Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
What would be a good soil mix for a raised bed?
Answer:

Raised bed soils should be light and well-drained.  An excellent soil mix can be prepared by mixing equal parts topsoil, organic matter (well-rotted manure, compost, or peat), and coarse sand.    If bringing topsoil from other...

Question:
How do I harvest tomatoes?
Answer:

The fruit of most tomato cultivars generally begins to ripen in August. Fruit production for early maturing cultivars such as ‘Early Girl’ or many of the cherry and grape tomatoes generally begins in mid- to late-July.

Tomatoes should be...

Question:
How do I get rid of mushrooms in my yard or garden bed?
Answer:

Mushrooms are the reproductive or fruiting structures of fungi. Their appearance in the lawn is usually indicative of decaying tree stumps or roots in the soil.  In garden beds, mushrooms can appear because they are associated with decaying...

Question:
Do I have to treat or chip the wood when I cut down an emerald ash borer infected tree?
Answer:

Ash trees infected with emerald ash borer (EAB) do not need to be treated or chipped when removed.  If you do plan to keep the wood for campfires or fireplaces use it on your property and do not transport the wood to new locations.  Any...

Question:
How do I sanitize my pruners and other garden tools to prevent the spread of disease?
Answer:

Proper cleaning and sanitization of pruners and other garden tools is important to prevent the spread of disease issues.  At minimum when removing disease-infected plant material, pruners should be disinfected between plants.  Ideally,...

Question:
How do I control poison hemlock and wild parsnip?
Answer:

Control of wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) and poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) is the same.  Safely removing these weeds from the landscape is important as both species can be toxic to humans and animals.  ...

Question:
How and when do I prune suckers from the base of my tree?
Answer:

Remove suckers with a hand pruners as soon as they appear from their point of origin.  Often this requires pulling a little bit of soil back to find the base and clip it off while still less than 6 to 12 inches in length.  If suckers...

Question:
How do I control perennial grassy weeds in the lawn?
Answer:

Perennial grassy weeds die back to ground level in fall but send up new growth in spring.  These weed species have long narrow leaves with parallel veins.  They are often in the poaceae (grass) family or a closely related family and are...

Question:
How do I store seeds collected from my garden?
Answer:

Once seeds are collected and properly cleaned, they need to be stored.  Proper storage conditions for seeds are essential to maintain viability and good germination at planting time. ...

Question:
How do I prepare seeds collected from my garden after harvesting them?
Answer:

The late growing season is a good time to collect seeds from vegetables and flowers.  Seed saving allows gardeners to preserve heirloom varieties or their favorite plants from year to year. Once harvested, the seed will need to be cleaned to...

Question:
When and how do I harvest seeds to grow next year?
Answer:

The late growing season is a good time to collect seeds from vegetables and flowers.  Seed saving allows gardeners to preserve heirloom varieties or their favorite plants from year to year. 

Collect the Seed When Mature

...

Question:
Which plants are easiest to save seed from?
Answer:

Look for Open-Pollinated Plants

It is easiest to save seed from varieties of vegetables and plants that are open-pollinated.  These seedlings typically resemble the parent plants as long as they are not allowed to cross pollinate...

Question:
How do I manage and kill poison ivy in my garden?
Answer:

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is a native vine common to woodland areas but found frequently growing in gardens and along fence lines.  This vine causes an allergic reaction (dermatitis) in most people when their skin comes in...

Question:
Can I just leave fallen leaves on my yard and garden?
Answer:

Keep Leaves in Place, When Possible

Leaving the leaves alone is a good way to support native pollinators and other insects and wildlife.  These valuable insects rely on the habitat fallen leaves provide, especially over the winter...

Question:
Why is my newly planted tree declining or dying?
Answer:

Unfortunately, there is not one standard answer to this question!  When trying to determine the primary cause of the problem, several factors need to be given consideration. Remember that dieback does not always occur in the first year. Some...

Question:
How do I grow and care for garlic?
Answer:

Fertilization

Garlic requires more fertilizer than many vegetables. Apply and incorporate 1 to 2 pounds of an all-purpose garden fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, per 100 square feet of garden area prior to planting. Lightly incorporate one...

Question:
When and where should I plant garlic?
Answer:

In Iowa, October is the time to plant garlic cloves 1-1.5 inches deep and 3-5 inches apart in well-drained, fertile soils.

Ideal Planting Conditions

Grow garlic in well-drained, fertile soils that are...

Question:
What types of garlic should I grow in Iowa?
Answer:

Garlic is distinguished from its other close family members like onions, chives, shallots, and leeks, by its flat leaves and clove-like bulbs which contain several small scales or cloves enclosed in a white or purplish parchment-like sheath....

Question:
How do I control weedy vines?
Answer:

Weedy vines are fast growing plants, getting very large in a relatively short amount of time often climbing and covering other garden plants. If left to grow, they can smother other plants blocking out light and killing the desirable plant.

...
Question:
How can I identify the apple tree variety in my backyard?
Answer:

Determining the identity of an apple variety is difficult as there are hundreds of potential cultivars or varieties of which it could be. Iowa State University does not offer apple variety identification services. 

Locate...

Question:
How do I control woody weeds like honeysuckle, tree of heaven, or mulberry?
Answer:

Woody weeds are trees and shrubs that have woody plant tissue.  They are perennial and typically classified as eudicots, although some may belong to other plant groups like gymnosperms (conifers).  Examples of woody weeds include...

Question:
How do I plant spring-blooming bulbs?
Answer:

Planting Depth

Plant bulbs at a depth equal to two or three times their maximum bulb diameter. Larger bulbs like tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are often planted 6-8 inches deep. The smaller bulbs like squill, snowdrops and crocus are...

Question:
Where should I plant spring-blooming bulbs?
Answer:

Light Requirements

Most bulbs should be planted in a full or part-sun location. Early blooming bulbs are often successful beneath a high branched deciduous tree because they usually flower before the tree fully leafs out. After the bulbs...

Question:
When do I plant spring-blooming bulbs?
Answer:

October is the ideal time to plant spring-flowering bulbs in Iowa. This allows bulbs to establish and develop good roots before winter. Planting bulbs too early in the season in September when soil temperatures have not yet cooled may cause some...

Question:
What spring-blooming bulbs are best for Iowa?
Answer:

There are a number of species and varieties of bulbs and bulb-like structures like corms and tubers that grow well in Iowa. Some of these species are readily available from retailers and others may have to be purchased from specialty producers or...

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