June Gardening Tips and Checklist

To help make your yard and garden the best they can be this year, consider these tips from Utah State University Extension’s Gardeners Almanac.

  • Discontinue harvesting asparagus spears in early June to allow the fronds to form for the rest of the growing season.
  • Prune tomatoes to open the canopy of the plant.
  • Consider drip irrigation in the garden to conserve water.
  • Consider planting sweet corn in the garden every other week (until early July) to extend the harvest.
  • Prune spring flowering shrubs (those that bloom before June) after they have bloomed to encourage new flower buds for next season.
  • Deadhead (cut off) spent blossoms of perennial and annual flowers.
  • Thin the fruit of apples, peaches, and apricots to approximately one fruit every 5-6 inches.
  • Apply a second application of pre-emergent herbicides in late May to early June to control annual weeds in the lawn such as crabgrass and spurge.
  • Remember that turfgrass only needs 1 to 1 ½ inches of irrigation per week. See irrigation needs in your area.

Pests and Problems:

  • Monitor vegetables and herbs for earwig damage.
  • Protect ash trees with a registered chemical to prevent lilac/ash borer damage.
  • Use control measures 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 1/2 inch green) until June.
  • Watch for insect pests in raspberries from mid-May thru early June. For specific timing, see our Utah Pests Advisories.
  • Control the Western cherry fruit fly when fruit changes color from straw color to pink to avoid maggots in cherries.
  • Control the peach twig borer in peaches, nectarines, and apricot trees. For specific timing see our Utah Pests Advisories.
  • Monitor for damaging turfgrass insects. In areas previously damaged, consider a preventative (systemic) insecticide.
  • Consider taking an online gardening course. Courses cover everything from container vegetable gardening and creating the perfect soil, to planting trees and controlling pests and are geared to both beginning and professional gardeners. Use the code SPRING25 for 25% off a course!
  • Explore more gardening tips on Extension’s yard and garden website
  • Click here to see a video of June gardening tips.

Contact: JayDee Gunnell, Utah State University Extension horticulturist, Jaydee.Gunnell@usu.edu

Help Grandchildren Cultivate a Close Relationship with Grandparents

A close relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is mutually beneficial when it comes to the health and well-being of both. Grandparents provide acceptance, patience, love, stability, wisdom, fun, and support to their grandchildren. This, in turn, has positive effects on a child’s well-being. A study by Sara Moorman and Jeffrey Stokes, Department of Sociology, Boston College, found that children who grow up with greater emotional closeness to their grandparents are less likely to be depressed as adults. For grandparents, a close relationship with their grandchildren can boost brain function, protect against depression, and increase lifespan. 

In today’s world where many families do not live in close proximity, it’s important for parents to help cultivate a close relationship between children and grandparents by encouraging frequent contact. Consider these tips.

1. Visit often. Grandparents should be invited to visit their grandchildren’s home often. When grandparents live in a different town or state, planning a trip to visit them can fill a child with anticipation and excitement. Even if the visits are infrequent, they will help your child view the time with their grandparents as special.

2. Use technology. There are many options that can help children and grandparents stay in contact such as Zoom, Facetime, email, texting, and social media. Grandparents can record themselves reading a bedtime story to their grandchildren, and grandchildren can send personalized messages and pictures. 

3. Share photos.  Place photos of grandparents in your home and point them out to your children often. You can also create a family photo album. If your children are not able to see their grandparents frequently, they can still learn about who they are and feel of their importance in the family.

4. Write letters.  Who doesn’t love to receive a letter in the mail? Encourage communication via mail or email with grandparents and grandchildren participating. Both will anticipate the regular communication and feel the excitement of receiving responses.

5. Teach skills.  Whether it is fishing or sewing, many grandparents have a hobby or skill they would love to pass on to their grandchildren. Teaching can be done in person or with technology. Provide children with necessary tools and materials so they can learn from grandparents. 

