Why Are My Leaves Turning Brown?

Many of the trees grown in our landscapes are not native to the Intermountain West. They have been transplanted (like many of us) and struggle to adapt to Utah’s arid climate. Certain species, especially those with large leaves, lack the ability to handle an entire summer of heat and low humidity. Over time, this causes many leaves to scorch by late summer.

Another common reaction to hot, dry conditions is premature color changing. During prolonged periods of drought, trees and shrubs may also prematurely drop leaves, especially from the inner canopy. However, early color changing can also be due to overwatering.

Tree species that often exhibit these symptoms of drought stress include many species of maple, cottonwoods, poplars, aspen, ash, stone fruits (peaches and cherries), horse chestnut and linden. However, almost any species will show signs of drought stress, based on the severity. For example, even a honeylocust (known for its tolerance to heat) can scorch if planted in a setting surrounded by asphalt or cement.

If leaves turn brown, prematurely fall or change color, we often want to water more. Before doing this, dig down into the soil to evaluate how dry it is. If it is already moist, adding more water could kill the tree because the roots rot and the tree can’t take up water. Oddly, drought stress and over irrigation both show symptoms of dry leaves.

Other things that can cause leaf abnormalities, including yellowing, scorching and premature leaf drop, have to do with nutrient deficiencies. Iron chlorosis is the most common nutrient deficiency and is due to our high soil pH. This makes it difficult for some non-native species of trees and shrubs (many maples, flowering pear, stone fruit, pin oak and burning bush) to acquire enough iron from the soil. Even native species such as quaking aspen and river birch will show iron deficiency when they are planted outside their native zones (high elevation and riparian areas respecively). For more information on iron chlorosis, visit https://utahpests.usu.edu/ipm/notes_orn/list-treeshrubs/iron-chlorosis.

Another culprit to scorching leaves and dying branches is a fungal disease called Verticillium wilt. This soil fungus penetrates the roots of susceptible species (maples are extremely susceptible) and essentially clogs the conductive tissues or “water pipes.” To avoid this problem, plant trees and shrubs that are resistant species. Visit https://utahpests.usu.edu/ipm/notes_orn/list-treeshrubs/verticillium-wilt.

Circling or girdling roots of trees and shrubs that were in a nursery container for too long can choke off the trunk and conductive tissues, causing a drought response. These symptoms are often slow to show up and can take years to kill a tree or shrub.

Simple mistakes made during installation such as burying a tree or shrub too deeply can deplete the roots from oxygen, leading to dry leaves and even eventual death of the plant.

To avoid the crispy brown leaves of summer scorch and the yellow hues of nutrient deficiency, consider these tips:

Plant native or adapted species that are more tolerant of hot weather and low humidity. Some include lacebark elm, other hybrid elms, hackberry, bur oak, white oak, English oak, hedge maple, Tatarian maple, honeylocust, many crabapples, zelkova, juniper and Bosnian pine.

Avoid non-native, non-adapted species that commonly show signs of leaf scorch, drought stress and iron deficiencies. Some include Norway maple, red maple, sugar maple, horse chestnut, red oak, giant sequoia, magnolia and pin oak.

Water established trees and shrubs deeply and infrequently during the summer. Be sure to irrigate so the water penetrates 18 to 24 inches deep into the soil profile around the root zone. If trees are not in the lawn and on their own irrigation, water every 10 to 14 days. If trees are in the lawn, irrigate deeply once a month.

By: Taun Beddes and JayDee Gunnell, Utah State University Extension horticulturists, Taun.beddes@usu.eduJaydee.gunnell@usu.edu

5 Tips to Savor the Moments that Count

Couples and families often look for ways to find more time together and to make better use of that time. Most people struggle to find enough time in their day for everything. In fact, according to Dr. William Doherty, those that care about each other often feel starved for time together. Consider some of the following ideas to make every moment count with those you love.

1. Create a positive atmosphere. Set the tone for positive interactions and show him/her that they are a priority by giving your loved ones your undivided attention when you say hello and good-bye.

2. Be here now. Life is full of distractions, especially with all the technology utilized by families today. Give the gift of yourself as you set limits on technology use and give each other your undivided attention and just enjoy being in the present moment together.

3. Take time to talk. Sharing thoughts, feelings, ideas, and desires with each other helps build relationships with others. Ask open-ended questions and then take turns listening and learning about the other person. Connection can take place in conversations as simple as asking about one important thing that happened that day or sharing one thing they appreciate or admire about each other. Establish a time each day to check in with each other, such as at dinner or bedtime.

4. Make the moment memorable. Quality time can sometimes be found in very small increments of time. Take advantage of five minutes and make a memorable experience happen! For example, stop to watch the sunset, swing at the park on the way home from running errands, or make a silly face on each other’s pancakes just for fun. Be silly and laugh together. Take a picture of the fun to make it even more memorable.

