February Pre-gardening Checklist

There is much that can be done now to get a jump start on the growing season. These tips, with links from the Utah State University Extension Gardeners Almanac, can help get you going.

* Consider adding a smaller structure such as a low tunnel or a larger high tunnel to extend your growing season.

* Try your hand at starting vegetables or annual plants indoors from seed to get a jump start on growing.

* Consider growing herbs and/or microgreens indoors to add fresh greens to your diet.

* If you are storing bulbs, check their condition to make sure they are still firm. Remove any that are soft or rotten.

Prune grapes and fruit trees in late February to early March.

Fertilize fruit trees at least 6 weeks before they bloom.

* Monitor for deer and rodent damage in the landscape.

* Avoid fungus gnat infestation in house plants by allowing the soil to dry between watering.

* Many of our Master Gardener courses will be held virtually or as a combination of virtual and in-person classes this year. For information about classes around the state, visit extension.usu.edu/mastergardener/find-a-program.

* Specific gardening information can be found at garden.usu.edu. Here you will find fruit, vegetable and herb growing guides, information on soil, lawn, yard, tree, shrub and flower care. In addition are monthly tips, the basics of gardening, information on events, classes, and more.

How Do I Know My Partner Will be Faithful?

Trust in a relationship is key to its success. Most people do not automatically trust someone they do not know. They often determine trust by giving a little at the beginning of the relationship, observing behavior, and then giving or rescinding it, based on their perception of the person’s behavior. According to “Assessments of Trust in Intimate Relationships and the Self-perception Process,” in The Journal of Social Psychology (reference below), for intimate partners to progress toward feeling fully secure in the longevity of a relationship, fundamental traits need to be exhibited. Two of those traits are predictability and dependability, which lead to faith in the survival of the relationship.

Predictability means that in any given situation, you have an idea of how your partner will respond. The article suggests that this knowledge is gained by a series of observations and behavioral responses. As a partner follows through with promises, the other person in the relationship can determine if he or she feels there is consistency in the behavior. Feeling as if we know what to expect is one way to build trust. Conversely, if a partner shows a lack of consistency in what he or she says and does, this can erode the base foundation of a trusting relationship. Once predictability is proven, a couple can move toward establishing dependability.

Dependability in a relationship means you can count on your partner to be reliable and trustworthy. This includes being willing to admit mistakes and always being truthful, including in interactions with others. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say are part of being truthful. However, there may be times when your partner needs to make a change to plans. Their willingness to communicate about the change is imperative. 

Our own past experiences can influence how we perceive behaviors. A breach of trust in a past relationship can color the way we interpret behaviors in the present. Open communication about your thoughts and feelings is vital to establishing a trusting relationship. 

Use the following questions to explore trust in your intimate relationship.

·             Does my partner keep promises?

·             Does my partner tell me about needed changes to a plan?

·             More often than not, is my partner’s behavior in our relationship positive?

·             Do I know what to expect from my partner in most situations?

·             Do I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally safe with my partner? Why?

If you are still uncertain whether or not you can trust your partner, explore your past experiences and behaviors that caused you concern, and determine why. Talk with your partner about your concerns. If you do not feel comfortable discussing them, seek out a licensed therapist to help explore your experiences and thoughts. 


·         Zak, A. M., Gold, J. A., Ryckman, R. M., & Lenney, E. (1998). Assessments of trust in intimate relationships and the self-perception process. The Journal of Social Psychology138(2), 217–228. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224549809600373

By: Eva Timothy, Extension assistant professor, Eva.Timothy@usu.edu, 435-864-1483

Federal Student Loan Payment Pause Extended

Those who have borrowed federal student loans have received another extension on the repayment from the U.S. Department of Education. The payment pause has been extended through May 1, 2022, and takes effect for all qualifying borrowers, with no opt-in needed. In fact, if you are contacted by someone who tells you he or she can help you sign up for this benefit, it is a scam.

Understanding key details of this relief program is important for all borrowers. Here’s a summary of the latest program relief details some people may be missing:

  • The temporary payment relief is extended to borrowers with qualifying federal student loans. Some federal loans (Family Federal Education Loan, Perkins Loans, etc.) don’t qualify. Contact your federal loan servicer (www.studentaid.gov) to find out if your loans are eligible.
  • If your loans qualify, the U.S. Department of Education has automatically switched the status of your loans to “administrative forbearance,” and no payments are required until May 1, 2022. If you previously set up automatic payments, check to see if any payments have been processed since March 13, 2020. If so, it is possible to get a refund.
  • If you have defaulted on any federal student loans, the U.S. Department of Education has paused collection calls and billing statements through May 1, 2022. If your employer continues to garnish your wages, you will get a refund.
  • You do have the option to keep making payments. In fact, any payments made during this 0% interest forbearance period will help you pay off your debt faster.