6. Climb the family tree.  Ask grandparents to share family stories and ancestry. Perhaps they can help the  children draw a family tree. Children of all ages enjoy learning about family history, traits they share with ancestors, and the things that make them who they are.

More information and research references are available at https://tinyurl.com/h2z7exuw.

By: Christina Pay,Utah State University Extension assistant professor, Christina.pay@usu.edu,


Food Security and Nutrition Security: The Importance of Healthy Options for Utah’s Vulnerable

Food security and nutrition security are closely related but are distinctly different concepts. Food security ensures that people have enough food to avoid hunger. In contrast, nutrition security goes beyond having enough food to eat and focuses on food quality for a healthy life. A healthy diet will help achieve nutrition security and includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats. These foods provide essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants necessary for maintaining good health. 

Proper nutrition is a fundamental component of good health. It also plays a critical role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and diabetes.

Since food is a flexible budget item, when food costs increase with rising inflation, individuals and families can be forced to make difficult choices, such as buying cheaper and less nutritious foods or reducing the amount of food they consume. Nutrition security is vital for vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people living in poverty. These populations often rely on inexpensive, calorie-dense foods that lack essential nutrients, leading to adverse health outcomes. 

Promoting nutrition security requires addressing the root causes, such as lack of access to healthy foods and limited education on nutrition and healthy eating. Consider these strategies for promoting nutrition security.

* Encourage healthy eating habits. Learning about nutrition education programs can help individuals understand healthy eating habits, meal planning, and budgeting for healthy foods. The Create Better Health (Snap-Ed) program in Utah provides nutrition education classes and a wealth of resources, including menu planning, eating healthy on a budget, basic cooking skills, recipes, and increasing physical activity.

* See if you qualify for federal assistance programs. Depending on household income, there are many federal programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Program, senior’s farmers market, and free or reduced school lunches. To learn more about available assistance programs and eligibility, visit Utahns Against Hunger

* Consider food assistance programs. Food banks, food pantries, and ready-to-eat meals can assist individuals needing more resources for healthy foods. To find food pantries and ready-to-eat meals near you, visit Feedutah.org 

* Learn how to access fresh, local produce. Many programs across Utah provide access to fresh produce, such as farmers markets, community gardens, and mobile markets. These can increase access to healthy foods in areas with limited access to grocery stores and supermarkets. You can find the list of Utah’s farmers markets at the Utah Farmers Market Network. You can also learn how to double up SNAP dollars at SNAP and Double Up Food Bucks – Utah Farmers Market Network.

Promoting nutrition security is crucial to ensuring that vulnerable populations in Utah have access to the healthy foods they need to maintain proper nutrition, good health, and increased well-being. 

May Gardening Checklist

After digging out from a long, hard winter, we can finally start working in the garden and yard! The Utah State University Extension Gardener’s Almanac provides a checklist for each month as well as links to tips and further information. Consider these gardening tips for May.

