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May Gardening Checklist

April showers bring May flowers – as well as a multitude of gardening tasks. The Utah State University Extension Gardener’s Almanac provides a checklist for each month as well as links for tips and further information. The May checklist follows. 

* Plant warm-season vegetables and annual flowers once the threat of the last frost has passed. Click here for a listing of the average last and first frost dates.

* By planting tomatoes deeper, they are able to form more roots along the stem, creating  a more vigorous plant.

* Consider planting sweet corn in the garden every other week (until early July) to extend the harvest.

* Consider the various types of fertilizers. Click here for information on traditional fertilizer options. Click here for information on organic fertilizers.

              * Thin overcrowded seedlings using a pair of scissors, and try not to disturb the young roots.

              * Protect fruit blossoms and tender garden plants from late freezing temperatures. Click here for information on critical temperatures for fruit. 

              * Plant summer-blooming bulbs including gladiola, begonia, dahlia and canna.

              * Divide warm-season ornamental grasses when new growth begins to emerge.

              * It’s already time to take notice of weeds. Click here for information. 

              * Allow the foliage of spring blooming bulbs (tulips, daffodils and crocus) to die down before cutting the leaves off.

              * Click here for information on planting a lawn.

              * Turfgrass needs minimal irrigation each week. Click here to learn about irrigation needs in your area.

              * In compacted sites, aerate with a hollow core aerator when turfgrass is actively growing (April – June).

              * Control broadleaf weeds in the lawn when temperatures are between 60 and 80 F. Follow the label and stop use of broadleaf herbicides once the temperature is above 85 F.

              * Apply a slow-release lawn fertilizer to provide a long-lasting effect throughout the summer months.

Pests and Problems:

              * Monitor newly planted vegetables for cutworm and flea beetle damage. 

              * Monitor for cankerworm damage on scrub oak and Box Elder trees along the foothills.

              * Monitor for aphids on lush new spring growth on a variety of plants. Treat for aphids by using “softer” solutions such as spraying them with a hard stream of water or using an insecticidal soap.

              * Monitor for slugs and snails. These pests thrive in moist, cool areas of the garden and landscape, feeding on a variety of plant hosts.

              * Protect ash trees from the lilac-ash borer around the first of May.

              * Control codling moth in apples and pears to reduce wormy fruit. For specific timing, see the Utah Pests Advisories.

              * Treat for powdery mildew on apples beginning when leaves are emerging (at ½-inch green) until June.

              * Watch for insect pests in raspberries from mid-May through early June.

              * Monitor for damaging turfgrass insects. In areas previously damaged, consider a preventative (systemic) insecticide.

              * Click here to subscribe to the Utah Pests IPM Advisories for timely tips on controlling pests in your yard and garden.

              * Consider taking an online gardening course. Courses cover everything from container vegetable gardening and creating the perfect soil, to planting trees and controlling pests. Courses are geared to both beginning and professional gardeners. Use the code “Grow5” at checkout to get $5 off.

              * Explore more gardening tips on Extension’s newly designed yard and garden website




Four Tips to Help You Avoid Food Waste and Save Money

The average American throws away nearly 275 pounds of food each year. The USDA estimates between 30 to 40 percent of America’s food supply is wasted. Not only is good food wasted, but good money, too, equating to about $390 per year per person. While no one should eat unsafe food, consider these strategies to minimize food waste – and put the saved money toward a financial goal.

1. Use fresh foods first. Most fresh and perishable foods that have to be thrown away are simply forgotten. Shop with a list and a plan ways to use the food you purchase. It can be easy to over-purchase when there are sale items, or when many fruits and vegetables are in season, so be realistic about how much those in your household will eat. Place fresh items at the front of the fridge so you see them when you open the door. Make a list of your fresh foods and attach it in a prominent place on the fridge. If you find yourself throwing away fresh produce often because it spoils too quickly, purchase reusable containers or bags that ventilate the air and keep water from sitting on the produce.

2. Store fresh foods properly. Apples can cause nearby produce to ripen or decay more quickly, due to a harmless ethylene they contain that causes food to ripen. To prevent this, keep apples in a produce bag or store them alone in a drawer in the fridge. Onions, potatoes and tomatoes last longer when NOT refrigerated. For storage tips, visit www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.

3. Understand food expiration dates. These dates are not created equal, are not required by federal regulations (except infant formula) and do not necessarily mean food is unsafe or expired.

a. The “sell by” date simply tells the store how long to display the product. Consumers should eat or freeze within 3-5 days of the date printed on fresh meat packages.

b. The “use by” dates refer to peak quality, but are not safety dates (again, except infant formula). They are found most often on fresh and chilled foods such as bagged salads.

c. “Best if used by/before” dates indicate when food will have the best quality or
flavor. Even if the date has passed, the food should be safe if stored and handled properly. Moisture, time and temperatures affect how quickly food spoils.