Remember, this relief program only applies to federal student loans. If you are still unsure about the type of loans you have, here are two things you can do:

  1. Pull your credit report free of charge at www.annualcreditreport.com. Look it over and find your student loan lender or servicer. Compare it to the complete list of federal loan servicers found at https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/repayment/servicers.
  2. Confirm which of your loans are federal by checking https://studentaid.gov/fsa-id/sign-in/landing or calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-433-3243.

For further financial tips and information to help improve your financial wellness, visit Utah Money Moms and Empowering Financial Wellness.

By: Amanda Christensen, USU Extension associate professor, Accredited Financial Counselor, Amanda.Christensen@usu.edu801-829-3472

Cleaning Tips to Keep You Healthy

We all know it is important to clean and disinfect to reduce the risk of getting sick, but with many illnesses circulating, including the common cold, flu, RSV, hand-foot-mouth disease, and the COVID virus, now is an important time to reevaluate hygiene habits. How often do you clean and disinfect items that are used daily? Can you reinfect yourself with items such as a toothbrush or reusable water bottle? Consider this information.

Toothbrushes – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we now know the risk of catching COVID after touching a contaminated surface, such as a door handle, is low. But what about personal items like a toothbrush – is there a risk for reinfection? Although it’s commonly recommended to replace your toothbrush after an illness due to the chance of becoming re-infected, professionals agree this isn’t typically true for viruses. After your body has fought off a virus, such as the flu or COVID, in most cases your immune system will have developed the necessary protection to prevent reinfection of that particular virus.

With that being said, it is possible to infect others if the contaminated toothbrush comes into contact with another brush. Additionally, a toothbrush can be the cause of reinfection of a bacterial illness, such as strep throat. Since bacteria will die in the presence of oxygen, bacteria on a toothbrush that properly air dries between each use generally is not an issue for reinfection. However, bacteria can colonize if the bristles do not dry completely, which is why some professionals agree it is best practice to replace a brush after a bacterial illness. The CDC recommends against using dishwashers, microwaves, or other means to disinfect toothbrushes, as these methods may damage the brush.

Water bottles – How do you avoid reinfection from a commonly used item that travels back and forth with most people? According to Michigan State University Extension, you should wash the bottle in hot water with a teaspoon of unscented dish soap each day to reduce the risk of illness from bacterial growth. Soak the bottle in soapy water for a few minutes, rinse it well using warm water, and allow it to completely dry before the next use.

Alternatively, you can clean and sanitize bottles in the dishwasher if they are dishwasher safe. Avoid letting your water bottle sit with water left in it for long periods of time. Although COVID and the flu primarily spread through respiratory droplets from an infected person’s coughs or sneezes, experts recommend washing and sanitizing bottles after each use. Do not share a water bottle with someone who has cold-like symptoms.

General cleaning and disinfecting –To reduce the risk of infection from most illnesses, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Clean regularly using a household cleaner that contains soap or detergent. Using this type of cleaner will reduce the number of germs on surfaces, which decreases the risk of infection. Areas to focus on include high-touch surfaces such as light switches, electronics, doorknobs, countertops, etc.
  2. If someone in your household is ill or someone who has been in your home within the last 24 hours falls ill, it is recommended to disinfect to kill any remaining germs. Always follow the directions of the disinfectant and wash your hands immediately after use.
  3. Wear a mask when cleaning areas the sick person used, and open windows and use fans to help increase airflow.
  4. Remember all the usual precautions – wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when water and soap are not available, cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, avoid close contact with sick people and avoid sharing personal items with them, immunize yourself from infectious diseases, and stay home when you do not feel well.

    By: Emma Parkhurst, USU Extension assistant professor, health and wellness, Emma.Parkhurst@usu.edu                                                                        


10 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Toothbrush. Retrieved from https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/toothbrushes

Use and Handling of Toothbrushes. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/infectioncontrol/faqs/toothbrush-handling.html

How to Keep Your Water Bottle Germ-Free. Retrieved from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/how_to_keep_your_water_bottle_germ_free

Reduced Risk of Reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 After COVID-19 Vaccination — Kentucky, May–June 2021. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7032e1.htm

Cleaning Your Home. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/disinfecting-your-home.html

January Garden Planning Tips

If the spike in gardening interest the last two years is any indication of what 2022 will be like, now is the perfect time to start planning! Consider these tips and links from the Utah State University Extension Gardeners Almanac.

* Peruse garden and seed catalogs and select new vegetable varieties to try this year.

* Plan and design your vegetable garden. Try to implement crop rotations of vegetable families to reduce disease buildup.

* Consider growing herbs and microgreens indoors to add fresh greens to your diet.

* Use deicing compounds sparingly to avoid salt damage to landscape plants.

* If you are storing bulbs, check their condition to ensure that they are firm, and remove any that are soft or rotten.

* Perform routine maintenance on lawn mowers and other small engine garden equipment.

* For information about Master Gardener classes around the state, visit extension.usu.edu/mastergardener/find-a-program.

* Specific gardening information can be found at garden.usu.edu, including fruit, vegetable, and herb growing guides as well as information on soil, lawn, yard, tree, shrub, and flower care. In addition are monthly tips, the basics of gardening, information on events, classes, and more.