Care and How-To Articles - Vegetables and Herbs
As winter fades and spring arrives, several things can be done to prepare the garden for the upcoming growing season.
Below are tips for the perennial garden, vegetable garden, annual containers, trees & shrubs, and lawns.
Microgreens are easy to grow – even indoors in winter in Iowa. All that is needed is a few supplies, some microgreen seeds, and a sunny window.
Manure is the oldest fertilizer known to civilization. Many gardeners feel manure is superior to synthetic products. Careful and appropriate use of manure, especially in vegetables gardens, is important.
Although herbs are commonly used for their medicinal and culinary uses, they can also be very ornamental. Ornamental perennial and annual herbs offer the added benefits of varying leaf color, texture, fragrance, and flowers. These multifunctional plants make wonderful additions to any garden from spring to fall.
Herbs are a wonderful addition to any garden. They can be grown in vegetable gardens, flower gardens, or in containers. Growing herbs in containers is a great way to have fresh herbs close to the kitchen for cooking. Some container-grown herbs can then be moved indoors when the growing season is over for further enjoyment.
Even while the weather is cold outside, it is still possible to enjoy fresh herbs for cooking. Taking advantage of a sunny window in your home can allow for herbs to thrive all year. Learn more below about how to grow herbs indoors.
Herbs are plants valued for their flavor, fragrance, and medicinal uses. An enjoyable group of plants to grow, herbs require little space and care. Herbs have few insect or disease problems and generally require only moderate soil fertility levels. They can be grown easily in an apartment-sized plot, among flowers, as part of the vegetable garden, or in containers on a patio or windowsill.
Learn more about growing, harvesting, drying, preserving, and using herbs in your garden. Details about your favorite herb are also included.
The late growing season is a good time to collect seeds from vegetables and flowers. Seed saving allows gardeners to preserve heirloom varieties or their favorite plants from year to year. Below are the basics of harvesting, preparing, and storing seed from your garden.
https://www.iowapbs.org/shows/gardeningsteil/digital-short/3531/plant-shoppingIn spring, many gardeners will be at nurseries, greenhouses, and garden centers looking to buy plants. Selecting the right species and cultivar of a plant for the landscape by matching sun, water, soil, winter hardiness, and other growing requirements is important. Equally important is selecting high-quality plants. Below is advice on how to purchase high-quality plants from the garden center.
Proper storage conditions for seeds are essential to maintain viability and good germination at planting time. Seeds should be kept dry and cool. A sealed glass jar can keep excess moisture out and protect seeds from pests like mice or insects. Store jars in a cool, dry location such as a cool closet, root cellar, or refrigerator. Test the germination rate on the seeds about one month prior to planting.
Mid-March is the best time to start many vegetables and annual flowers indoors for transplanting outside once the threat of frost has past.
Regardless of what type of seed you're growing, to have the best success follow these basic tips:
- Start with fresh seed and clean materials.
- Consult the package to determine how early to start the seed indoors - do not start seed too early.
- Provide abundant light.
- Do not over or under water.
- Raise the humidity during germination.
- If possible warm the germination mix/soil.
More details about starting seeds indoors can be found below.
There are many different options for containers that can be used to start seedlings.
For many home gardeners, starting seeds indoors is great fun. Successfully growing seedlings indoors requires high-quality seeds, a germination medium, containers, lights, and other supplies.
For many home gardeners, it's fun to get a head start on the upcoming garden season by starting seedlings indoors. Growing quality seedlings indoors requires high-quality seeds, a germination medium/potting mix, containers, proper temperature and moisture conditions, and adequate light.
Learn all of the steps to successfully start seeds indoors for your garden.
Managing weeds in the vegetable garden is important for growing healthy and productive plants. There are several methods that can be used to manage weeds and in most cases using several methods together will produce the best results. All of these methods can be considered "organic" except those that utilize herbicides.
Germination requirements (light and temperature) vary among the different annuals and vegetables. The various crops also differ in the length of time from seed sowing until the seedlings are planted outdoors. Below is germination and growing information for commonly grown annual flowers, herbs, and vegetables.
October is pumpkin season! Whether its pumpkin pie or pumpkin spiced lattes, cute décor or scary jack-o-lanterns, many of us enjoy pumpkins when autumn arrives.
Below are answers to common pumpkin questions.
Few vegetables have the ability to grow to the enormous sizes of pumpkins and squashes. The size of world champion pumpkins is staggering. Giant pumpkins have been recorded with a circumference of greater than 10 feet or weighing over one thousand pounds. While attaining a half-ton jack-o-lantern may not be your goal, growing giant pumpkins is certainly fun for many gardeners. With proper cultivar selection and diligent care, growing giant pumpkins can be rewarding. You might even want to get that "Big Pumpkin" form filled out for the county or state fair!