4. Use safe methods for preserving foods. Freezing is the quickest way, and most foods freeze nicely. Dehydrating, canning and freeze-drying are other options. Don’t preserve food that is starting to spoil, as this will affect the quality of the final preserved product. Be sure to follow safe USDA-approved food preservation and storage recommendations. Check out USU Extension’s website at canning.usu.edu, or contact your local county Extension office for further information.

By: Melanie Jewkes, Utah State University Extension associate professor,  Melanie.jewkes@usu.edu




Home Sweet Home: Is It Best to Rent or Buy?

Paying rent each month isn’t just for college students or young families not yet settled in a career. Overall, home ownership in the U.S. has declined for the past 10 years since peaking in 2009. At the end of 2020, the rate hovered around 65%.  (https://www.census.gov/housing/hvs/files/currenthvspress.pdf) If you plan to rent in the future, consider these points:  

Advantages of renting:

  • Affordability – Monthly rent can cost nearly 1/3 less than the amount of a house payment.
  • Down payment/deposit – While some landlords require a deposit equal to first and last month’s rent up front, most contracts allow for a sizable refund at the end of the lease for reliable, responsible renters.
  • Flexibility to relocate – With an uncertain job market or perhaps more schooling in your future, living under a short-term contract allows more mobility.
  • Few maintenance expectations – Yardwork, main appliances, carpets, pipes, etc., are often repaired or replaced by the landlord.

Disadvantages of renting:

  • Security – How protected are your belongings inside your apartment? Are you in a safe neighborhood? How is the lighting and protection for your vehicles? Are windows and doors secure with sturdy locks? Check these out before you sign.
  • Personalizing or customizing – You may be limited in what you can hang on walls, paint and carpet color and possibly window coverings.
  • Space and noise – Apartments and many condos are not known for having large living spaces or being sound-proof.   

The majority of Americans still lean toward owning their own home. However, because this type of ownership is likely to be a long-term commitment, it is useful to review the advantages and disadvantages of this option as well.

Advantages of buying:

  • Freedom to individualize – When you own your space, you get to choose paint colors, carpet and appliances and determine how you decorate.
  • Pride in ownership – If owning your own home has been your goal, this will feel like a major accomplishment. 
  • Sense of community – You now belong to a neighborhood and can build relationships and a sense of belonging.
  • Ability to design and groom your yard and garden – You can reap the calming benefits and satisfaction many people find as they spend time outside working in nature and growing their own flowers and produce.

Disadvantages of buying:

  • Down payment – One of the major obstacles for potential homeowners is qualifying for a long-term loan. You will likely need a minimum of 3.5 to 10% of the total loan amount  as a down payment. When the down payment is less than 20%, the lender will likely require mortgage insurance, and the interest rate will be adjustable.
  • Mortgage payments – The thought of living on a reduced income due to monthly mortgage payments, for not just months but for decades, may seem overwhelming! Homeownership is a major financial commitment.
  • Insurance and property taxes – You will now need to purchase home-owner’s insurance to protect your investment and also pay property taxes. These can be included in your mortgage payment (through an escrow service), but the trade-off is less money in your savings account earning interest.
  • Municipal/utility fees – Moving from a single-rental payment that includes utilities will come to an end with home ownership. You will now begin paying monthly city/municipal fees such as water, electricity, sewer, etc.
  • Upkeep and maintenance – The yard and maintenance costs covered by a landlord when renting are now your responsibility. Experts recommend you plan on spending 1% of your home’s value per year to cover maintenance. 
  • HOA fees – It is possible that you may move into or build a home that is part of a home owners association (HOA). These fees may include hiring someone to take care of the grounds. There may also be fines if the yard isn’t maintained, sidewalks aren’t cleared or other HOA regulations aren’t met.

Approach home ownership with your eyes wide open. Consider enrolling in an online or face-to-face first-time home-owner education course. It will likely save you unexpected financial surprises during the process. If renting is the best option for your current situation, study that as well. 

            USU Extension offers an online home buyer education course for $60. For information, visit https://extension.usu.edu/hbe/.

            Other sources of information for renting vs. buying include:

https://www.fcs.uga.edu/extension/buy-rent

https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/gh5002.

By: Kathy Riggs, Utah State University Extension professor, kathleen.riggs@usu.edu,

435-586-8132




Establishing Smooth Transitions after Divorce

Household transitions, when children leave the care and responsibility of one parent to be with the other parent, can be emotional for children and parents alike. Establishing a routine for these transitions is beneficial for residential parents, nonresidential parents and children. Although there is no correct way to handle these transitions, good communication about how it will happen can make it easier for everyone. Consider these tips. 

