Get Ready to Garden!

Get Ready to Garden Blog

The first day of spring is right around the corner. This means that the growing season is right around the corner too! Get ready to garden and enjoy the beautiful weather with these helpful resources from USU Extension.

Author – Taun Beddes, USU Extension Horticulturist

With the growing season fast approaching, many people are anxious to work in the yard. This can be fun for some, but overwhelming for those new to gardening, concerned about major pest or disease problems or installing a new landscape.
Fortunately for gardeners, Utah State University Extension offers free or low-cost resources to assist in horticulture and many other areas and has offices that serve every county in the state. Additionally, recommendations are research-based and nonbiased.
For someone new to gardening, getting started can be confusing. USU Extension offers help with free, easy-to-follow fact sheets for commonly grown vegetables. The fact sheets include information about when to plant, how to prepare the soil, how to fertilize, harvest times and solutions to common problems. Fact sheets can be found at:http://extension.usu.edu/productionhort/htm/vegetables/home-vegetables. Another resource on vegetable varieties for the home garden is available at: http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/Horticulture_Vegetables_2014-02.pdf.
Deciding which fruit tree to plant can be difficult. Mike Pace, USU Extension agent in Box Elder County, home to Utah’s famous fruit way, has built a web page with fruit varieties and descriptions that can be helpful to home growers. It is available at: http://extension.usu.edu/boxelder/htm/fruit.
During the growing season, it is common to find landscape or garden plants that look unhealthy, but it can be difficult to determine what is wrong. Local USU Extension offices are available to assist, and USU Extension also has a pest and disease diagnostic lab with scientists who can diagnose plant samples mailed to them. They charge $7 per sample to cover costs. Click http://utahpests.usu.edu/uppdl/ for information. Another service the pest lab offers is their free, email Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Advisory with updates on how to manage pests and diseases in fruits and vegetables. Their pesticide spray recommendations include lower-risk and organic options. To subscribe, visit http://utahpests.usu.edu/ipm and you will receive email updates throughout the growing season. They do not share email addresses.
Soil is one of the most neglected but important considerations when starting a new yard or garden. Soil testing can determine if soil in a particular area is suitable for growing crops and landscape plants. Testing is inexpensive and useful in identifying or eliminating soil as the factor in an area where plants consistently struggle. The USU Analytical Laboratory can test soil for such things as nutrient levels, soil texture, salinity and pH. Visit the website at: www.usual.usu.edu. The form for soil testing can be downloaded at:http://usual.usu.edu/forms/soilform.pdf. The routine test can be very beneficial for homeowners and hobby gardeners.
Another common concern many gardeners have is selecting the right trees for their landscape. An online, interactive program is available at www.treebrowser.org.  The program allows users to list their desired characteristics, and a list of compatible trees with pictures is then generated.
USU Extension also offers information in many other areas including food preservation, finances and youth development. Visit extension.usu.edu for further information.

Fun Money Apps for Kids? Yep, They Exist!

Finance Jazz

In this age of technology, smartphones, apps and online games have become the norm for children, with thousands of options to choose from. While many apps offer little educational value, did you know hundreds of apps out there can help your children learn while playing?

Check out this video clip from Channel 5 to learn about finance apps that teach kids about money and savings. Though financial topics can be overwhelming to children, these apps make learning about money simple and fun!

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Spice Up Your Life!

Spice Blog

We all know how easy it is to buy taco seasoning and other spices at the store. When you need flavor in a hurry, the quick fix is packaged spice mixes. Have you ever thought about making your own?

Although it may seem intimidating, making spice mixes and seasonings at home is easier than you think! Along with the financial benefits of making your own spice mixes, homemade blends offer more flavor without any preservatives, fillers, or added sodium.

Click here to find easy recipes for your own seasonings so you can spice up your life!

Bully Proofing Your Child

Author – Carolyn Washburn, Extension Professor

Bully-Proof Blog

One of parents’ biggest fears is having their child be bullied. Although bullying is a major issue in today’s society, all parents have the ability to empower their children and help make them resilient against bullying.

No one wants to have their children bullied. Yet one out of every four youth report that they have experienced being bullied. More than 160,000 U.S. students stay home from school each day for fear of being bullied. Bullying is often listed as a major cause of depression and suicide.

How do parents combat this behavior of threats, spreading rumors, verbal and physical attacks, and social media cyberbullying? One strong approach is to make sure you are building strong self-esteem and values into your children. Teach them to respect themselves and others. Spend time talking and listening to your child. Encourage youth to find good community support programs and activities such as 4-H community programs. If you are interested in finding additional things to help children build self-esteem, visit the Search Institutes website and learn about their Developmental Assets. Search Institutes materials can provide many ideas and resources that can help in building strong, resilient youth.

