2017 4-H summer camp set at Camp Timpoochee & May plant clinic

Do you need something fun and educational for your child to do this summer? The Okaloosa County Extension Office has a suggestion for you – Camp Timpoochee.

Camp Timpoochee, located in Niceville on the Choctawhatchee Bay, is the site for 4-H Camp for Okaloosa County. The 2017 camp for Okaloosa will be June 5-9 for youth ages 8 to 12.

Campers will engage in many opportunities including kayaking, snorkeling, robotics, marine science and campfire activities. Campers also enjoy other activities promoting leadership and teamwork.

Camp Timpoochee offers friendships, life skills, team building skills and a great week of fun and memories that your child won’t forget.

Registration packets and a $50 deposit are due by May 12, 2017. Full payment is due no later than May 26, 2017. There are only 25 spots available and are on a first come basis.

Camp registration packets are available at the Okaloosa County 4-H Extension Office, 3098 Airport Road in Crestview or online at http://okaloosa.ifas.ufl.edu.

The cost this year for camp is $200 for all campers that are 4-H members and $225 for non-members. This fee includes meals for 5 days, lodging, a t-shirt, snack every day and all camp activities for the week. Military family scholarships are available.

4-H is the official youth development organization of the University of Florida IFAS Extension Program as well as each land grant university across the United States.

For more information about the 4-H program, contact Veronica Graham, 4-H Youth Development Program Assistant, at graham.v@ufl.edu or by calling (850) 689-5850.

Plant Clinic

The May plant clinic will be held Friday, May 12 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Fort Walton Beach at the Okaloosa County Extension building, 127 W. Hollywood Blvd.

Bring a fresh sample of the weed, plant, insect, etc., that you’d like diagnosed to the clinic. This may include a plant stem with several leaves, a 4-inch square of grass with roots attached, etc. You also may bring a sample of soil for pH testing.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, May 3, 2017
The Foundation for The Gator Nation
An Equal Opportunity Institution


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chinch bugs active in local lawns

Chinch bugs have gotten off to an early start in local St. Augustinegrass lawns this year.

This tiny insect prefers St. Augustinegrass and rarely bothers our other lawn grass species. If you have a St. Augustinegrass yard, you need to know how to recognize their damage.

Many people misdiagnose the problem because they are not looking for something as small as chinch bugs.

Adult chinch bugs are about 1/10 of an inch in length and are black with white wings.

Nymphs (immature stage) are reddish with a white band across the back and are about 1/20 of an inch in length after hatching. Nymphs become black as they mature.

Because drought stress can promote chinch bug problems, irrigate with ½ to ¾ of an inch of water when the lawn begins to show signs of water need. Don’t irrigate again until wilting begins to occur. Visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/lh025 for details on lawn irrigation.

The kind and amount of fertilizer affects grass growth and chinch bug activity.

You can reduce grass growth rate and possible chinch bug problems simply by using minimum applications of a slow release nitrogen fertilizer as compared to frequent doses of a water soluble nitrogen fertilizer. One to two applications of a slow release lawn fertilizer per year may be sufficient to produce an attractive St. Augustine lawn.

By limiting insecticide use, you can encourage valuable beneficial insects that will help battle chinch bugs. The black big-eyed bug and the earwig are great allies. These two insects consume large numbers of chinch bugs.

During spring through fall, inspect your St. Augustine lawn frequently for signs of chinch bug damage. As they feed, chinch bugs quickly cause yellowish to brownish patches in the grass. Because other factors may cause similar symptoms, it’s important to identify the true cause.

If chinch bugs are found, start control measures promptly. Many lawn insecticides list chinch bugs on their label. It’s best to use a product that can be applied in a hose end sprayer verses a granular application when targeting chinch bugs. Always read and follow label directions before using any pesticide.

To avoid unnecessary environmental contamination and a reduction in beneficial insects, early spot treatments can be applied while infestations are still small. Treat the off-color areas and about a ten-foot buffer zone around each. A few days later, check for effective control. If damage is widespread, the entire yard may need to be treated.

Visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_southern_chinch_bug for more information on chinch bugs.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, April 26, 2017

chinch bugs

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Save a Rainy Day: Conservation with Rain Barrels

Sheila Dunning

Commercial Horticulture Agent II

A great way to save money on your water bill and reduce the amount of water withdrawn from the aquifer is to use a rain barrel. The water savings from using stored rainwater rather than municipal or well water can be substantial over a period of time. A rain barrel may not provide all the water needed to sustain all your plants, but it can certainly benefit some houseplants or even an entire vegetable garden. If you currently have a standard irrigation system, you may be able to turn off the sprinkler zones that are in flower beds and use stored rainwater instead.