5. Make the everyday tasks count. Help each other with making dinner, folding laundry or cleaning up the yard. These opportunities may not be as exciting as a night on the town but they can give opportunities to connect with conversation and to lighten each other’s load.

While there never seems to be enough time for everything, regardless of the amount of time couples and families find to spend together, utilizing these techniques can help you savor the moments that really matter.

Naomi Brower


Brower, N. & Wallace, J. (2013). From Time to Quality Time: Making Every Moment Count. http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/Marriage&Relationships_2013-01pr.pdf

Doherty, W. J. (2013). Take back your marriage: Sticking together in a world that pulls us apart. New York, New York: The Guildford Press.

Gottman, J. M. & Silver, N. (2007). The seven principles for making marriage work. London, England: Orion Books, Ltd.

Signs of a Healthy Relationship

Relationships can be one of the greatest joys in life. Research even suggests that love and intimacy have a greater impact on our quality of life than any other factor, including diet, exercise, stress or genetics! Relationships can also be complicated. So, how do you know if you are in a healthy relationship? Check out these 7 signs of a healthy relationship.

1. You are honest with each other and you have a strong sense of trust between you. There is no hidden agenda or secrets from the past.

2. You can openly discuss everything—the good, the bad and the ugly in a calm and supportive way. If you have disagreements, you are able to discuss them respectfully and turn your differences into fair compromise.

3. You both know who you are and what you want out of life, and you are on the same page in terms of your basic values and life goals.

4. You enjoy doing things together but you also have quality time apart doing what is most important to each of you. You encourage each other to grow and change and be your best selves.

5. You respect each other’s boundaries and right to privacy.

6. Both of you contribute your fair share to the relationship.

7. You feel safe and supported in the relationship.

Some of these might seem like common sense and some might cause you to think a little more about the health of your relationship. Whether you are in a strong relationship or one that is currently in need of a little help, consider attending a relationship strengthening event such as the Northern Utah Marriage Celebration on February 8 at Weber State University to help you create a relationship worth a lifetime of memories. See registration and details at marriagecelebration2019.eventbrite.com.

Naomi Brower

Reference Ornish, D. (2018). Love & Support. https://www.ornish.com/proven-program/love-support/

7 Tips to Communicate About Difficult Topics

In a
relationship, we are bound to have some topics that are difficult to talk about
with our partners. Whether it is the possibility of marriage, starting a
family, or problems you have with your loved one, starting those conversations
can be difficult and we may fear it will lead to conflict. No matter the
content of your conversation, following some basic guidelines will ensure your
conversation goes as smoothly as possible.

1. Choose the Right Time

Make sure both you and your
partner are ready for the conversation. Select a time when you are both rested
and can devote all your attention to the topic. Once you make sure your loved
one is ready to talk, consider scheduling a time to talk that works for both of

2. Start Positively

While it can be tempting to jump
straight into talking about problems, others are often more receptive if the conversation
begins in a positive way. Thank your significant other for sitting down to talk
with you, offer a compliment, and refrain from making any accusations or
assigning blame.

3. Take Time to Listen

Be sure to take time to listen to
your spouse intently, without interrupting and try to see things from their
perspective. Repeat back to your partner what you heard them say in your own
words to be sure you received the correct message.

4. Find Common Ground

If you and your loved one cannot
agree about a specific topic, find something you can agree on that might be
related. For example, you might agree that you want to have a family but you
may not agree about how many children you want to have or the timing. Finding
the common ground will reduce feelings of opposition and create feelings of

5. Turn Criticism into Wishes

In conversations that may get
heated and lead to conflict, rephrase any criticisms you have into wishes. For
example, instead of saying “You never make time for me,” say, “I wish we could
do more activities together.” Doing this takes away blame from your spouse and
directly tells them what you want. This makes your conversation
solution-focused instead of problem-focused.

6. Use Open-ended Questions

Asking open-ended questions, or
questions that require more than a single word answer, invites them to be
involved in the conversation, provides solutions to problems, and demonstrates
your interest in their opinion.

7. Be Direct in Your Intentions

Being direct about your own
intentions and what you hope to accomplish in the conversation can help focus
the discussion and keep you on the same page. For example, do you want to reach
a compromise? Do you just want to express your emotions for a couple minutes?
Or do you just want to hear what your partner has to say?

difficult conversations can be challenging, following these tips can help you
focus on problem-solving while also protecting your relationship from further
unnecessary conflict.   


