Pinellas County Extension Service online at to access all of the resources. Lawn and garden help is also a call away at (727) 582-2100 and then pressing the number one. The line is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 9 a.m. until noon and 1 to 4 p.m.

If you are the more up close and in person type, swing on by the Pinellas County Extension Office at 12520 Ulmerton Road in Largo, or check out the Pinellas County Master Gardener Plant Clinic at the Palm Harbor Library, 2330 Nebraska Ave. in Palm Harbor.

If you visit the Ulmerton Road location, be sure to stroll through the abundant gardens located near the building. There, you can watch as volunteers harvest the many different botanical bounties and get ideas for your own garden.

Urban gardening classes are also offered. Be sure to click, call or stop by for the latest information on what’s coming up.

Gardening in Florida? You will dig it!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Avoid having the most expensive lawn in the neighborhood

Following water restrictions saves big dollars 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Sinkhole Story

Click for large view
Lara Miller,
Natural Resources Agent

You’ve heard it in the news and you’ve seen it in your neighborhood, sinkholes are happening, but why? Underneath your home, garden or business is a layer of Karst topography or landscape. This Karst topography is made up of limestone rock which is composed of a mineral called calcite. Calcite is a mineral developed from fossilized remains of sea creatures that died and sank to the ocean floor 25 to 60 million years ago. Over these millions of years, shell remains became compacted into layers of whitish rock we know as limestone.

Karst topography is the reason Florida has sinkholes, springs, disappearing streams and even caves. Rainfall that percolates or seeps through the soil absorbs carbon dioxide and reacts with decaying vegetation along the way which leads to water that is slightly acidic. This acidified water slowly dissolves limestone rock as it moves through spaces and cracks underground, creating a network of cavities or holes. These holes serve as a sink for more acidic water, leading to larger cracks and voids over time. Sinkholes form when the underlying layer of limestone rock can no longer support the overlying elements (sediments, houses, etc.) and the earth collapses into the cavity.

Do sinkholes happen naturally or are humans contributing to these events?

Natural factors can contribute to ideal conditions for sinkholes to form. For example, a heavy rain following a long period of drought can cause enough overlying pressure in certain areas to cause the earth to cave in. Higher levels of pumping or removal of groundwater can also contribute to the formation of a sinkhole, especially during long periods of time with little to no rain.

Aside from the obvious damage sinkholes can cause, are there any other concerns?

Sinkholes may contribute to water quality problems if rainwater is not filtered by the soil and plants before reaching the aquifer, our underground source of drinking water. In an ideal scenario, rainwater will be caught by the leaves, branches and bark of trees and vegetation before it hits the ground. These obstacles slow the momentum of rainwater allowing it to seep into the soil to be filtered by the natural system before entering the aquifer. In the case of a sinkhole, rainwater flowing into the cavity may reach our aquifer without being filtered and result in reduced water quality.

Resources and additional information:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Visit PEEP at Boyd Hill's Wildlife Weekend

Stop by the Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project booth 
during the annual 
Wildlife Weekend at 
Boyd Hill Nature Preserve
March 9 & 10 (this Saturday and Sunday)

Spin the wheel of energy savings and get a free solar powered calculator! Get free information on ways to lower your home electricity bill, courtesy of  Pinellas County Extension.

You'll also enjoy nature exhibits, tours, music, crafts, food and more.

Wildlife Weekend is free and open from 10am to 4pm at
1101 Country Club Way S.
St. Petersburg, FL 33705

Monday, March 4, 2013

One Earth, One Hour, Join Earth Hour 2013

Ramona Madhosingh-Hector,
Urban Sustainability Agent

Get a head start on this year’s Earth Day celebration by pledging to participate in the seventh Earth Hour ( campaign. The purpose of Earth Hour is to draw attention to climate change and unite people to protect the planet and make proactive changes. Participants commit to switching off lights for one hour. The organizer’s “60+” logo represents a pledge to do a positive act for the planet that goes beyond the hour. This year’s Earth Hour will occur on Saturday March 23 between 8:30 and 9:30 PM local time.

In 2012, more than 7,000 cities and towns in 152 countries switched off their lights for one hour. Earth Hour encourages participants to take personal responsibility for their impacts on the planet and to make behavior changes to promote a sustainable lifestyle. Turning off the lights is a symbol of your pledge to get involved but it doesn’t have to stop there! Earth Hour organizers also encourage participants to sign up for the “I Will If You Will” challenge to continue to inspire and share the commitment to protect the planet.

For more information about Earth Hour, check out the official video and the frequently asked questions. You may also get updates via social media feeds like Facebook and Twitter.

Get involved and “dare the world to save the planet”!


World Wildlife Fund

Climate Change

Earth Hour City Challenge