While tomatoes and peppers thrive in the summer heat, many crops prefer the cooler weather of fall. Cool season crops, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce, may bolt (go to seed) or become bitter in summer making them prime candidates for fall gardening. Planning for a fall vegetable garden is a great way to make up for spring mishaps or just extend your garden harvest. To get started you'll need seeds and a calendar.
While spring is the traditional planting season in Iowa, late summer and early fall (mid-August to early October) is an excellent time to plant many landscape plants. Below is advice on fall planting of trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, spring-flowering bulbs, lawns, and vegetables.
Trees & Shrubs | Perennials | Annuals | Bulbs | Lawns | Vegetables | More Information
The first step to creating any new garden bed in your lawn is to remove the existing sod. There are several methods you can take to remove the turfgrass and each has its own advantages and limitations. Which method you choose depends on the time it takes, the amount of work it requires, and your personal preferences.
Use the guide below to determine which method of sod removal is best for your situation.
Some plants in the landscape need a little extra protection to make it through the winter months. Here is what you need to know to successfully overwinter plants in Iowa.
When autumn arrives, several things can be done to prepare the garden for winter and the following growing season.
Perennials | Vegetable Garden | Annual Beds & Containers | Woody Trees & Shrubs | Lawns | More Information
Harvesting vegetables at the right stage of maturity ensures the best taste and quality. Many vegetables should be picked throughout the summer to maintain plant productivity. The time, frequency, and method of harvesting vary depending on species. Vegetables, such as standard sweet corn, have a very small harvest period. Others, such as many of the root crops, can remain in the garden for several weeks with little effect on their taste. Some vegetables, like summer squash, have to be harvested almost daily. Other plants, such as tomatoes, can be harvested on a weekly basis.
Use the table below to determine the optimal time to pick and enjoy your favorite vegetables.
When a summer heat wave arrives, it can be stressful for the plants and gardeners alike. The plants of your landscape will require a little more TLC to make it through periods of extreme heat. Below are a few tips to protect your lawn, garden, and landscape when temperatures soar.
Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, mustard, endive, and chard are great cool-season vegetable crops. They are some of the easiest vegetables to grow making them perfect for beginners.
Watering is one of the most frequent tasks performed in any garden or landscape. Proper watering utilizes water responsibly, reducing evaporation and runoff. There are many ways to make the process easier and better for the gardener and the plants. Use the tips below to water the perennials, annuals, containers, hanging baskets, lawns, trees, shrubs, and vegetables in your landscape.
One of the familiar pests of the garden is the Colorado potato beetle, also known as the "potatobug." It's interesting to note that potatobugs were very familiar to Iowans through the first half of the 20th century but that they seemed to disappear for a while only to re-emerge as a major pest problem in the 1990s and remain widespread and destructive to this day. Colorado potato beetles feed on the foliage of potato, tomato, eggplant, pepper and other related plants. They are most damaging to potatoes where the defoliation reduces yields and may even kill plants.
Beans are one of America's favorite garden vegetables. They are referred to by many different names - green beans, snap beans, string beans - all describe the same vegetable. Early bean cultivars were stringy, hence the term "string" beans. Modern cultivars are stringless, tender, and crisp. Since they snap easily, these new cultivars are referred to as snap beans. Green beans may be classified as bush or pole beans. Bush-type beans are low-growing plants that grow 1 to 2 feet in height. Pole beans are vining plants which must be supported by a fence or stakes.
Have you ever heard about this gardening tip: "Never plant cucumbers next to squash or melons because they will cross pollinate and the fruit will be off-tasting"? Although it may sound logical, this is not true for reasons that relate to the process of pollination and fertilization. A review of the lesson on the "birds and the bees" may be helpful in understanding flowering, pollination, and fruit development in members of the cucurbit family - squash, melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers.
Organic mulches serve several important functions in gardens and landscape plantings.
These many benefits make the use of mulch very beneficial in a wide range of garden settings. When choosing which organic mulch to use, consider availability, cost, appearance, function, and durability.
Each spring home gardeners buy bedding plants (annual flowers and vegetables) from local garden centers and greenhouses. To help ensure a successful start to the gardening season, select strong, healthy plants and harden them outdoors for a few days before planting. Proper planting is another key to success.
Select short, stocky plants with dark green foliage. Avoid tall, spindly plants. Smaller seedlings become established in the garden more quickly than larger ones. Also, smaller plants are often more productive. When selecting bedding plants, "large" is usually not better.