K. (2018). Transforming Criticism into Wishes: A Recipe for Successful
Conflict. [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.gottman.com/blog/transforming-criticism-into-wishes-a-recipe-for-successful-conflict/

J. M. & Silver, N. (2007). The Seven
Principles for Making Marriage Work.
Orion House, London, England: Orion

Tips to Manage Technology with Youth

Kids are spending more time with screen media than ever
before, and at younger ages. In addition, summer often provides more access and
time for electronic use. While technology can provide educational
opportunities, help us connect with others, and promote creativity (think
digital art), it is also important to help youth to set boundaries on their
technology use. Consider the following tips for managing technology with

Limit screen use.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and World Health Organization (WHO)
have provided guidelines to help families curb kid’s screen use to ensure
plenty of time for active, rather than sedentary activities and interacting
with others. While these guidelines suggest that children under one should not
have any screen time and those under five should not spend more than one hour
watching screens each day, there really isn’t a magic number for screen use in
general that fits every family. What appears to be more important is that it is
high quality, age appropriate media, and parental engagement in what is being

Some screen time is
better than others.
While not all media needs to be “educational,” you can
maximize your child’s screen time by helping them to find media that helps them
think critically, develop their creativity through creating new content (i.e.
songs, art, etc.) or helps them connect with the larger world in related
offline activities.

Screen time shouldn’t
always be alone time.
Watching and playing together can help to increase
social interactions, learning, and bonding.

Create tech-free
Keep family mealtimes and other social and family gatherings screen-free
in order to build social bonds and engage in two-way conversation. Because
electronics can be a potential distraction after bedtime, consider having an
inaccessible place to charge electronics at night, or download apps that
disable the device at bedtime to remove temptation from using screens at night.

Warn children about
the importance of privacy and dangers of predators.
Teens need to know that
once content is electronically shared they will not be able to remove or delete
it completely. Teach youth about privacy settings and be sure to monitor their
activity to keep them safe.

Be a good role model.
Children are great mimics, so be sure to limit your own media use.

Media and digital devices are an integrated part of our
society today. They can be a wonderful resource in a variety of ways, but they
can never replace the benefits of face-to-face interactions and learning. By
utilizing these tips, you can help youth reap the benefit of these wonderful
resources while keeping the benefits of personal interactions and learning at
the forefront of youth experiences.  




5 Tips to Sharing Negative Feedback

Have you ever
been around negative people that tend to be mean under the guise of just trying
to “help” by giving “constructive criticism?” While there are times to share
information that can be difficult in order to help others (negative feedback),
criticism (usually intended to attack, blame or hurt others) is generally not
helpful. So before you decide to share “constructive criticism” consider these
5 tips to effectively sharing negative feedback.

  1. Examine your intent. Consider why you want to give this
    feedback. Unless your intent is to help the other person or improve the
    situation, it may be best to keep your thoughts to yourself.
  2. Consider your
    Do you
    have an understanding or agreement with the other person that would allow you
    to share feedback without damaging the relationship? If you aren’t sure, ask
    the other person if they are open to feedback before sharing, otherwise he/she
    may just get defensive and it could make the situation worse. If they are open
    to feedback, asking is a sign of respect and they may be more likely to be open
    and ready to receive feedback. 
  3. Focus on technique. Find the right time when you can both be
    focused on the issue, and focus on one issue at a time. Stay calm, make eye
    contact, maintain an open body posture, and use “I” messages that focus on the
    behavior and not the person. In order to reduce defensiveness, it may also be
    helpful to use the “sandwich” technique, providing negative feedback between
    two positive messages when possible.
  4. Provide ideas,
    alternatives or solutions.

    Just telling someone that what they do is annoying isn’t helpful. Providing
    ideas or suggestions on how to improve the situation can help to promote
    problem solving.
  5. Be prepared for feedback. When we share feedback with others,
    sometimes they may have valid feedback for us. Keep calm, listen respectfully
    without interrupting, and show that you are trying to understand by rephrasing
    what they say to make sure that you received the message they were trying to

While giving or
receiving negative feedback can be difficult, when used as an effort to help
someone or improve a situation, it can be a very beneficial tool to strengthen


The Gottman
Institute. (2017). Avoid the four
horseman for better relationships
. Retrieved from www.gottman.com

Four Back to School Tips for Parents

Summer is winding down, and many children are hitting the books instead of the snooze button. In addition to encouraging children to stay organized and responsible with their time and activities, it is important to have conversations about social tips that will help in their relationships with friends, teachers and other employees at the school.

Here are four things to discuss with your children as they head back to school:

  • Make time to be kind.  One of the best ways to make friends and a good first impression at school is to be kind. There are three simple things children of all ages can do – the three S’s – smile, serve and share. A smile is the first thing most people will see and remember. It shows friendliness, warmth and openness. Serving others in small ways will also open doors to friendship. A simple compliment or grabbing something that has fallen on the floor for someone can work wonders. Sharing paper, crayons or a treat can help as well. Parents can model these principles and invite their children to be kind and respectful to everyone.

