Frequently Asked Questions

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:
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:
How can I prevent deer from rubbing off the bark on small trees in the yard?
Answer:

In fall, bucks rub their antlers on trees to remove the dried velvet from their antlers and to mark their territory.  This rubbing removes the thin layer of bark on small trees and can seriously damage or destroy them.  Trunk damage...

Question:
What is the correct mowing height for a lawn in summer?
Answer:

Kentucky bluegrass and other cool-season grasses thrive in the cool weather of spring and fall.  Hot, dry conditions in summer are stressful for cool-season grasses.  Kentucky bluegrass lawns should be mowed at a height of 3 to 3½...

Question:
How can I keep birds from eating my grapes?
Answer:

The best way to prevent birds from eating the grape crop is to place netting over the grapevines.  Netting can be purchased at garden centers or through mail-order companies.  When placing netting over the grapevines, make sure the...

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:
What is the proper way to deadhead roses?
Answer:

Deadheading or the removal of faded flowers is done to encourage additional bloom on hybrid tea and other repeat-flowering roses.  Hybrid tea roses usually have one or two 3-leaflet leaves immediately below the flower.  Next (lower down...

Question:
Parts of the berries on my red raspberries are white in color. Why?
Answer:

A raspberry fruit (berry) is composed of over 50 drupelets.  The white colored drupelets are likely due to sunscald or white drupelet disorder.  Sunscald and white drupelet disorder are physiological disorders caused by sun exposure (...

Question:
When can I divide daylilies?
Answer:

Daylilies can be divided in early spring (as new growth begins to emerge) or in late summer.  Dig up the entire clump with a spade.  Shake or wash off the soil.  Then carefully pull the clump apart.  Oftentimes, a sharp knife...

Question:
How can I control Colorado potato beetles?
Answer:

The Colorado potato beetle is difficult to control.  Hand picking is a control option for individuals with small gardens.  Hand-pick beetles, eggs, and small larvae from infested plants as soon as possible (practical for a few insects...

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:
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:
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...

Question:
The leaves on my red-twigged dogwoods are spotted and beginning to fall off. Why?
Answer:

The spotting and premature leaf drop on your dogwoods is probably due to Septoria leaf spot.  Septoria leaf spot is a common fungal disease of dogwoods in Iowa.  The disease typically causes irregularly shaped grayish spots with dark...

Question:
What is the proper mowing height for shady turfgrass areas?
Answer:

Do not mow shady areas less than 3 inches in height.  Because of the lower photosynthetic rates in shady areas, the turfgrass plants need a large leaf surface to manufacture adequate amounts of food.  The recommended mowing height for...

Question:
How can I prevent "bees" from damaging my grape crop?
Answer:

The bee-like insects are probably yellowjackets.  Yellowjackets are social wasps that build paper nests either in the ground, a log or landscape timber, or building wall or attic.  The workers from the colony travel up to a few hundred...

Question:
There are several bands of holes around the trunk of my pine tree. Is the tree infested with borers?
Answer:

The holes were likely created by sapsuckers.  Sapsuckers, members of the woodpecker family, damage trees by drilling holes in the trunk or large branches.  Sapsucker damage is very distinctive.  They drill uniform, 1/4 inch holes...

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