Self-esteem is built by experiences, relationships, and how people feel about themselves. Having successful experiences and overcoming unsuccessful experiences builds positive self-worth. Assertiveness is a positive way of expressing yourself and gaining self-respect.

These words: self-esteem, self-worth, self-respect are what we believe about ourselves. At times, they may fluctuate with our life experiences, but rebuilding is important for happiness and success. Strong communities have strong families and strong youth. Strong youth have good self-esteem. It is important!

carolyn-washburnCarolyn Washburn is a family consumer sciences agent for Utah State University Extension. Her responsibilities include financial management education, food safety and nutrition, healthy family relations, emergency preparedness and working with youth. Her goal is to help individuals and families become self-sustaining and resilient by being financially prepared and healthy for any emergency. She serves on the National Disaster Education Network and has just completed the new food storage manual for USDA. Her most cherished award is America’s Promise, awarded by Colin Powell.

7 Factors That Prolong Your Food Storage Supply

Author – Carolyn Washburn, Extension Professor

Food Storage 2 Blog

Getting in the habit of storing food has many benefits. These benefits range from financial savings to having a balanced diet throughout the year. Above all, learning how you can get the most out of your food storage will help eliminate stress and ensure peace of mind.

Storing food is a traditional, domestic skill that has been used for thousands of years in time of plenty to prepare for times of famine or when food is in short supply. Wheat found stored in vessels in the tombs of Egypt was still edible after 4,000 years. Regularly, food is preserved and stored to be eaten from harvest to harvest as families strive to be self-sustaining. It is interesting to note that food is stored by almost every human society and by many animals. Maintaining a food supply often ensures savings of time and money and provides safety and security in time of need. Storing food has several main purposes:

  • Preserves harvested and processed food products for later use
  • Provides a balanced diet throughout the year
  • Prepares for catastrophes, emergencies and periods of food scarcity or famine
  • Religious reasons
  • Peace of mind
  • Provides self-sustainability

Factors that affect food storage:

Temperature: The temperature at which food is stored is very critical to shelf life. United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, states that for every 10.8 degrees in temperature rise you decrease the shelf life of stored food by half. The best range for food storage is a constant temperature between 40-60 degrees. Avoid freezing temperatures.

Moisture: It is recommended to remove moisture when storing foods. For long-term storage, foods should have a 10% or less moisture content.

Oxygen: Foods store best when oxygen free. Removing oxygen will prevent oxidation of compounds in foods. Ways to remove oxygen:

  • Displacing oxygen – Purge air from product with an inert gas (nitrogen). Dry ice is often used giving off carbon dioxide gas, which displaces oxygen.
  • Oxygen absorber – Air contains about 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen, leaving about 1% for the other gasses. If the oxygen is absorbed, what remains is 99% pure nitrogen in a partial vacuum.

Light: This form of energy can degrade the value of foods. Store food in dark areas.

Container: Store foods in food-grade plastic, metal or glass containers indicating that the container does not contain chemicals that could be transferred to food and be harmful to your health. For best storage life, use containers with a hermetic (air tight) seal. Containers with air tight seals are:

  • #10 cans
  • Sealable food storage buckets
  • Sealable food quality metal (lined) or plastic drums
  • Foil pouches
  • PETE bottles (for dry products such as wheat, corn, and beans)

The containers listed above, used with oxygen absorber packets, eliminate food-borne insects and help preserve nutritional quality and taste.

Warning – Botulism poisoning may result if moist products are stored in packaging that reduces oxygen. When stored in airtight containers with oxygen absorbers, products must be dry (about 10% or less moisture content).

Infestation: Several common insects infest home-stored dried foods.   To control with cold treatment, put infested items in a deep freeze (0 degrees) for three to four days which will kill any live insects, larva and eggs.

Shelf date is the “best if used by” date, meaning that you are getting most of the original taste and nutrition. The “life sustaining shelf life” date means the length of time that food is still edible.

carolyn-washburnCarolyn Washburn is a family consumer sciences agent for Utah State University Extension. Her responsibilities include financial management education, food safety and nutrition, healthy family relations, emergency preparedness and working with youth. Her goal is to help individuals and families become self-sustaining and resilient by being financially prepared and healthy for any emergency. She serves on the National Disaster Education Network and has just completed the new food storage manual for USDA. Her most cherished award is America’s Promise, awarded by Colin Powell.

