Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
I have several rows of grapevines. What would be a good cover crop between rows?
Answer:

Kentucky bluegrass is an excellent choice.  Bluegrass provides good cover, yet is less competitive than other cover crops.  Late summer (mid-August to mid-September) is the best time to establish bluegrass by seed.  Do not sow...

Question:
What are hedge apples?
Answer:

The “hedge apple” is the yellow-green, softball-sized fruit of the Osage-orange (Maclura pomifera).  The Osage-orange is a small- to medium-sized tree.  It commonly grows 25 to 30 feet tall.  The Osage-orange is dioecious...

Question:
Can the butterfly weed be divided?
Answer:

The butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a member of the milkweed family.  Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall and produce flat-topped clusters of bright orange flowers from July through September.  Their flowers attract several...

Question:
How can you tell when to harvest honeydew melons?
Answer:

Unlike muskmelons, the fruit of honeydews do not slip off the vine when mature.  The best indicator of ripeness is a slight softening of the blossom end of the fruit.  There may also be a subtle change in the color of the honeydew....

Question:
How deep should I plant daffodils?
Answer:

Plant spring-flowering bulbs at a depth equal to 3 to 4 times their maximum bulb diameter.  Accordingly, daffodils and tulips should be planted 6 to 8 inches deep, crocuses and grape hyacinths 3 to 4 inches deep.  Large bulbs, such as...

Question:
When should I harvest spaghetti squash?
Answer:

Harvest spaghetti squash when the fruit color changes from ivory white to golden yellow.  When harvesting spaghetti squash, leave a 1-inch stem attached to each fruit.  Store mature fruit in a cool, dry location.  

Question:
How do I care for a ponytail palm?
Answer:

The ponytail palm or elephant-foot tree (Beaucarnea recurvata) is an easy to grow, low maintenance houseplant.  Plant characteristics include a swollen, bulb-like base and long, strap-like leaves which arch out from the stem...

Question:
When should I plant garlic?
Answer:

Garlic cloves should be planted in fall (October to early November) or early spring (late March to mid-April).  Plant cloves 1 inch deep with the pointed side up.  Fall-planted garlic should be mulched with a 4- to 6-inch-layer of weed-...

Question:
What is the proper way to plant a balled and burlapped tree?
Answer:

Dig a hole that is 2 to 3 times wider than the diameter of the tree’s rootball.  The depth of the hole should be 2 or 3 inches less than the height of the rootball.  Slope the sides of the hole so the top of the hole is several inches...

Question:
How do I control white clover in my lawn?
Answer:

White clover (Trifolium repens) is a creeping perennial.  It is a common plant in many Iowa lawns because it is a prolific seed producer and adapts well to mowing and other lawn care practices.  Its presence is often a sign of...

Question:
How can I prevent deer from rubbing off the bark on small trees in the yard?
Answer:

In fall, bucks rub their antlers on trees to remove the dried velvet from their antlers and to mark their territory.  This rubbing removes the thin layer of bark on small trees and can seriously damage or destroy them.  Trunk damage...

Question:
How can I over-winter my geraniums indoors?
Answer:

Geraniums (Pelargonium) can be overwintered indoors by potting up individual plants, taking cuttings, or storing bare-root plants in a cool, dry location.  Remove plants from the garden (or take cuttings) prior to the first fall...

Question:
I have wort-like growths on the undersides of my grape leaves. What is it and does it need to be controlled?
Answer:

The wort-like growths on the grape leaves were probably caused by the grape phylloxera.  The grape phylloxera is a small, aphid-like insect.  The grape phylloxera has a complex life cycle that affects the leaves and roots of the...

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:
What is a good storage site for spring-flowering bulbs?
Answer:

Tulip, daffodil, hyacinth, and other spring-flowering bulbs usually begin arriving in garden centers and other retail businesses in late August.  Spring-flowering bulbs purchased in late summer should be stored in a cool, dry place (such as...

Question:
Is late summer/early fall a good time to plant trees?
Answer:

Mid-August through September is an excellent time to plant pine, spruce, and other evergreens.  (Evergreens planted in late October or November may not have adequate time to become established before the onset of winter and could be subject...

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...

Question:
How do I germinate butterfly weed seeds?
Answer:

Harvest the seed pods of butterfly weed when the pods begin to split.  Seeds can be sown directly outdoors in late fall or started indoors.  

When sowing seeds outdoors, work up the soil in a protected location in early to mid-...

Question:
What is the best way to store left-over flower and vegetable seeds?
Answer:

If stored properly, the seeds of many vegetables and flowers will remain viable (alive) for 2 to 3 years. 

Keep them Cool and Dry

Ideal storage conditions are cool and dry.  Keep the seeds in their original packets so...

Question:
How should I prepare my garden tools for winter?
Answer:

Proper care of garden tools and equipment prolongs their lifetime, prevents costly repairs, and improves their performance.  In fall, remove caked-on soil from shovels, spades, hoes, and rakes with a wire brush or stiff putty knife. ...

Question:
What is the proper way to store pumpkins?
Answer:

Curing

After harvesting the pumpkins, cure them at a temperature of 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and 80 percent relative humidity for 10 days.  Curing helps to harden their skins and heal any cuts and scratches.  

...

Question:
Which lawn care practices enhance the absorption of broadleaf herbicides?
Answer:

To insure adequate leaf surface and herbicide absorption, don’t mow the lawn 2 to 3 days before treatment.  After treatment, allow 3 to 4 days to pass before mowing.  This allows sufficient time for the broadleaf weeds to absorb the...

Question:
What type of grass seed mix should I purchase?
Answer:

When purchasing grass seed, select a high quality seed mix that is best adapted to the site.  Kentucky bluegrass is the best choice for sunny areas that receive at least 6 hours of direct sun each day.  Choose a seed mix that contains...

Question:
What would be a good planting site for chrysanthemums?
Answer:

Chrysanthemums perform best in moist, well-drained soils.  Avoid wet, poorly drained sites.  Improve hard, difficult-to-work soils by incorporating 2 to 3 inches of organic matter, such as compost, peat, or barnyard manure, into the...

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