  • Plant warm-season vegetables and annual flowers once the threat of the last frost has passed. See average first- and last-frost dates.
  • Plant tomatoes deep enough that they are able to form more roots along the stem, thus creating a more vigorous plant.
  • Consider planting sweet corn in the garden every other week (until early July) to extend the harvest.
  • Learn about various fertilizers, including traditional fertilizer options, and organic fertilizers.
  • Thin overcrowded seedlings using scissors. Try to avoid disturbing the young roots.
  • Protect fruit blossoms and tender garden plants from late freezing temperatures. Learn about critical temperatures for frost damage in fruit.
  • Plant summer-blooming bulbs including gladiola, begonia, dahlia, and canna.
  • Divide warm-season ornamental grasses when new growth begins to emerge.
  • Learn to control landscape and garden weeds.
  • Allow the foliage of spring blooming bulbs (tulips, daffodils, and crocus) to die down before removing the leaves.
  • Renovate areas of your yard where there has been lawn damage.
  • Learn about irrigation needs in your area.
  • Aerate with a hollow core aerator in compacted sites when turfgrass is actively growing (April – June).
  • Control broadleaf weeds in the lawn when temperatures are between 60-80 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 long-lasting results through 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 plants. Treat for aphids by using “softer” solutions such as spraying them with a hard stream of water or by using an insecticidal soap.
  • Monitor for slugs and snails. These pests thrive in moist, cool areas of the garden and landscape and feed on a variety of plant hosts.
  • Protect ash trees from the lilac/ash borer around May first.
  • Control codling moth in apples and pears to reduce wormy fruit. For specific timing, see our Utah Pests Advisories.
  • Treat for powdery mildew on apples when leaves are emerging (at 1/2 inch green) until June.
  • Watch for insect pests in raspberries from mid-May thru early June.
  • Watch for cutworm damage in turfgrass and new vegetable starts.
  • 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 and are geared to both beginning and professional gardeners. Use the code SPRING25 for 25% off a course!
  • Explore more gardening tips on Extension’s yard and garden website
  • Click here to see a video of May gardening tips.

Contact: JayDee Gunnell, Utah State University Extension horticulturist, Jaydee.Gunnell@usu.edu

Five Ways to Find Peace by Staying Present

It is easy to get caught up in the events of the past or the future. However, doing so only brings worry and causes you to miss out on the present. On the other hand, mindfulness – or focusing on the present moment – leads to better health, lower anxiety, and greater resilience to stress. Learning to incorporate the concept of “flow” is one of several ways to increase mindfulness.

Have you ever enjoyed an activity so much that you did not feel time passing? This intense absorption and involvement in what you were doing in the present moment is called flow, and it is generally pleasurable and fulfilling. In addition, the enjoyment is usually lasting and reinforcing and provides a natural high that is not accompanied by negative feelings.

Although it is easy to experience flow during our favorite activities, we can enjoy this feeling more often during other activities with practice, and experiencing flow will come more naturally. Consider these five tips:

  1. Control your attention – Try to keep your full attention on the task at hand. If your mind

wanders, bring it back to the present moment. If you are having a conversation with another person, try to stay completely focused on what they are saying. Be patient with yourself as you work to develop the ability to stay focused.

2. Adopt new perspectives – Try to enjoy life, even if it unfolds differently than you had planned. (Which it often does!) In order to do so, be open to new and different experiences, and be willing to keep learning until the day you die.

3. Recognize flow – Many times we do not realize that we are having these experiences. In order to create more of these in your life, you first have to recognize when they are happening so you can increase them.

4. Transform routine tasks – During dull, daily tasks, seek to add microflow activities to make them more meaningful. For example, while you are waiting at the doctor’s office, you could read a book or draw a picture. You could try to make your work more meaningful by viewing it as your calling in life rather than just a job. When brushing your teeth, try doing some lunges or squats. When driving, instead of listening to the radio, listen to audiobooks, podcasts or TED talks to learn new ideas.

5. Find the balance between challenge and skills – Flow experiences occur when we are sufficiently challenged to the point that our skills are stretched, but not so much that the task seems daunting. Activities that challenge your skills too much result in anxiety, while activities that are not challenging enough result in boredom; herein lies the paradox of flow experiences.

            The intrinsic rewards of engaging in these kinds of activities make you want to keep doing them, yet you have to continue stretching yourself because your progress will eventually leave you bored during the same experiences that were once exciting.

Finding activities that result in flow is exhilarating. Change things up by trying new things. Our brains crave variety and novelty. The key to finding flow is developing a balance between skills and challenges – finding something you are good at and enjoy, but that still stretches you a bit.

Voles Creating a Furry Underground Fury

A small, furry rodent – the vole – is showing up throughout Utah as this year’s record amount of snow melts. Orchards, residential lawns, pastures, and golf course lawns are feeling the brunt of the vole’s activity.