H2O is the Way to Go

Author – GaeLynn Peterson

Lady Exercising 2 Blog

What do people, sheep and pine trees have in common? They all need WATER! In the hot days of summer, we’re more apt to get the water we need. Perhaps it just tastes better in the summer, but we need hydration just as much in the winter!

According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, the main chemical component that makes up 60 percent of our body weight is water and it only takes a 1 to 2 percent loss of fluid to cause dehydration. Every system in the body depends on water. The functions of this bodily fluid include digestion, absorption, circulation, lubrication and maintenance of body temperature.

It is estimated that we lose 8 cups (64 ounces) of water a day depending on age, activity level, the weather, and general health. We can replace lost liquid with some of the foods we eat in addition to the liquids we drink. Experts suggest several reasons for drinking plenty of water:

  1. It can control calories – water is not a magic bullet for weight loss, but choosing water over a high caloric beverage and eating water-rich foods that are healthy and more filling can help you trim your caloric intake. (Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., author of The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan.)
  2. It builds muscle tone – water prevents cramping and lubricates the joints.
  3. It lowers stress – 70 to 80 percent of the brain tissue is water. If you are dehydrated, your body and your mind are stressed.
  4. It boosts energy – water helps transport oxygen and other nutrients to the heart and other cells and amps up metabolism. If the water is cold, your body burns more calories to warm the water.
  5. It reduces kidney stones – water dilutes salts and minerals in your urine that can cause kidney stones.
  6. It nourishes your skin – water helps remove impurities and plumps up the skin cells, giving you a younger look. It also improves blood flow, which gives a healthy glow.
  7. It aids in digestion – water helps you stay regular by dissolving waste products and moving them smoothly through your digestive track.

                   The following tips from The U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health can help you get the water you need:

  1. Carry a water bottle with you when you are at work or running errands.
  2. Freeze water in freezer-safe water bottles to take with you all day.
  3. Choose water instead of other beverages when eating out.
  4. Give your water a little pizzazz by adding a wedge of lemon or lime.

If you are tired, stressed, have joint or headache pain or feel wrinkly and heavy — grab a glass of water. It may be just what the doctor ordered!

A Mouse Does Not Belong In Your House

Author – Julene Reese

Warm Weather Sparks Increased Reports of Mice Invading Homes

Have you had the unfortunate experience of finding a mouse, or mice (or signs of them) in your home? If so, you are not alone! These furry intruders are making their way inside through open doors and windows left open in the unseasonably warm weather. Click here to read what the USU Extension wildlife specialist has to say about making your home mouse free.


5 Traits that Make a Family Strong

Author – Kathleen Riggs

Have you ever looked at another family and wondered why they seem to have it all together? Have you wondered what their family has that yours doesn’t? Every family has its issues, but all families can be strong. Let’s take a look at five tips to help create and maintain strong families.

* Caring and Appreciation. A strong, healthy relationship is a worthwhile goal for everyone. Showing care and appreciation for another family member helps adults develop their potential and it provides a model for children.

* Time Together. In some ways, time is like money—it seems like we never have enough of either one. However, the truth is, we tend to find the time or money for those things that are most important. How important is time with your family?

* Encouragement. All families face tough times occasionally. Healthy families have confidence that they will survive any crisis and come back even stronger.

* Coping with Change. All families develop habits, routines and a set of rules. These patterns help deal with day-to-day life and provide continuity and stability. In strong families, patterns remain flexible or adaptable enough to cope with crises or other changes. These may require changes in habits, rules, power structure, roles and division of labor or ways of performing family tasks and functions.

* Clear Roles. Members of strong families have a clear idea about their day-to-day roles and obligations to the family. Roles must be flexible and can be shared. For instance, it’s okay for someone who usually cooks to take over fixing the car because of a need, or even boredom!

According to the experts, if you work on one trait, it will benefit another area (the spill-over effect).

Looking for more? I’ve included four more traits  in an easy and downloadable PDF. Click over to read, save and also PIN this post to reference later! These traits were identified by researchers from the University of Missouri Extension Service. Details are in their training for families titled: Building Strong Families: Challenges and Choices. 

kathy riggs Kathleen Riggs is the Utah State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences professor for Iron County. She loves yard/garden work, where  her favorite tasks are weeding and mowing the lawn. Her favorite appliance is the microwave oven, and her specialty is microwave caramels. She  loves family time and occasions that bring everyone together from near or far.

