Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
Can I dispose of my wood ashes in the garden?
Answer:

Wood ashes contain small amounts of several plant nutrients. The nutrient content of wood ashes depends on the type of wood burned, the thoroughness of its burning, and other factors. Generally, wood ashes contain 5 to 7 percent potash, 1 percent...

Question:
How can I prevent blight on my tomatoes?
Answer:

Foliar diseases of tomatoes are a common problem in the home garden.  Fungal diseases, such as early blight and Septoria leaf spot, overwinter on plant debris in the soil.  Fungal spores are splashed onto plant foliage by raindrops or...

Question:
What are the orange-colored growths on the leaves of my ash tree? Is control necessary?
Answer:

Ash rust is probably responsible for the orange growths on your ash tree.  Ash rust is caused by the fungus Puccinia sparganioides.  The fungus produces conspicuous swellings on leaves, petioles, and twigs.  Infected...

Question:
When is the best time to water a lawn?
Answer:

Early morning (5:00 to 9:00 am) is the best time to water a lawn.  A morning application allows the water to soak deeply into the soil with little water lost to evaporation.  When watering is completed, the turfgrass foliage dries...

Question:
Should blueberry plants be watered during dry weather?
Answer:

Blueberries have shallow, fibrous root systems.  Plants quickly become stressed during hot, dry weather.  To help retain moisture and control weeds, apply 2 to 4 inches of mulch around blueberry plants.  Sawdust, wood chips, pine...

Question:
One of my trees has been damaged in a storm. How can I determine if the tree can be saved or should be removed?
Answer:

Carefully examine the tree for the type and extent of damage.  Trees that have split trunks or suffered extensive trunk damage are no longer structurally sound and should be removed.  Large trees that have lost 50 percent or more of...

Question:
I can't get grass to grow under a large maple tree. What are my options?
Answer:

Most turfgrasses have a difficult time growing in the vicinity of large shade trees.  If your efforts to grow turfgrass are unsuccessful, there are alternatives.  Areas around and beneath trees can be mulched with wood chips or shredded...

Question:
What causes my peaches to rot and turn brown?
Answer:

Brown rot is a common fungal disease of peaches and other stone fruits.  Affected fruits develop circular light brown spots that expand rapidly and rot the fruit.  Sometimes the fungus that causes this rot is visible as ash-gray tufts....

Question:
How frequently should I water annuals in containers?
Answer:

The frequency of watering may vary considerably from container to container.  Watering frequency depends on the size and type of container, composition of the potting mix, plant species, and weather conditions.  Some plants, such as...

Question:
There are small masses of foam-like material on my strawberry plants. What are these foam-like masses?
Answer:

The foam-like masses on the strawberry plants were probably created by the meadow spittlebug.  The meadow spittlebug is one of several species of this commonly recognized group of sap-feeding insects.  Spittlebugs are familiar because...

Question:
I would like to establish some perennial beds in my yard, but I don't have a great deal of time for maintenance chores. What are some good low maintenance perennials?
Answer:

All perennials require some maintenance.  Watering, fertilizing, pinching, staking, deadheading, dividing, and providing winter protection are common maintenance chores.  Some perennials require frequent attention through the growing...

Question:
Why are my potatoes knobby?
Answer:

Fluctuations in soil moisture levels during tuber development may cause knobby potatoes.  Watering on a regular basis (about once a week) during dry periods will help prevent this problem.

Question:
How do I have my garden soil tested?
Answer:

Soil testing services are provided by neighboring universities and private laboratories.  Information on how to collect good soil samples for testing and recommendations for how to find testing laboratories can be found at ...

Question:
Even though I water my garden, one of my tomato plants is wilting. What could be wrong?
Answer:

A vascular wilt may be responsible for the wilting of the tomato plant.  The initial symptoms of Verticillium and Fusarium wilts are wilting of the plant leaves during the heat of the day.  Affected plants often recover in the evening...

Question:
What causes pine wilt?
Answer:

Pine wilt is a common disease that causes browning and death of pines, especially Scotch pine. Austrian, mugo, red, jack, and white pine may also be affected, but less commonly than Scotch pine. Affected trees turn brown and die within a few...

Question:
How often should I water my lawn?
Answer:

Most lawns in Iowa require 1 to 1½ inches of water per week.  When watering the lawn, apply this amount in a single application or possibly 2 applications 3 or 4 days apart.  Avoid frequent, light applications of water which promote...

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:
My sycamore is losing some of its bark. Is there something wrong with the tree?
Answer:

Shedding bark on some trees is a completely normal development. The bark of most young trees is smooth and thin. As the tree grows, the bark layer thickens with the outermost tissue eventually dying. Continued growth pushes the bark outward,...

Question:
As the snow melted over the last few weeks, several narrow meandering pathways appeared in my lawn. What produced them? Will the grass recover?
Answer:

The runways in the lawn were likely caused by the meadow vole.  The meadow vole is a small, brown, mouse-like animal.  Though common in Iowa, the meadow vole is secretive and seldom seen by most individuals. 

Voles are...

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:
How often should I water bee balms?
Answer:

Bee balms like an even supply of moisture during the growing season.  For best performance, water bee balms every 7 to 10 days during dry periods.  When watering, soak the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.  Apply a mulch around...

Question:
How do I prevent straw from blowing off my strawberry bed in winter?
Answer:

In windy, exposed areas, straw mulches can be kept in place by placing wire or plastic fencing over the area.  The fencing can be held in place with bricks or other heavy objects.

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:
Are rhubarb leaves safe to put in the compost pile?
Answer:

While rhubarb leaves do contain poisonous oxalic acid, they can be placed in the compost pile.  Oxalic acid, like other organic acids, are not readily absorbed by plant roots.  Compost containing decomposed rhubarb leaves can be safely...

Question:
How long should I continue to water a newly planted tree?
Answer:

The roots of trees continue to grow until the ground freezes.  If the weather is dry, continue to water newly planted trees until the soil freezes in winter.  Small trees usually require watering for 1 or 2 growing seasons.  It may...

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