Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
Should I stake a newly planted tree?
Answer:

Staking is not required for most newly planted trees.  However, large trees and those planted in windy, exposed sites may require staking.  If staking is necessary, allow the trunk to move or sway for proper trunk and root development....

Question:
How do I control weeds in my strawberry patch?
Answer:

Weed control is essential to insure optimal plant growth and fruit production.  Weeds compete with the strawberry plants for water, nutrients, and sunlight.  Weeds also reduce air circulation which results in fruit and foliage staying...

Question:
Should I fertilize a newly planted tree?
Answer:

It is generally not necessary to fertilize newly planted trees.  Most Iowa soils can supply sufficient amounts of nutrients during establishment.  If trees are growing poorly 2 or 3 years after planting, fertilization may be beneficial...

Question:
When can I plant cabbage seedlings in the garden?
Answer:

Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower seedlings can be planted outdoors in early April in southern Iowa, mid-April in central portions of the state, and late April in northern counties.  Harden (acclimate) the seedlings in a protected location...

Question:
How often should I water a newly planted tree?
Answer:

The key to watering newly planted balled and burlapped and container-grown trees is to keep the plant’s rootball moist for several weeks after planting.  Water newly planted trees every day for 4 or 5 days and then gradually reduce the...

Question:
When should I sow my cabbage seeds indoors?
Answer:

Sow cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower seeds indoors 4 to 5 weeks before the intended outdoor planting date.  Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower seedlings can be planted outdoors in early April in southern Iowa, mid-April in central portions...

Question:
What should I look for when buying annual flower and vegetable plants?
Answer:

Select short, stocky plants with dark green foliage.  Avoid tall, spindly plants.  Small to medium-sized transplants become established in the garden more quickly than large ones.  Short, stocky vegetable transplants are often more...

Question:
Do annual flower and vegetable plants need any special care before planting?
Answer:

Annual flower and vegetable plants started indoors or purchased from greenhouses should not be planted directly into the garden.  The intense sun and strong winds may damage or kill the tender transplants.  Plants should be “hardened” (...

Question:
What is the proper way to plant annual flower and vegetable plants?
Answer:

Carefully remove plants from plastic cell packs by gently squeezing the bottom on each compartment.  Plants in plastic pots can be removed by tipping them on their sides and tapping the bottom of the pots.  

If possible, plant...

Question:
How do I lower the soil pH for blueberries?
Answer:

Home gardeners can lower their soil pH by adding sphagnum peat moss to the soil.  Sulfur can also be used to acidify the soil.  Sulfur should be incorporated into the soil a year before planting as it reacts slowly with the soil. ...

Question:
How do you plant blueberries?
Answer:

Early spring is the best time to plant dormant, bare-root blueberries.  Soak the roots of bare-root plants in water for about an hour before planting.  Prune back the plants by half by removing the small side branches and by heading...

Question:
How do I plant peas?
Answer:

Sow seeds 1 to 1½ inches deep and 2 inches apart.  Peas can be planted in single or double rows.  Double rows should be spaced about 6 inches apart.  Double rows allow bush cultivars to cling and hold up one another.  Place...

Question:
When is the best time to plant strawberries?
Answer:

Early spring (late March to early May) is the best time to plant strawberries in Iowa. 

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

Potatoes grow best in well-drained, fertile soils.  The planting site should also receive at least six hours of direct sun each day. 

Question:
Can bush cherries be grown in Iowa?
Answer:

Bush cherries are very cold hardy and can be grown throughout Iowa.  Bush cherries include Nanking cherry (Prunus tomentosa), Hansen’s bush cherry (Prunus besseyi ‘Hansen’s), and several cherry hybrids.  Their fruit...

Question:
When should I prune spring-flowering deciduous shrubs?
Answer:

Spring-flowering shrubs, such as lilac and forsythia, bloom in spring on the growth of the previous season.  The plant’s health or condition determines the best time to prune spring-flowering shrubs. 

Neglected, overgrown spring-...

Question:
When should I prune summer-flowering deciduous shrubs?
Answer:

Summer-flowering shrubs, such as potentilla, Japanese spirea, and panicle hydrangea, bloom in summer on the current year’s growth.  Prune summer-flowering shrubs in late winter or early spring.  The pruned shrubs will bloom in summer on...

Question:
When should I prune “non-flowering” deciduous shrubs?
Answer:

All shrubs flower.  However, the flowers of some deciduous shrubs, such as winged euonymus (burning bush), alpine currant, and fragrant sumac, are small and inconspicuous.  These shrubs possess attractive foliage, fruit, bark, or some...

Question:
When should I prune evergreen shrubs?
Answer:

Prune narrow-leaved evergreen shrubs, such as juniper and yew, in early April before new growth begins.  Light pruning may also be done in mid-summer.  Avoid pruning narrow-leaved evergreens in fall.  Fall pruned shrubs are more...

Question:
When can I plant tuberous begonias outdoors?
Answer:

Plant tuberous begonias outdoors after the danger of frost is past. In central Iowa, mid-May is an appropriate planting date.  

Plants started indoors or purchased at a greenhouse should be hardened outdoors 7 to 10 days before...

Question:
What type of planting site do tuberous begonias prefer?
Answer:

Tuberous begonias perform best in moist, well-drained soils in partial shade.  Choose a site sheltered from strong winds.  In the home landscape, locations that receive morning sun and afternoon shade are often excellent planting sites...

Question:
Which evergreen trees perform well in home landscapes in Iowa?
Answer:

Only a small number of evergreen trees perform well in Iowa.  Some evergreens, such as Scotch pine and Austrian pine, have serious disease problems and are no longer recommended for planting in Iowa.  The most reliable evergreens for...

Question:
Which perennials grow well in dry soils?
Answer:

Perennials that tolerate dry soils include yarrow (Achillea spp.), wormwood (Artemisia spp.), butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), false blue indigo (Baptisia australis), threadleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis...

Question:

Which azaleas can be successfully grown in Iowa?
Answer:

Azaleas in the Northern Lights Series possess excellent cold hardiness and perform well in Iowa. (The Northern Lights Series is a group of hybrid azaleas developed and released by the University of Minnesota.  All cultivars in the series...

Question:
Which rhododendrons can be successfully grown in Iowa?
Answer:

The most widely grown rhododendrons in Iowa are the Weston hybrids.  Introduced by the Weston Nursery in Massachusetts, these cultivars possess excellent cold hardiness.  Weston hybrids include ‘PJM’ (lavender pink flowers), ‘PJM...

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