  • Select a set pickup and return time. Having a set time when children are picked up and returned creates continuity for them. It is important that they know what to expect and when. If something unforeseen happens and a parent cannot make the visit or pickup when planned, they should let the children and other parent know as soon as possible. 
  • Choose a pickup location. It may be beneficial to pick children up at a neutral location. This could be daycare, school, a grandparent’s house or afterschool activities. This will lower the chances that the children will become caught in the middle of their parent’s conflict. It will also help children avoid saying goodbye and leaving one parent to be with the other. 
  • Ease children’s feelings of guilt and stress. Children often feel guilty when they leave a parent. It can be difficult for children to go through repeated separations and reunions. Parents should encourage their children to talk about their feelings. Children need to know from both parents that it is okay to love and see the other parent. It is important that children are not used as spies or messengers between parents.
  • Get to know your children’s friends. Allowing children to invite their friends to their house or to join family activities shows them that their parents are interested and care about who they spend time with.
  • Involve nonresidential parents. Children need regular contact with their nonresidential parent. Both parents should stay actively involved in their child’s life. A positive relationship and regular connection with the nonresidential parent help promote a positive adjustment for the child.
  • Get involved in children’s school activities. Nonresidential parents should make an effort to attend parent-teacher conferences, sporting events and other school activities. This keeps parents involved in their children’s lives and lets them know that both parents want to be there for them.
  • Establish regular household routines. Avoid the “Disneyland parent” syndrome of doing strictly fun activities when the children are visiting. Children need structure and routines. Knowing what to expect when they are at each house will make their transition easier.

By: Shannon Cromwell, Utah State University Extension associate professor, 435-283-3472




April Gardening Checklist

April showers (and work in the garden) bring May flowers (and plants). Consider these tips to help you prepare! Included are links from the Utah State University Extension Gardeners Almanac.

  • Consider planting peas in the garden every 2-3 weeks (until early May) to extend the harvest.
  • Click here for information about how to plant and harvest rhubarb.
  • Check out the fact sheets produced by USU Extension. We have over 55 on herbs and vegetables!
  • Mechanically control young garden weeds by hoeing or hand pulling.
  • Protect fruit blossoms and tender garden plants from late freezing temperatures. Click here for critical temperatures in fruit.
  • If storing bulbs, check their condition to ensure they are firm, and remove any that are soft or rotten.
  • If locally available, plant bare root trees and shrubs, keeping the exposed roots moist until planted.
  • Wait to prune roses until after buds begin to swell to avoid late frost damage to new growth.
  • Prune spring flowering shrubs (those that bloom before June) after they have bloomed to encourage new flower buds for next season.
  • Divide crowded, fall-blooming perennials.
  • Divide cool-season ornamental grasses when new growth begins to emerge.
  • Apply chelated iron (FeEDDHA) to plants with prior problems with iron chlorosis.
  • Use organic mulches (wood chips or bark) to retain soil moisture around shrubs and trees.
  • Plant a tree to Celebrate National Arbor Day. The USU Tree Browser offers an interactive list of tree species adapted to the Intermountain West.
  • Apply pre-emergent herbicides in late March to mid-April to control annual weeds in your lawn, such as crabgrass and spurge.
  • Click here for information on planting a lawn.
  • In compacted sites, aerate with a hollow core aerator when turfgrass is actively growing in April to June.
  • Check sprinkler systems for leaks. Also, clean filters and fix and align heads.

Pests and Problems:

  • Download the Utah Home Orchard Pest Management Guide.
  • Learn about common problems in peaches and nectarinespearsplums or apricots.
  • Reduce chemical use to promote beneficial insects in your landscape.
  • Treat for Coryneum blight in stone fruits (cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and plums) at shuck split, approximately 10 days after flower petals drop.
  • Treat for powdery mildew on apples beginning when leaves are emerging at ½-inch green until June.
  • Monitor wet weather during bloom in apples, pears and hawthorns to determine whether to treat for fire blight.
  • Treat fruit trees for cat facing insects, such as stink bugs, to prevent dimples and pucker marks in the trees.
  • Use preventative control for peach twig borer in peaches, nectarines and apricots to help reduce twig and fruit damage later in the season. For specific timing see http://utahpests.usu.edu/ipm/.
  • Control spring flying bark beetles in pine trees and other conifers.
  • Protect birch trees previously infested by the bronze birch borer by applying a systemic pesticide.
  • Click here to subscribe to the Utah Pests IPM Advisories for timely tips on controlling pests in your yard and garden.
  • Consider taking an online gardening course. Courses cover everything from container vegetable gardening and creating the perfect soil, to planting trees and controlling pests. Courses are geared to both beginning and professional gardeners. Use the code “Grow5” at checkout to get $5 off.
  • Explore more gardening tips on Extension’s newly designed yard and garden website.