According to Terry Messmer, USU Extension wildlife specialist, voles are hands down the world’s most prolific mammals. Females can breed when they are a month old and produce litters of three to 10 pups every three weeks for the rest of their lives. They are also known for their boom-bust population cycles, with population levels peaking every two to five years.

“Voles pose no major public health problems because of infrequent contact with humans,” he said. “However, they can harbor infectious diseases like plague and tularemia. For this reason, wear protective leather gloves if handling them becomes necessary.”

Messmer said the gnaw marks and girdling damage voles cause are similar to many other species of wildlife, particularly rabbits. This, coupled with the vole’s small size and inconspicuous nature, often lead homeowners to believe another wildlife species causes vole damage. Vole girdling is characterized by non-uniform gnaw marks at various angles in irregular patches. In contrast, rabbits clip branches with neat, clean cuts. The gnaw marks left by voles are about 1/8 inch in width and 3/8 inch in length; gnaw marks caused by rabbits are usually larger. Careful examination of girdling damage can help identify the animal.

“The most prominent sign of vole damage in yards and fields is their extensive runway systems,” he said. “Runways are 1 to 2 inches in width, and vegetation is often close to the ground next to these well-traveled routes.”

Messmer said removing weeds, ground cover and litter around lawns and plantings can reduce habitat suitability for voles and help decrease their damage. Mulch should be cleared 3 feet or more from the base of trees. Soil cultivation destroys vole runway systems and may kill voles outright. Because of this, annual plant areas are often less susceptible to vole damage than perennial plant areas.

Cylinders made of hardware cloth (found at most hardware stores) can effectively discourage voles and protect individual plants. The mesh size of the cloth should be no larger than 1/4 inch. The cylinder should be buried at least 6 inches below the ground to ensure that voles will not burrow under it and get to the plant. This will protect individual plants, but fencing is often ineffective in covering large areas such as lawns, and it is also cost prohibitive.

“The EPA approves two chemicals for repelling voles,” Messmer said. “These two repellents may contain thiram, a fungicide, or capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers ‘hot’ and alters the taste of plants, making them unpalatable to voles. Although these repellents may temporarily protect plants, their effectiveness is usually short-lived.”

Messmer said for fields and other large rural areas, the EPA currently approves two toxicants— zinc phosphide and anticoagulants. Of these, zinc phosphide (2 percent) is more commonly used and is available in pellet and grain bait formulas and is typically broadcast at 6 to 10 pounds per acre.

“Hand placing the bait in burrows and runways greatly reduces the risk to other species,” he said. “Zinc phosphide is toxic to humans when ingested and may be absorbed through the skin, so always wear gloves and safely dispose of it. Zinc phosphide is a restricted-use chemical, and those who apply it must be certified applicators.”

Messmer said anticoagulant baits are also effective in reducing voles.

“Approximately 95 percent of mice and rats are controlled with anticoagulants,” he said. “Anticoagulants can be broadcast over an area or placed in runways and burrows. Baits can be glued to the inside of a water-repellent paper tube. Anticoagulants work much slower than zinc phosphide, and death is delayed for several days following ingestion of a lethal dose. Anticoagulants can be toxic to humans and pets. Use caution in urban areas, and only deliver them using pet- and child-proof bait boxes. For these reasons, I would discourage using them where children and pets frequent.”

Messmer said that trapping voles can effectively control small vole populations, but it is not cost-effective in larger areas because of their high reproductive rates. If voles invade a house (which is unusual), remove them as you would house mice with snap traps or live traps.

For more information about vole baits and control, contact your local USU Extension office or visit http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/NR_WD_009.pdf.

April Gardening Checklist

The snow is finally melting, and soon it will be time to plant! Consider these tips to help you prepare. Included are tips and links from the Utah State University Extension Gardeners Almanac.

