Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
Why are some of the fruit on my summer squash misshapen?
Answer:

Misshapen fruit may develop if pollination is inadequate.   When pollination is incomplete, the fruit develops unevenly because the ovary wall enlarges more adjacent to fertilized seeds.  Inadequate pollination may be due to low...

Question:
What kind of yield can I expect from blueberries?
Answer:

Blueberry plants should come into full production by the fifth or sixth year.  Gardeners can expect to harvest 5 to 10 pounds of fruit per plant from mature highbush blueberries.  Half-high blueberries generally produce 1 to 3 pounds...

Question:
There are small, white objects resembling kernels of popcorn on the branches of my silver maple tree. What are they?
Answer:

The small, white, popcorn-like objects are likely cottony maple scale.  Cottony maple scale is an insect.  It is most commonly found on silver maple trees.  However, it can also be found on other maples, oak, linden, hackberry,...

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

The frequency of watering is determined by soil characteristics, weather conditions, type of plant material, and other factors.  In general, however, a deep watering once a week in dry weather should be adequate for most fruit, vegetable,...

Question:
When is the best time to water the garden?
Answer:

Early morning (5:00 to 9:00 am) is the best time to water the garden when using a sprinkler, garden hose, or any other device that wets the plant foliage.  When watering is completed, the plant foliage dries quickly.  The rapid drying...

Question:
Are there ways to reduce water use in the garden?
Answer:

Apply a mulch around landscape plantings and garden areas to conserve soil moisture.  Mulching reduces the rate of evaporation from the soil surface and also limits weed competition.  Organic materials, such as grass clippings, clean...

Question:
What is responsible for the yellow spots on my crabapple leaves?
Answer:

Cedar-apple rust is likely responsible for the yellow spots on the crabapple leaves.  Cedar-apple rust is a fungal disease.  The fungus  requires both a crabapple or apple and a cedar (juniper) to complete its life cycle. Crabapple...

Question:
The leaves on my sycamore have a bleached appearance in late summer. Why?
Answer:

The bleached appearance may be due to lace bugs.  Lace bugs are sap feeding insects commonly found on the leaves of shade and ornamental trees in Iowa.  The most commonly affected trees are hackberry, sycamore, and oak.  Adult lace...

Question:
A small greenish worm is eating the foliage on my cherry tree. What should I do?
Answer:

The greenish worm is probably the pear slug.  The pear slug is not an actual slug.  It’s the larval stage of an insect (sawfly).  The pear slug feeds on pear, cherry, plum, and several other woody plants.  

The slug-...

Question:
How can I accelerate the decomposition of leaves in my compost pile?
Answer:

Leaves contain high levels of carbon and small amounts of nitrogen. The microbes that decompose leaves and other types of organic matter require nitrogen for their own metabolism and growth. A compost pile composed mainly of leaves decomposes...

Question:
What are the proper storage conditions for pears?
Answer:

For long-term storage, refrigerate the unripened pears at a temperature of 30 to 35 degrees Fahrenheit.  Pears may be stored for approximately one to three months.  Remove stored fruit about one week prior to use.  

Question:
Several apples have formed on a newly planted fruit tree. Can the apples be allowed to mature or should they be removed?
Answer:

It’s generally best to remove all fruit that form on apple trees during their first 3 growing seasons.  Removal of the fruit maximizes plant growth and increases yields in later years.  Removing the fruit may also prevent limb breakage...

Question:
Rabbits heavily damaged my raspberries over winter. Will they produce a crop this year?
Answer:

Purple, black, and summer-bearing red raspberries that have been badly damaged by rabbits will likely produce little fruit this year.  (Purple, black, and summer-bearing red raspberries produce fruit on the previous year's shoots. ...

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:
The berries in my grape clusters are not ripening evenly. Why?
Answer:

Several factors could be responsible for the uneven ripening of the berries within a cluster.  Possible causes are over-cropping (too many grape clusters on the vine), a potassium deficiency, moisture stress, or 2,4-D damage. 

...

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:
Can blackberries be successfully grown in Iowa?
Answer:

The growth and fruiting characteristics of blackberries are similar to raspberries.  The blackberry plant’s roots and crown are perennial, while its stems or canes are biennial.  Blackberry canes are strictly vegetative during the first...

Question:
How often should I pinch my mums?
Answer:

Pinch chrysanthemums 2 to 3 times from spring to mid-summer.  Remove the stem tips when the shoots are 6 to 8 inches tall.  New lateral shoots will develop along the stems.  Pinch again when these new shoots reach a length of 6 to...

Question:
What is the storage life of onions?
Answer:

The storage life of onions is determined by the variety and storage conditions.  When properly stored, good keepers, such as ‘Copra’ and ‘Stuttgarter,’ can be successfully stored for several months.  Poor keepers, such as ‘Walla Walla’...

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 tomatoes cracking?
Answer:

Fruit cracking is a common problem on tomatoes.  Cracks usually appear at the top or stem end of the fruit.  Cracks radiate out from the stem (radial cracks) or circle the fruit in concentric rings (concentric cracks).  Fruit...

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:
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:
The flesh near the centers of my apples has a glassy appearance. Why?
Answer:

Water core is probably responsible for the glassy appearance to the apples.  Water core is a physiological disorder that develops before harvest and is characterized by translucent, water-soaked areas in the flesh.  These water-soaked...

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