Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
What are Austrees?
Answer:

The Austree is a hybrid willow.  Its parents are the corkscrew willow (Salix matsudana) and white willow (Salix alba).  While Austrees are fast growing trees, insects and diseases can be problems.  Because of...

Question:
Can I plant perennials in late summer?
Answer:

Late summer (late August to mid-September) is an excellent time to plant many perennials.  It is also a good time to move or divide perennials, such as peony, daylily, garden phlox, and oriental poppy.  Perennials planted in late summer...

Question:
How do I ripen pears?
Answer:

Pears should be ripened indoors at a temperature of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  The ripening process should take seven to ten days.  To speed up ripening, place the pears in a tightly sealed paper bag.  The fruit give off...

Question:
Is it a good practice to apply salt to an asparagus planting?
Answer:

In the past, some gardeners used salt to control weeds in their asparagus plantings.  However, salt is not effective in controlling many weeds, especially grasses.  Plus, continued use of salt over several years may result in high salt...

Question:
What are grape hyacinths?
Answer:

Grape hyacinths (Muscari spp.) are spring-flowering bulbs.  They produce urn-shaped flowers on 6- to 9-inch-long, upright spikes.  (The flower spikes somewhat resemble clusters of grapes, hence the common name.)  Flowers...

Question:
When should I fertilize my lawn?
Answer:

Most lawns in Iowa are comprised of Kentucky bluegrass and other cool-season grasses.  Cool-season grasses grow best in spring and late summer/early fall when environmental conditions are usually favorable.  Applications of fertilizer...

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

Suggested raspberry varieties for Iowa include:

Summer-Bearing Red Raspberries for Iowa

  • ‘Boyne’
  • ‘Latham’
  • ‘Killarney’

Fall-Bearing Red Raspberries for Iowa

...
Question:
What is the proper way to plant a balled and burlapped tree?
Answer:

Dig a hole that is 2 to 3 times wider than the diameter of the tree’s rootball.  The depth of the hole should be 2 or 3 inches less than the height of the rootball.  Slope the sides of the hole so the top of the hole is several inches...

Question:
Are broadleaf herbicides effective when applied during dry weather?
Answer:

Broadleaf herbicides are most effective when applied to weeds that are actively growing.  During prolonged periods of dry weather, some weeds are likely to curl up or wilt.  An application of a broadleaf herbicide to drought stressed...

Question:
There are tiny holes in my eggplant foliage. What should I do?
Answer:

The tiny holes are likely due to flea beetles.  Flea beetles are the most common pest of eggplant in the home garden.  Adults are tiny, shiny, black beetles.  They possess large hind legs that enable them to jump.  Flea...

Question:
How do I control bagworms on my spruce tree?
Answer:

Bagworms are caterpillars that live inside spindle-shaped bags.  (The bags somewhat resemble small Christmas tree ornaments hanging from the tree.)  Bagworms feed on the foliage of a wide variety of trees and shrubs.  However, they...

Question:
How do I take geranium cuttings?
Answer:

Using a sharp knife, take 3- to 4-inch stem cuttings from the terminal ends of the shoots.  Pinch off the lower leaves, then dip the base of each cutting in a rooting hormone.  Stick the cuttings into a rooting medium of vermiculite or...

Question:
What is the best way to store carrots?
Answer:

After harvesting carrots, cut off the green tops one-half to one inch above the roots.  Small amounts can be placed in perforated plastic bags and stored in the refrigerator.  Large amounts can be buried in sand or sawdust and then...

Question:
The leaves on my river birch are yellow-green. Why?
Answer:

In Iowa, the foliage of the river birch (Betula nigra) often turns a sickly yellow-green. The yellow-green foliage is due to a deficiency of iron. The problem is referred to as iron chlorosis. (A close examination of chlorotic leaves...

Question:
What are some good switchgrass varieties for the home landscape?
Answer:

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a native prairie grass.  It is typically found in moist sites, such as along the banks of streams, and grows 3 to 6 feet tall. 

Several switchgrass cultivars are excellent plants for the...

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:
Do I need to divide the perennials in my garden?
Answer:

Some perennials, such as garden peonies, can be left undisturbed for 50 or more years.

Others need to be divided periodically to contain their spread or to rejuvenate declining plants.  Vigorous growing perennials include:

    ...
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:
Is it possible to move an established asparagus bed?
Answer:

The roots of established asparagus plants are deep and quite extensive.  As a result, transplanting attempts are usually unsuccessful.  Large, old plants will be severely injured during the transplantation procedure.  Some may...

Question:
Can I plant my Easter lily outdoors after it is done blooming?
Answer:

Individuals wishing to save their Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum) should place the plant in a sunny window after flowering.  Continue to water the plant when needed.  Fertilize once every 2 weeks with a dilute fertilizer...

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

In Iowa, Kentucky bluegrass lawns can be fertilized in spring (April or May), mid-September, and late October/early November.  The number of fertilizer applications is largely determined by an individual’s desires or expectations for their...

Question:
Are black raspberries hardy in northern Iowa?
Answer:

Red and purple raspberries are hardy throughout the state.  Black raspberries, however, often suffer severe winter damage in northern Iowa and can be reliably grown only in central and southern portions of the state.  ‘Black Hawk’ (an...

Question:
What is the proper way to plant a container-grown tree?
Answer:

When planting a container-grown tree, dig a hole that is 2 to 3 times wider than the diameter of the container.  The depth of the hole should be 2 or 3 inches less than the height of the soil ball.  Slope the sides of the hole so the...

Question:
There are round, circular spider webs are on my lawn. What should I do?
Answer:

The horizontal circular webs were created by various spiders collectively called grass spiders.  They are harmless to the grass and ecologically beneficial as predators.  The webs accumulate between rain showers and mowings.  They...

Question:
How can you tell when a muskmelon is ripe?
Answer:

The fruit of the muskmelon or cantaloupe is mature when the stem slips easily from the melon with slight pressure.  The melon is not ripe if the stem has to be forcibly separated from the fruit.  Other indicators of maturity are based...

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