  • Plant seeds of cool-season vegetables (peas, lettuce, spinach, radishes) as soon as garden soil is workable.
  • Check out over 55 vegetable and herb fact sheets produced by USU Extension.
  • Consider planting peas in the garden every 2-3 weeks (until early May) to extend the harvest. 
  • Now is a great time to learn how to plant and harvest asparagus and rhubarb
  • Control young garden weeds by hoeing or hand-pulling.
  • Protect fruit blossoms and tender garden plants from late critical freezing temperatures.
  • If storing bulbs, check to make sure they are firm, and remove any soft or rotten bulbs.
  • Wait to prune roses until 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 that have had prior problems with iron chlorosis.
  • Use organic (wood chips or bark) mulches 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 such as crabgrass and spurge in the lawn.
  • Learn about lawn care and planting
  • In compacted sites, aerate with a hollow core aerator when turfgrass is actively growing, usually from April to June.
  • Check your sprinkler system for leaks. Clean filters, and fix and align heads.

Pests and Problems:

For more tips, visit garden.usu.edu. Here you will find information on gardening courses, growing and maintaining the yard and garden, drought resources, and the Extension Gardener’s Almanac with monthly tips.

Five Tips to Help Beat the Winter Blues 

As winter drags on into spring this year, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is becoming a challenge for many. SAD is a type of depression that occurs primarily during winter and is caused by various factors, including decreased exposure to sunlight and altitude. The higher the altitude where you live, the more likely it is that you could experience mood shifts and SAD. 

Symptoms of SAD can include weight gain, increased appetite, carbohydrate cravings, excessive sleep, decreased interest in activities, and low energy levels during the day.

The good news is there are things you can do to combat SAD. Consider these tips. 

* Exercise outdoors. Regular physical exercise can reduce depressive symptoms by up to 50%. And if you exercise outside, the exposure to natural sunlight can increase the benefits. Dress warmly and get outside as often as possible for your daily exercise routine. If you can’t, exercise in a room with as much natural light as possible.

Outdoor activities to consider include: snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, trail hiking, neighborhood walks, ice skating, sledding, shoveling snow for a neighbor, building snowmen or igloos, ice fishing, bird watching, or hunting.

* Reframe negative thoughts. Our thoughts influence how we feel. Identify and question negative thoughts, focusing on disproving them or considering what advice you’d give to a friend experiencing similar thoughts.

* Practice gratitude. Focusing on gratitude can improve overall happiness and help stave off depressive symptoms by shifting the brain’s focus toward positive experiences. Click here to read how gratitude can actually change the brain. 

* Strengthen connections with loved ones. Our level of connection to friends and family influences our mental well-being. Create positive experiences and atmospheres with friends and family through phone calls, playdates, walks, hugs, or sharing daily highs and lows.

* Prioritize self-care. Be aware of your personal needs for optimal well-being, and take action to meet those needs. Remember, self-care is crucial for maintaining mental and emotional health. If you don’t take care of yourself, who will? 

Click here to see references and links. 

By: Eva Timothy, Utah State University Extension assistant professor, eva.timothy@usu.edu, 435-864-1483

How Sharing Family Stories Can Strengthen Relationships

How many family stories do you know? There may be stories of migration or comedies about great-grandma or uncle so-and-so that have been passed down. Family members may have survived natural disasters, served in the armed forces, or had a successful business. These shared stories can be influential in developing family and individual identity because stories are important for understanding the world. Sharing family stories is also a powerful way to strengthen and unite family members. Family stories that show examples of overcoming challenges can help younger generations find the strength to overcome their own struggles.

Research shows that when children know more about their family, they are more resilient, have higher self-esteem, better self-control, lower anxiety levels, fewer behavioral problems, and are more prepared to make good decisions when facing challenges. Family events such as holiday gatherings, mealtimes, and vacations are good times to share family stories. Sharing different people’s perspectives of a story is also enjoyable as families gather and reminisce. Keeping a record of the stories is essential, but it doesn’t have to be elaborate. It has been shown that writing them down or typing and printing them is more meaningful and preserves them better than digital recordings since formats and equipment change frequently. If preserved in a way that can be replayed, video and voice recordings can be fun for future generations.