Typically, the rain barrel is connected to the gutter downspout of the house. For a general calculation, you can collect about a half-gallon of water per square foot of roof area during a 1 inch rainfall. A typical ½ inch rainfall event will fill a 50-55 gallon barrel. Multiple rain barrels can be linked together with PVC or flexible hose to increase storage capabilities. However, with a screen modification on the lid, the rain barrel can be located anywhere in order to collect open rain fall. It will take a lot longer to fill but may be more practical, if the area you want to water is a good distance from the house.

Now is the time to prepare for the long, hot season to come. Please join Sheila Dunning, UF/IFAS Commercial Horticulture Agent at the Bob Sikes Library on May 2 for a demonstration on how to build a rain barrel. The program begins at 10:30 am and is free to the public. All participants are entered into a drawing for a free assembled rain barrel. However, everyone is welcome to purchase a clean, empty barrel for $35 or an assembled, ready-to-go rain barrel for $60. Please contact the Okaloosa County Extension office for more information or to purchase a barrel.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Master Gardener spring plant sale & native plant trail tour

Spring Plant Sale

Okaloosa County Master Gardeners will hold their Spring Plant Sale 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 22 at the Extension Annex located at 127 W. Hollywood Boulevard in Fort Walton Beach.

There will be a great selection of plants, including many hard-to-find Florida-friendly and UF/IFAS recommended varieties grown by Okaloosa County Master Gardeners.

Proceeds from the plant sale will be used by Okaloosa County Master Gardeners in providing their educational programs for the public.

Native Plant Trail Tour

Okaloosa County Master Gardener Bob Bayer will provide an educational tour of the native plant trail from 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 19 at the Gerald R. Edmondson Extension Building, 3098 Airport Road in Crestview.

The trail currently involves a quarter mile walk, which transitions through an upland forest and a bottomland site along a clear creek, and ends in a shady upland area. Visitors to the trail can see many native plant species including large mature trees, a number of Vaccinium (blueberry) species and large open areas of deer moss covering portions of the trail. Seasonal color along the trail includes native azaleas, lyreleaf sage, redbud trees and American beautyberry just to name a few of the treasured natives.

The beginning of the trail includes an area with compost units designed to provide needed mulch and compost in developing and maintaining the trail as well as to function as an educational outdoor area to teach and encourage the public how to convert their own lawn and landscape wastes into valuable compost to improve their own gardens.

The native plant trail is intended to increase awareness and encourage the use of north Florida native plants.

The tour of the native plant trail is dependent on suitable weather. If weather conditions prevent the tour, Bayer will provide an indoor presentation with photos of the development of the trail.

There is no cost to attend this event but space is limited. Registration is required. Please call the Extension Office at (850) 689-5850 to register.

Plant Sale flyer

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension, Okaloosa County, April 13, 2017

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Annual Youth Leadership Conference

This year the 4th Annual Youth Leadership Conference will be hosted by the Boys and Girls Club of the Emerald Coast in partnership with United For a Good Cause. At the event they will be teaming up with Jill Breslawski, Family and Consumer Science Agent at the UF/IFAS Extension, to help teens prepare for life after High School by engaging in Living On My Own.

Living On My Own is a hands-on, real life simulation. This is a unique experience for teens, in which they are assigned careers and family situations (married with 2 children, for example) and then visit 12 simulation stations to make decisions on housing options, child-care, and even whether to purchase cable TV.

Students do the math and calculate their living expenses vs. their income. Some of them have a real eye-opening experience and find that they may need to get a second job, or live without the fancy sports car; don’t forget about those “Life Happens” events – they have to figure those out too! Teens are also encouraged to give back by volunteering or donating to a charity. The goal is for students to learn financial and life skills, and that decisions that you make, even as a teen, have an impact on your future and potential financial independence.

In addition to Living On My Own, guest speakers will be presenting throughout the day on leadership and empowerment as well as entrepreneurship. Lots of giveaways and lunch are also included.

The Youth Leadership Conference is open to all area students grades 7-12 with a cost of $10 to register. The event takes place on April 22, 9am-3pm at the Boys and Girls Club of the Emerald Coast Youth Center, 923 Denton Blvd. NW, Fort Walton Beach. Parents can register students at unitedforagoodcause.org

Also happening at the UF/IFAS Extension The Okaloosa County Master Gardener Association Lecture Series Nature’s Bounty on a Woodland Trail, By Bob Bayer, Okaloosa County Master Gardener Wednesday, April 19, 2017 10:00-11:00 am Okaloosa Extension Office, 3098 Airport Road, Crestview, FL

For more information call the UF/IFAS Okaloosa County Extension office at 850-689-5850.