  • It’s good to be grateful. Just like with kindness, gratitude shows others you are open, thoughtful and humble. Children can give thanks to anyone they meet, from the bus driver, to the gym teacher, to the principal. They all work hard and need to hear expressions of thanks. Letters, texts and sticky notes are simple ways to show gratitude to others. Cultivating gratitude in children starts with parents’ willingness to express sincere thanks to others, especially their children.

  • Notice and appreciate the good in each day. Children are often bombarded with negativity, often from right from the start of school. From teasing and tests to homework and bad hair days, our brains are wired to focus and dwell on the tough stuff that happens. When children come home from school, ask about the best part of their day. Parents can do this at dinnertime or right before bedtime as well. It’s good to get good at noticing the good!

  • Be quick to forgive. New schedules and routines can bring new challenges and stress. Be patient with your children, especially the first few weeks of school. When parents keep their tone of voice low and are quick to forgive, it helps teach children to be quick to forgive others as well. Similarly, teach children to be patient with others and quick to forgive offenses, including those from friends and teachers.

By: David Schramm, Utah State University Extension family life specialist, David.schramm@usu.edu

August Yard and Garden Checklist

The heat is on, and yards and gardens are trying to keep up with the temperatures. Consider these tips from the USU Extension Gardeners Almanac to keep your garden thriving this month. Also included are links for further information.

  • Beginning in early August, plant selected cool season vegetables for a fall harvest.
  • Deadhead (cut off) spent blossoms of perennial and annual flowers. 
  • Deep water established trees and shrubs about once per month during the heat of summer.
  • Turfgrass only needs 1 ½-2 inches of irrigation per week. Click here for irrigation needs in your area.

Pests and Problems:

  • Check under leaves of pumpkins, melons and squash plants for squash bugs.
  • Watch for mosaic virus in vine crops, and remove infected plants to reduce the spread.
  • Watch for holes from Tobacco budworm feeding in the leaves of petunias, necotiana, geraniums and other annual flowers.
  • Protect black locust trees (not honey locust) with a registered chemical to prevent locust borer damage.
  • Control codling moth in apples and pears to reduce wormy fruit. For specific timing, see our Utah Pests Advisories.
  • Control for walnut husk fly in walnuts, peaches and apricots historically is done between August 1 and 15.
  • Learn how to identify a hobo spider.
  • Controlling European paper wasp with traps is helpful this time of year.
  • Monitor for damaging turfgrass insects.

To see a video on gardening tips for August, click here:


Protect Yourself from Financial Fraud

There has been extensive reporting in recent news about data breaches, cyber security, Social Security numbers stolen, identity theft, fraud, scams, credit monitoring services, credit reports, credit scores, etc. It can be tricky to navigate, so here’s the Readers Digest version: 

  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that Equifax has agreed to pay up to $700 million to settle the lawsuit from their September 2017 data breach that exposed personal info of 147 million people.
  • The FTC reminds us to be weary of scammers calling, emailing and setting up fake websites claiming to be related to the Equifax data breach in an attempt to get your personal info and/or collect a payment.
  • Capitol One announced their data breach has exposed the personal info of 106 million of its credit card customers and applicants in the U.S. and Canada.  
  • Scammers are calling and pretending to be the Social Security Administration saying your Social Security number has been suspended. They then ask you to confirm your number and/or send money in order to “reactivate” it.

Whether or not you were affected by a data breach or scam, be proactive about monitoring your personal credit information. Now is a great time to check your credit report, free of charge, using www.annualcreditreport.com. Here’s why it’s so important and tips for doing it.

You and your spouse (if applicable) are allowed one free credit report per year from each of the three credit reporting bureaus. So, to keep tabs on our credit all year long, I pull one report every two months. I set reminders in my cell phone that alert me to remember. Example:

  • January = My Experian report
  • March = Husband’s Experian report
  • May = My Transunion report
  • July = Husband’s Transunion report
  • September = My Equifax report
  • November = Husband’s Equifax report

This helps us keep tabs on our personal and shared accounts, monitor for fraud and correct any errors. 

Keep in mind –the data breach is a frenzy for scammers who will call, text, email and create fake websites pretending to be credit monitoring companies that can help “protect you” for a fee. Just remember, a legit site will not ask for a credit card number or your full Social Security number. Equifax will ask for the last six digits of your social security number and your last name to tell you whether or not your information was compromised. Sign up for free credit monitoring available to victims of these data breaches. Also know that the government will nevercall you to ask you to confirm your Social Security number. If you are contacted, hang up and report it to the FTC at: www.ftc.gov/complaint.


By: Amanda Christensen, Utah State University Extension associate professor, (801) 829-3472, Amanda.christensen@usu.edu