Spread the Love by Volunteering

Volunteer Blog
Author – Zuri Garcia, Extension Assistant Professor
            Whether it’s a soup kitchen, a classroom, a youth camp, or the street, people can be found volunteering.  Just in Utah, millions of volunteers are found spreading the love.  Utah is ranked number one for adult volunteering in the United States with $3 billion in services contributed in 2012.  Volunteering benefits both the community being served and the individual volunteer.
            Many people are motivated to volunteer because of the benefit to the community.  When money is put aside and free time is donated, more work can get done.  Organizations that are created to improve community and family life have a larger reach when volunteers are involved.  Community needs addressed through volunteering include: disaster services, economic opportunities, education, the environment, health and families.
            Volunteers benefit from the work they do in their communities.  There are social benefits to getting out and building relationships with fellow volunteers and individuals being served.  Volunteers become less isolated and feel a sense of purpose.  Physical and mental-health benefits also exist for volunteers.  Volunteering at an earlier stage in life may decrease the likeliness of suffering ill health later in life.  The more committed volunteers are, the more significant the benefits are that they receive from volunteering.  An average of one to two hours a week has been found to be significantly beneficial.
            Volunteering is a way to spread love throughout the community.  So how can you get started?  There are countless opportunities to volunteer. Your local Utah State University Extension office is a great place to start.  By looking at your personal interests and hobbies, you can decide what area of Extension would be the best fit.  If you like gardening, you might consider becoming a Master Gardener.  Are you an experienced food preserver?  Would starting a youth 4-H club be for you?  Do you have ranching experience?  Family finance is an important area of Extension, do you have a financial background?  The best part of volunteering is that it can be a lot of fun.  Go to http://extension.usu.edu/ to learn about USU Extension and start volunteering today.
Charts and Utah ranking stats retrieved from:  www.volunteeringinamerica.gov/UT
Farris, E., McKinley, S., Ayres, J., Peters, J., & Brady, C. (2009). County-level Extension Leadership:  Understanding volunteer board member motivation. Journal of Extension, 47, 5.
Corporation for National and Community Service, Office of Research and Policy
Development. The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research, Washington, DC 2007.

Ask a Specialist: Tomatoes in Winter a Possibility


By: Taun Beddes, USU Extension horticulturist, 801-851-8460, taun.beddes@usu.edu

Most people would love to eat freshly grown tomatoes year round. Though tomatoes can be grown in the winter in a greenhouse, this can become expensive with the costs of heating and supplemental lighting, in addition to the cost of the greenhouse. The most likely option for hobbyists who want homegrown tomatoes throughout the year is to grow them in containers indoors. Consider this information.

  • Since most tomato varieties suitable for indoor use are only available as seeds, it is important to learn the basics of starting seeds indoors. The University of Minnesota has a helpful fact sheet available at: http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/flowers/starting-seeds-indoors/. Since the tomato plant will be grown indoors, planting dates can be disregarded.
  • Smaller tomato varieties are best suited for indoor growing. These often only grow 1 to 2 feet around. A few varieties that may work well include Tiny Tim, Micro Tom, Terenzo or Lizzano. These seeds can be found online.
  • For growing, choose a bright location such as a south or west-facing window to maximize the amount of sun the tomatoes receive. The window should not be drafty. Temperatures below 50 degrees can harm tomatoes, and temperatures above 90 degrees may inhibit fruit set. Grow tomatoes under a cool-white florescent light. If using compact florescent bulbs, make sure they are at least 100 watt equivalent or greater. Make sure the tops of the plants stay within 3-6 inches of the bulbs. Adjustable desk lamps or inexpensive shop light fixtures suspended from chains are commonly used lights. It is not necessary to purchase more expensive, specialized grow lights or systems.
  • Make sure the container is large enough to accommodate the root system. For the smallest varieties, a 1-gallon pot is sufficient. For larger varieties, choose a 2 or 3-gallon pot, and note that it is better to have a pot that is too large rather than one that is too small. Additionally, as long as the growing container has drainage holes, the material it is made from is less important.
  • Choose a good peat moss-based potting soil for indoor plants. Never use soil from the yard. Fertilize with a well-balanced houseplant fertilizer, either granular or liquid, and follow the package instructions. Be careful not to over water, and allow the soil to dry out moderately between irrigations.
  • A large plant that is well cared for will likely produce more, but may require more maintenance. The smaller varieties are more of a novelty and are less work, but will likely only produce enough fruit for an occasional salad or sandwich. At any rate, tomatoes in the winter can be a delicious treat and can also help brighten up a dreary winter home.