The Foundation For The Gator Nation
An Equal Opportunity Institution

LOMO 7_Lend A Hand copy

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

April’s plant clinic and should I put sand on my lawn?

The year’s first plant clinic will be held Friday, April 14 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Fort Walton Beach at the Okaloosa County Extension building, 127 W. Hollywood Blvd.

Bring a fresh sample of the weed, plant, insect, etc., that you’d like diagnosed to the clinic. This may include a plant stem with several leaves, a 4-inch square of grass with roots attached, etc. You also may bring a sample of soil for pH testing.

Here’s how to collect a soil sample.

Collect a composite soil sample by removing sub-samples from ten to fifteen small holes dug throughout the sample area (e.g. the front yard). To obtain the sub-samples, carefully pull back mulch, grass or ground covers to expose bare soil. With a hand trowel or shovel, dig small holes six inches deep and then remove a one inch thick by six inch deep slice of soil. Combine and mix the sub-samples in a clean plastic bucket. Place about two cups of this mixture in a plastic bag or small throwaway plastic container. Close the container. If the soil is wet, let it air dry by spreading it out on newspaper before putting it in the container. Make sure to attach a slip of paper with your name, phone number and where the sample was taken (e.g. lawn, vegetable garden, flowerbed, etc.).

Q. Is topdressing a lawn with sand a good practice?

A. Topdressing your lawn with sand or soil on a regular basis is not a recommended practice. It can cause more damage than good. You can introduce weed seeds, nematodes and even diseases with some sources of lawn dressing.

Basically, the only reasons to apply a layer of soil or sand to a lawn are to fill in low areas or bare areas, as a method of dealing with an identified thatch problem or possibly to cover surface tree roots.

While low spots can be corrected this way, you can easily overdo it and smother your lawn.

It can be difficult to evenly spread the sand. Homeowners start with the best intentions only to find that the job is slow and difficult. The sand pile remains in the same spot for days, or longer, frequently killing the grass below. Once the initial enthusiasm wanes, just trying to reduce the mountain of sand overcomes the objective of spreading it consistently and evenly over the lawn.

“Topdressing home lawns has minimal agronomic benefits” according to Dr. Bryan Unruh, University of Florida Extension Turfgrass Specialist. When asked his advice for homeowners on topdressing, his reply was “don’t.”

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension, Okaloosa County, April 5, 2017

plant clinic

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Respecting Rip Currents

Laura Tiu, Sea Grant Marine Science Agent, UF/IFAS Okaloosa & Walton County Extension

It was disheartening to read that even with a double red flag over 9 people had to be recused from the gulf this past weekend, and one person lost their life. In that spirit, I believe it is important to review information on the importance of respecting our sometimes-unforgiving gulf.

First of all, stay calm.

Swimmers getting caught in rip currents make up the majority of lifeguard rescues. These tips from Florida Sea Grant and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service (NWS) can help you know what to do if you encounter a rip current.

What Are Rip Currents?

Rip currents are formed when water flows away from the shore in a channeled current. They may form in a break in a sandbar near the shore, or where the current is diverted by a pier or jetty.

From the shore, you can look for these clues in the water:

  • A channel of choppy water.
  • A difference in water color.
  • A line of foam, seaweed, or debris moving out to sea.
  • A break in incoming wave patterns.

Rip currents pull people away from shore, not under the water. Rip currents are not “undertows” or “rip tides.”

How Do I Escape a Rip Current?

If you get caught in a rip current, don’t panic! Stay calm and do not fight the current. Escape the current by swimming across it–parallel to shore–until you are out of the current. When you get out of it, swim back to the shore at an angle away from the current. If you can’t break out of the current, float or tread water until the current weakens. Then swim back to shore at an angle away from the rip current. Rip currents are powerful enough to pull even experienced swimmers away from the shore. Do not try to swim straight back to the shore against the current.

Rescue in a Rip Current

Many people have harmed themselves trying to rescue rip current victims, so follow these steps to help someone stuck in a rip current.

Get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not present, yell instructions to the swimmer from the shore and call 9-1-1. If you are a swimmer caught in a rip current and need help, draw attention to yourself–face the shore and call or wave for help.

Tips for Swimming Safely

You can swim safely this summer by keeping in mind some simple rules.

  • Do not overestimate your swimming abilities. Be cautious at all times.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Swim near a lifeguard for maximum safety.
  • Obey all instructions and warnings from lifeguards and signs.
  • If in doubt, don’t go out!

The Foundation for the Gator Nation, An Equal Opportunity Institution.

Rip Current Safety Poster

This condensed version of our safety tips can help you remember what to do if you are caught in a rip current.

Rip Current



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment