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:
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:
When can I divide garden phlox?
Answer:

Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) can be divided in spring or late summer/early fall.  In spring, dig up the plants just as new growth begins to appear.  Divide each clump into sections with a sharp knife.  Each division...

Question:
How can I control powdery mildew on my garden phlox?
Answer:

Powdery mildew is a common disease of garden phlox (Phlox paniculata).  The fungal disease produces a grayish white coating on the leaves.  Infected leaves eventually turn yellow and then brown.  Initial symptoms appear on...

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:
Which perennials tend to be short-lived?
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 extremely long-lived.  In...

Question:
Which perennials grow well in wet soils?
Answer:

When selecting perennials, it’s important to choose plants that are suitable for the planting site.  Perennials that grow well in moist to wet soils include sweet flag (Acorus calamus), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum...

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

Cucumbers 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, the female flowers have small, immature fruits...

Question:
Why are some of my potato tubers green?
Answer:

Potato tubers are actually enlarged underground stems.  When potato tubers are exposed to light (either in the garden or storage), their skin turns green due to the formation of chlorophyll.  The chlorophyll itself is not a problem....

Question:
When should I harvest potatoes?
Answer:

Potatoes can be harvested when the tubers are small and immature (“new” potatoes) or when the crop is fully mature. 

“New” potatoes are dug when the plants are still green and the tubers are greater than 1 inch in diameter.  New...

Question:
Why are my potatoes knobby?
Answer:

Fluctuations in soil moisture levels during tuber development may cause knobby potatoes.  Watering on a regular basis (about once a week) during dry periods will help prevent this problem.

Question:
How do I control crabgrass in my lawn?
Answer:

The best way to prevent crabgrass infestations in lawns is to maintain a thick, healthy lawn through proper mowing, irrigation, and fertilization.  Crabgrass will have a difficult time germinating and surviving in a dense stand of turfgrass...

Question:
There are large, brown spots on my peony leaves. What should I do?
Answer:

Peony leaf blotch is probably responsible for the large, brown spots.  Peony leaf blotch is caused by the fungus Cladosporium paeoniae.  The disease is also known as red spot or measles.  Typical symptoms include glossy...

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