Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
How do I care for a jade plant?
Answer:

Place the jade plant (Crassula argentea) in a sunny window where it receives at least 4 hours of direct sunlight.  The jade plant is a succulent which stores water in its foliage and stems.  Overwatering (watering too...

Question:
How do I care for an umbrella tree?
Answer:

The umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla) is native to rainforests in Australia and New Guinea.  In the home, place the umbrella tree in bright, indirect light near an east, west, or south window.  Allow the potting soil to...

Question:
When should you harvest Asian pears?
Answer:

Asian pears (sometimes referred to as apple pears because of their round shape and crisp, firm texture) can be successfully grown in the southern half of Iowa.  Popular cultivars include ‘Chojuro,’ ‘Hosui,’ and ‘Shinseiki.’  

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Question:
How do I control crabgrass in my flower bed?
Answer:

Crabgrass is an annual weed.  In flower and vegetable gardens, hoeing and hand pulling are the best control options.  When cultivating the garden, avoid deep tillage.  The roots of many vegetables and flowers grow near the soil...

Question:
Should garden phlox be deadheaded?
Answer:

Deadheading is the removal of spent or faded flowers.  There are several benefits to deadheading garden phlox.  Deadheading improves the appearance of plants, may encourage a second flush of bloom, and prevents self-seeding.  (...

Question:
My squash plants are blooming heavily, but aren’t producing many fruit. Why?
Answer:

Squash and other vine crops are monoecious.  Monoecious plants have separate male and female flowers on the same plant.  Male and female flowers are similar in appearance.  However, female flowers have small, immature fruits at...

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 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:
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:
When is the best time to aerate a lawn?
Answer:

In Iowa, September and April are the best times to aerate Kentucky bluegrass and other cool-season lawns.  While the overall results are beneficial, core aeration causes some initial damage.  Aerating in September or April allows the...

Question:
How often should I aerate a lawn?
Answer:

The frequency of aeration is largely determined by the soil type and the amount of use.  Lawns growing in heavy, clay soils and those subject to heavy foot or pet traffic should be aerated twice a year.  Once a year should be sufficient...

Question:
What is the proper way to aerate a lawn?
Answer:

Aerate lawns with a core aerator.  Core aerators have hollow metal tubes or tines that remove plugs of soil.  Avoid spike-type devices that simply punch holes (compacting the soil) in the ground.  Core aerators are often available...

Question:
What are the benefits of aerating the lawn?
Answer:

Aeration relieves soil compaction, improves water and nutrient movement in the soil, and prevents thatch accumulation.  Aeration improves the growing conditions for the turfgrass plants and results in a healthier, more vigorous lawn. ...

Question:
When is the best time to sow grass seed?
Answer:

Late summer (mid-August to mid-September) is the best time to establish a lawn from seed in Iowa.  Late summer seeding has several advantages over spring seeding.  The seeds of cool-season grasses germinate quickly in the warm soil of...

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:
What is the proper way to divide peonies?
Answer:

September is the best time to divide peonies.  By September, peony plants have been able to store adequate food reserves in their roots.  Also, the replanted divisions have several weeks to get reestablished at their new sites before...

Question:
When is the best time to transplant peonies?
Answer:

September is the best time to transplant peonies.  Begin by cutting the peony stems near ground level.  Then carefully dig around and under each plant.  Try to retain as much of the root system as possible. 

If desired...

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