Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
What are some good asparagus varieties for home gardens in Iowa?
Answer:

Asparagus is dioecious.  Dioecious plants produce separate male and female plants.  Male asparagus plants live longer and are more productive than female plants.  Excellent all-male asparagus varieties for the home garden include ‘...

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

Suggested onion varieties for home gardens in Iowa include ‘Copra’ (main season, yellow-brown skin, excellent storage), ‘Candy’ (yellow-brown skin, globe-shaped, short term storage), ‘Red Burgermaster’ (bright red, globe-shaped, good storage), ‘...

Question:
How do you plant asparagus?
Answer:

Asparagus crowns should be planted in shallow trenches or furrows.  The planting depth depends on the soil type.  Asparagus crowns should be planted 6 to 8 inches deep in light, sandy soils, but only 4 to 6 inches deep in heavier soils...

Question:
What is the proper way to plant onion sets?
Answer:

Before planting sets, separate the bulbs into two size groups -- those smaller than a nickel in diameter and those larger than a nickel.  The larger sets often bolt (produce a flower stalk) and don’t produce good-sized bulbs.  Use the...

Question:
After planting asparagus, how long must I wait before I can begin to harvest spears?
Answer:

Asparagus plants should be allowed to become well established before any spears are harvested.  No spears should be harvested during the first growing season.  Asparagus can be harvested over a three to four week period during its...

Question:
When planting potatoes, do I need to purchase certified seed potatoes?
Answer:

Since potatoes are susceptible to several serious diseases, buy certified, disease-free potatoes at garden centers and mail-order nurseries.  Potatoes that remain from last year's crop may carry undetectable diseases.  Potatoes...

Question:
What is the proper way to prune grapevines?
Answer:

Grapevines produce fruit clusters on the previous season’s growth.  Before pruning, a grapevine may have 200 to 300 buds capable of producing fruit.  If the vine is not pruned, the number of grape clusters would be excessive and the...

Question:
When cutting potato tubers into pieces prior to planting, what is the proper size for the sections?
Answer:

Small potato tubers may be planted whole.  Large potatoes should be cut into sections or pieces.  Each seed piece should contain one or two “eyes” or buds and weigh approximately 1.5 to 2.0 ounces.  After cutting the tubers into...

Question:
What is the proper way to prune fall-bearing red raspberries in late winter/early spring?
Answer:

Popular fall-bearing red raspberry varieties include ‘Heritage,’ ‘Redwing,’ ‘Caroline,’ and ‘Autumn Bliss.’  Fall-bearing red raspberries naturally produce two crops.  One crop is produced in summer on the previous year’s growth. ...

Question:
When should I plant potatoes in the garden?
Answer:

Potatoes should be planted in early spring.  Appropriate planting times are late March or early April in southern Iowa, early to mid-April in central Iowa, and mid to late April in northern portions of the state. 

Since potatoes...

Question:
What is the proper way to prune summer-bearing red raspberries in late winter/early spring?
Answer:

Summer-bearing red raspberry varieties include ‘Latham,’ ‘Boyne,’ ‘Killarney,’ and ‘Newburgh.’  All summer-bearing red raspberries should be pruned in the same manner. 

In March or early April, remove all weak, diseased, and...

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

Several potato varieties perform well in Iowa.  A list of recommended potato varieties (along with a brief description of each) is provided to help you choose the best variety for your garden. 

‘Red Norland’ is an early maturing...

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:
How often should fruit trees be pruned?
Answer:

Fruit trees should be pruned on an annual basis.  Annual pruning of young (non-bearing) fruit trees develops a strong framework and desirable tree shape.  Annual pruning of bearing trees maintains tree vigor, maximizes fruit yields, and...

Question:
How do I care for a calceolaria or pocketbook plant?
Answer:

Place calceolarias in a brightly lit, cool location.  The location should receive bright light, but not direct sunlight.  Ideal temperatures are 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.  Check the potting soil daily.  When the surface of...

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

Carefully consider possible planting sites as asparagus is a perennial crop.  A well maintained asparagus planting may be productive for 15 to 20 years.  

Asparagus performs best in well-drained soils in full sun.  Planting...

Question:
What is a good planting site for onions?
Answer:

Onions perform best in well-drained, slightly acidic, fertile soils in full sun.  The planting site should receive at least 6 hours of direct sun each day.  Heavy soils can be improved by incorporating organic matter, such as compost,...

Question:
What is the proper way to plant onion seeds?
Answer:

Plant onion seeds as soon as the ground can be worked in spring (late March or early April in southern Iowa, early to mid-April in central Iowa, and mid to late April in northern portions of the state).  Plant seeds in rows 12 to 15 inches...

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