Stories of both triumph and failure teach essential life lessons. Humorous anecdotes that include misunderstandings or coincidences, or just using humor to make life more enjoyable, also teach valuable skills. As you plan summer reunions and family time, be intentional about sharing family stories. Ideas include: playing ancestor bingo, visiting a place of significance to your family, celebrating birthdays for deceased family members, playing games family members enjoyed, and making a favorite family recipe book. Other ideas include showing photos of what family members looked like in their youth and determining who looks alike now, creating a family history time capsule, and doing family service projects.

Remember – the family activities and traditions you create now become family stories for future generations. For more information on making family stories powerful, visit: How Family Stories Can Strengthen and Unite. To see article references, click here

Cracking the Dilemma of Raising Backyard Chickens

In challenging economic times, many people ponder the purchase of chickens as part of their domestic safety net. Successfully raising chickens, however, requires thoughtful consideration and research. It is distinctly different than stocking up on food storage and bottled water. 

“As a veterinarian, I have seen birds that are not properly cared for,” said David Frame, Utah State University Extension poultry specialist. “Most of this is simply due to lack of knowledge and is seldom caused by willful neglect, but it is important to be aware of all the requirements and responsibilities before you jump into raising backyard chickens.”

Frame said raising chickens at home to produce eggs and meat is tied to a considerable economic investment. Proper housing and rearing areas need to be constructed, electricity is needed for lighting, and an effective heat source must be available for brooding chicks. There is also the investment in feed. 

“To produce a dozen eggs, approximately four pounds of feed are necessary,” he said. “And this does not include the additional feed required to grow the hens to reproductive age. The larger the chicken, the more you will pay in maintenance costs. All things considered, it would indeed be rare that home-produced eggs and poultry products would prove to be more economical than purchasing eggs and fryers from the supermarket, even at today’s higher costs.”

Frame said there are many reasons people want to raise chickens, even knowing the costs, but there are things to know before purchasing a flock. Here are eight important considerations:

1. Check with city/county ordinances and HOAs regarding raising poultry to ensure it is feasible in your location. 

2. Research, purchase, and set up all proper equipment. Learn about necessary equipment and feed requirements before you purchase the chicks.

3. Buy chicks from National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP)-certified sources only. This certification assures that breeder flocks have been rigorously tested to be found free of specific devastating egg-transmissible diseases. Most commercial wholesalers who sell to reputable feed store chains are NPIP-certified.

4. Be sure you have adequate outdoor space and shelter for the chickens once they are fully feathered and are moved out of the brooder. Provide at least two feet of floor space per bird in an enclosed coop.

5. Provide plenty of clean, fresh water, and feed your chickens a nutritious diet based on appropriate commercial feed.

6. Protect the chickens from rats, mice, raccoons, skunks, and other creatures. Do this by enclosing the birds at night in a well-constructed coop with tight-fitting doors, windows, and a floor impervious to digging. Keep feeders and waterers off the floor. Maintain a perimeter around the coop of at least six feet that is clear of weeds, junk, and other debris that could harbor rodents.

7. Be a good neighbor. Ensure that your chickens are confined to your yard and cannot enter neighbors’ yards or gardens.

8. Protect your chickens and yourself from possible diseases. Keep wild birds out of the coop. Wash and disinfect hands before and after gathering eggs. Do not keep chickens in the house or let children cuddle them. Do not let neighbors and others come to see your chickens – especially if they have chickens of their own.

Frame concluded that raising chickens can be a fulfilling endeavor, but be sure to do the proper research so you are fully aware of costs, space requirements, and responsibilities. 

Writer: Julene Reese, Julene.Reese@usu.edu, 435-757-6418

Contact: David Frame, David.Frame@usu.edu, 435-283-7586