Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
How can I over-winter unplanted perennials still in their containers?
Answer:

If a perennial cannot be planted in its final spot before winter arrives, you will need to take steps to make sure it survives the winter while still in the container.

Container grown perennials should not be left outdoors above ground...

Question:
How can I over-winter container grown trees and shrubs?  
Answer:

If a woody tree or shrub cannot be planted in its final spot before winter arrives, you will need to take steps to make sure it survives the winter while still in the container.

Container grown trees and shrubs should not be left outdoors...

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

Newly planted sycamore tree under stress
...

Question:
How can I prevent deer browsing and feeding during the winter months?
Answer:

Deer may feed on trees and shrubs during the winter months and severely damage or destroy plants.  Damage is most likely to occur when food is scare during prolonged periods of snow cover.  Deer often feed on the foliage on the lower...

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

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 additional pound per...

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

Grow garlic in well-drained, fertile soils that are high in organic matter. Amend heavy, clay soils with compost or well-rotted manure before planting to prevent misshapen bulbs.  Garlic does not grow well or reliably from seed.  Plant...

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 purchase high-quality bulbs?
Answer:

When buying bulbs, select only firm, solid bulbs for planting. Avoid bulbs that are shriveled or lightweight. Bulbs that are discolored by mold or that contain soft spots should also be avoided.

Size matters when selecting bulbs. The...

Question:
How do I control weedy vines?
Answer:

Weedy vines can be some of the most difficult to control weeds in the garden.  They are fast growing, getting very large in a relatively short amount of time and often climb and cover other garden plants.  These tenacious plants climb...

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.  In most cases, the...

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:

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 often planted 3 to 4...

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

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 have finished flowering,...

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...

Question:
How do I control perennial grassy weeds, like quackgrass, zoysiagrass, or nimblewill in my garden and lawn?
Answer:

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

Question:
How do I control perennial broadleaf weeds in my garden and lawn?
Answer:

Perennial broadleaf weeds die back to ground level in fall but send up new growth in spring.  These weed species have leaves that are wider and often have a major vein running down the center of the leaf with secondary veins branching off of...

Question:
How can I use preemergent herbicides to control weeds?
Answer:

Preemergent herbicides are used to prevent weeds from growing. They interrupt the growing process of a newly germinating plant, preventing that plant from becoming established.  Preemergent herbicides will not impact mature or established...

Question:
How do I manage annual weeds?
Answer:

Annual weeds grow rapidly, flower, set seed and die in a single season. New annual weeds, such as crabgrass, velvetleaf, purslane, knotweed, lambsquarter and foxtail, germinate from seeds each year. Before they die, most annual weeds produce...

Question:
How can flame weeding be used to control weeds?
Answer:

Flame weeding is the use of intense heat, usually produced by a propane torch or other fuel-burning device, to kill weeds.  This organic option for weeding causes the water and sap inside the plant cell to boil and expand rupturing the cell...

Question:
Can I manage weeds with boiling water?
Answer:

Pouring boiling water on weeds can be used especially in situations where other plants are not nearby, such as in cracks in patios or sidewalks.   Boiling water will act as a contact "herbicide", killing only the portion of the plant it...

Question:
Can I replant a new tree in the same spot after an old tree has been removed?
Answer:

A new planting site is best for any new tree.  While planting a new tree in the exact same spot as a tree that was removed is possible, it is not advised.  If any of the the old tree's roots are still in the ground, the newly planted...

Question:
Why is my lilac blooming in fall, instead of spring?
Answer:

Occasionally, spring blooming shrubs and trees, like lilac, crabapple, or forsythia, will bloom out of season during the fall months.  This out-of-season bloom is usually triggered by stressful environmental conditions during the summer...

Question:
How do I know if a plant is a weed?
Answer:

A weed is simply a plant out of place.   By this definition, any plant could be a weed if growing in a location where it is not wanted.  

There are some species of plants, such as thistle and poison ivy, that are rarely...

Question:
What do I do with fall planted cool-season annuals when winter arrives?
Answer:

Cool-season annuals are annual plants that prefer cool temperatures, growing best in spring or fall. Many are tolerant of a light frost often surviving down to 28°F or sometimes even 25°F with little damage to flowers or leaves.

Cool-...

Pages