Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
How do I store salsify?
Answer:

Harvest salsify in mid- to late November as cool fall temperatures enhance the oyster-like flavor of the roots.  After harvest, trim off the foliage 1 inch above the roots and store the salsify at a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit and a...

Question:
Are there any trees or shrubs that bloom in winter?
Answer:

While most trees and shrubs bloom in spring or summer, witch hazels are a notable exception. Common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) blooms from mid-October to early December.  Vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) and...

Question:
Is canned pumpkin actually made from a mixture of butternut and other squashes?
Answer:

The terms pumpkin and squash are rather confusing.  Pumpkins are a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes squashes, cantaloupes, cucumbers, watermelons, and gourds.  A pumpkin is actually a type of squash.  The...

Question:
What types of Christmas trees are available?
Answer:

Tree species commonly available at tree farms and commercial lots in Iowa include Scotch pine, white pine, red pine, Fraser fir, balsam fir, Canaan fir, Douglas fir, white spruce, and Colorado spruce.  
 

Question:
How do I store parsnips?
Answer:

Harvest parsnips in mid- to late November as cool fall temperatures convert starch to sugar and give parsnips their distinctive flavor.  After harvest, trim the foliage back to within 1 inch of the roots.  Store parsnips at a...

Question:
Should I add any material to the water to prolong the freshness of my Christmas tree?
Answer:

Do not add molasses, sugar, soft drinks, aspirin, or commercial products to the water. Additives provide no real benefit. The keys to keeping a Christmas tree fresh are to place the tree away from any heat source (fireplace, heater, radiator, etc...

Question:
How long can a cut Christmas tree remain in the house?
Answer:

The length of time a cut Christmas tree can remain in the home is determined by the tree species, the freshness of the tree at purchase, and its placement and care in the home. In general, a fresh, well-cared-for Christmas tree should be able to...

Question:
How do I prevent rabbits from damaging trees and shrubs in winter?
Answer:

The most effective way to prevent rabbit damage to trees and shrubs in the home landscape is to place chicken wire fencing or hardware cloth around vulnerable plants. To adequately protect plants, the fencing material needs to be high enough that...

Question:
Which plants are most likely to be damaged by browsing rabbits in winter?
Answer:

Trees and shrubs that are often damaged by rabbits in winter include crabapple, apple, pear, redbud, honey locust, serviceberry, burning bush or winged euonymus, flowering quince, barberry, roses, and raspberries. Small evergreens (especially...

Question:
Where are cranberries grown commercially?
Answer:

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries.  Cranberry production in Wisconsin is located in central and northern parts of the state.  The state is forecast to produce 3.85...

Question:
Are sweet potatoes and yams the same thing?
Answer:

In the United States, sweet potatoes are often referred to as “yams.”  However, sweet potatoes and yams are different crops. 

Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are vining plants in the morning glory family.  They are...

Question:
How should I prepare my hybrid tea roses for winter?
Answer:

Most hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda, and other modern roses require protection during the winter months.  Low temperatures and rapid temperature changes in winter can severely injure and sometimes kill unprotected modern roses.  (...

Question:
How should I prepare mums for winter?
Answer:

Chrysanthemums are shallow-rooted plants.  Repeated freezing and thawing of the soil during the winter months can heave plants out of the ground and cause severe damage or even death.  Gardeners can increase the odds of their mums...

Question:
How do I care for a poinsettia?
Answer:

Place the poinsettia in a plant sleeve or carefully wrap it before transporting the plant home.  Exposing the poinsettia to freezing temperatures, even for a few minutes, may cause its bracts and leaves to blacken and drop.  As soon as...

Question:
Is the poinsettia poisonous?
Answer:

The poinsettia has long been regarded as poisonous.  However, research conducted at various institutions has shown the poinsettia is not poisonous.  While the poinsettia is not poisonous, it is not intended for human or animal...

Question:
How can I raise the relative humidity indoors for my houseplants?
Answer:

Many houseplants prefer a relative humidity of 40 to 50 percent.  Unfortunately, the humidity level in many homes during the winter months may be only 10 to 20 percent.  Humidifiers are an excellent way to increase the relative humidity...

Question:
Should houseplants be fertilized in winter?
Answer:

Fertilization is generally not necessary during the winter months as most houseplants are not growing during this time.  Indoor gardeners should fertilize their houseplants on a regular basis in spring and summer when plants are actively...

Question:
How do you force spring-flowering bulbs indoors?
Answer:

Spring-flowering bulbs that can be forced indoors include tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and crocuses.  While many bulb varieties can be forced, best results are obtained by selecting varieties recommended for forcing.  To enjoy spring-...

Question:
What factors should be considered when purchasing a Christmas tree for the holidays?
Answer:

A few decisions should be made before going out to buy a Christmas tree. Decide where you are going to place the tree in the home. Be sure to choose a location away from heat sources, such as a fireplace or radiator. Also, decide on the size (...

Question:
How can I determine the freshness of a cut Christmas tree?
Answer:

The freshness of cut Christmas trees can be determined with a few simple tests. Gently run your hand over a branch. The needles on a fresh tree will be pliable. Those on a dry tree will be brittle. Another test is to lift the tree by the trunk...

Question:
What is the best way to store a cut Christmas tree?
Answer:

If you don’t intend to set up the Christmas tree immediately, place the tree in a cool, sheltered location. An unheated garage or shed is often a suitable storage site. (The sun and wind dries out trees stored outdoors.) Put the butt of the tree...

Question:
When are trees and shrubs most vulnerable to rabbit browsing?
Answer:

In the home landscape, rabbits feed on herbaceous plants (annuals, perennials, vegetables, and grasses) during the growing season.  Trees and shrubs become food sources in late fall and winter (December through March).  Damage to trees...

Question:
I planted several pine trees this spring. How long should I continue to water the trees?
Answer:

The roots of trees continue to grow until the ground freezes.  If the weather is dry, continue to water the newly planted trees until the soil freezes in winter.  
 

Question:
There are small, round holes in many of the acorns on the ground. What made the holes?
Answer:

The small, round holes on the sides of the acorns were likely caused by the larvae of the acorn weevil.  

The adult acorn weevil is a brown beetle about 3/8 inch in length and has a long, thin snout.  Adult females lay their eggs...

Question:
My sweet potatoes have become dry and stringy. What caused this?
Answer:

It’s likely the sweet potatoes were not cured and stored properly.  After harvest, sweet potatoes should be cured for 7 to 10 days at a temperature of 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity of 80 to 90 percent.  (These...

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