Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
How can I keep raccoons out of my sweet corn?
Answer:

The most effective way to prevent damage to the sweet corn crop is to encircle the area with an electric fence.  A two-wire fence with one wire 4 to 6 inches above the ground and the other at 12 inches should keep the raccoons out of the...

Question:
Can hollies be successfully grown in Iowa?
Answer:

American holly (Ilex opaca) and English holly (Ilex aquifolium) are prized for their glossy, green leaves and brightly colored fruit. Sprigs of both hollies are often used in wreaths, centerpieces, and other Christmas...

Question:
When would be the best time to divide 'Autumn Joy' sedum?
Answer:

Early spring is the best time to divide ‘Autumn Joy’ and other upright, clump-forming varieties sedum (Hylotelephium).  Dig up plants in early spring just as new growth begins to appear.  Divide each clump into sections with a...

Question:
What are some good pear varieties for Iowa?
Answer:

Pear varieties (cultivars) that perform well in Iowa include:

  • ‘Summercrisp’ (University of Minnesota introduction, large fruit, matures early August)
  • ‘Moonglow’ (introduced by USDA, medium to large fruit, matures mid-August...
Question:
Do blueberries have insect and disease problems?
Answer:

Phytophthora root rot can be a serious problem in poorly drained sites.  Phytophthora root rot can be avoided by planting blueberries in well-drained soils.  Outside of root rots, blueberries generally have few insect and disease...

Question:
How deep should I plant tulips?
Answer:

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

Question:
Do I need to remove my grass clippings to prevent thatch development?
Answer:

Grass clippings contribute very little to thatch development because clippings are primarily cellulose and decompose quickly.  There is no need to remove grass clippings when lawns are mowed properly.  Infrequent mowing of tall grass...

Question:
Should I water my raspberries during dry weather?
Answer:

Watering raspberry plants during dry weather can help insure a good crop.  Adequate soil moisture levels are necessary throughout the growing season for good raspberry production.  However, the most critical time for moisture is from...

Question:
Can dog or cat feces be placed in the compost pile?
Answer:

It is advisable not to add dog or cat feces to the compost pile.  Dog and cat feces may contain harmful pathogens that may not be destroyed during the composting process. 

Question:
How do you control birdsfoot trefoil?
Answer:

Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is a perennial plant.  It has an upright, spreading growth habit and can reach a height of 2 feet.  The dark green leaves of birdsfoot trefoil consist of 3 leaflets and 2 broad leaf-like...

Question:
When should I plant Chinese cabbage?
Answer:

Chinese cabbage performs best when planted in summer for a fall crop.  (Chinese cabbage frequently goes to seed when planted in spring.)  Sow the seed of Chinese cabbage at a depth of 1/4 to ½ inch in July.  Rows should be spaced 2...

Question:
How can I germinate walnuts?
Answer:

Collect walnuts after they fall to the ground.  Remove the husks, then place the nuts in water.  The nuts that float are not viable and can be discarded.  Good, viable nuts will sink to the bottom. 

Before walnuts will...

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:
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:
Why doesn’t my hydrangea bloom?
Answer:

Smooth, oakleaf, bigleaf and climbing hydrangea all flower well in partial shade, but when in too much shade may not bloom well. Panicle hydrangea requires at least partial shade to set flowers and often blooms best in full sun. Most hydrangeas...

Question:
Do hostas need winter protection?
Answer:

Most hostas do not need winter protection if they have been in the ground for at least one full growing season.  However, a winter mulch is often beneficial to hostas planted in late summer or early fall.  Repeated freezing and thawing...

Question:
My tomatoes are developing white or yellow areas on the sides of the fruit exposed to the sun. Why?
Answer:

The white or yellow areas on your tomatoes are due to sunscald.  Sunscald occurs on fruit exposed to the sun during periods of extreme heat.  Initial symptoms of sunscald are the development of shiny white or yellow areas on the fruit....

Question:
Which shade trees have colorful fall foliage?
Answer:

Shade trees that possess excellent fall foliage include Freeman maple (Acer x freemanii), red maple (Acer rubrum), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), white oak (Quercus alba), red oak (Quercus rubra...

Question:
What are some good, long-lived perennials?
Answer:

When selecting perennials for the home landscape, it’s important to consider their size, bloom period, hardiness, and cultural requirements.  Another consideration is their longevity.  Some perennials are short-lived.  Short-lived...

Question:
There are tan-colored, rough spots on the surface of my pear fruit. Is it possible to prevent this from occurring?
Answer:

Russeting is probably responsible for the tan-colored spots on your pears.  Russeting also develops on the surface of apples.  While affected fruit are not attractive, russeting doesn’t affect the eating quality of the fruit. ...

Question:
Do I need to plant more than one cherry tree for pollination and fruit set?
Answer:

Sour or tart cherries are self-fruitful.  Self-pollination occurs when pollen is transferred from the anther to the stigma on the same flower, from another flower on the same plant, or from a flower on another plant of the same variety....

Question:
Which are the best tulips for perennializing?
Answer:

Most modern tulip varieties bloom well for only 3 or 4 years.  However, there are some tulip types (classes) that bloom well over a longer time period. 

Darwin hybrid tulips are generally the longest blooming hybrid tulip. ...

Question:
Should I fertilize the lawn in summer?
Answer:

Do not fertilize Kentucky bluegrass and other cool-season grasses during the summer months (June, July, and August).  The best times to fertilize cool-season grasses in Iowa are spring, mid-September, and late October/early November. ...

Question:
We recently moved into a home that has a large red raspberry planting in the backyard. How should we rejuvenate the planting?
Answer:

Red raspberries sucker freely.  If not confined, plants will spread rapidly.  Red raspberries are most productive when grown in 2-foot-wide hedgerows.  If the raspberry planting is several feet wide, plant rows need to be...

Question:
Should I apply lime to my garden?
Answer:

 In Iowa, gardeners should apply lime to gardens and lawns only when recommended by a soil test. A soil test will indicate the current soil pH and, if necessary, the amount of lime to apply to the area. Liming materials include ground...

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