Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
What is the procedure for rooting hardwood stem cuttings?
Answer:

After cutting the material to the proper length, dip the bottom of each cutting in a rooting hormone.  Gather the cuttings together (placing all the tops in one direction) and secure them with twine or rubber bands.  Place the bundled...

Question:
In regards to tree fruits, what is meant by the term self-unfruitful?
Answer:

Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma.  After pollination and fertilization, fruit set occurs.  There are two types of pollination.  Self-pollination occurs when the pollen is transferred from the...

Question:
Will a crabapple pollinate a nearby apple tree?
Answer:

A crabapple is a type of apple.  The main difference between an apple and a crabapple is the size of the fruit.  A crabapple is a tree that produces fruit that are less than 2 inches in diameter.  An apple tree produces fruit that...

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:
The central portions of several of my ornamental grasses are dead. Why?
Answer:

The centers of ornamental grasses often die as the plants get older.  When this occurs, it’s a good time to dig and divide the grasses.  When the grasses begin to grow in spring, dig up entire clumps, cut out and discard the dead center...

Question:
My tulips are no longer blooming. Why?
Answer:

Most modern tulip cultivars bloom well for 3 to 5 years.  Tulip bulbs decline in vigor rather quickly.  Weak bulbs produce large, floppy leaves, but no flowers.  

To maximize the number of years tulips are in bloom, choose...

Question:
Which native ferns are suitable for the home landscape?
Answer:

Native ferns that are good additions to shady locations in the home landscape include the northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina), intermediate wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia),...

Question:
Which native shrubs can be grown in shady locations in the home landscape?
Answer:

Native deciduous shrubs that can be successfully grown in partial shade include serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia),  gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa), bush honeysuckle (...

Question:
How do I control weeds in my asparagus planting?
Answer:

Cultivation and hand pulling are the best ways to control weeds in an asparagus planting.  Hoe or till the planting periodically in spring and early summer.  Cultivate lightly to avoid damage to emerging spears.   

Question:
How do I go about dividing perennials in spring?
Answer:

Early spring is an excellent time to divide asters, mums, hostas, daylilies, garden phlox, and many other perennials.  Dig up the perennials in early spring just as new growth begins to appear.  Divide each plant clump into sections...

Question:
How can I control weeds in my raspberries?
Answer:

Cultivation and mulches are the most practical weed control measures for home gardeners.  Cultivate the raspberry plantings frequently during spring and summer.  To prevent injury to the roots of the raspberry plants, don’t cultivate...

Question:
Should I stake a newly planted tree?
Answer:

Staking is not required for most newly planted trees.  However, large trees and those planted in windy, exposed sites may require staking.  If staking is necessary, allow the trunk to move or sway for proper trunk and root development....

Question:
How do I control weeds in my strawberry patch?
Answer:

Weed control is essential to insure optimal plant growth and fruit production.  Weeds compete with the strawberry plants for water, nutrients, and sunlight.  Weeds also reduce air circulation which results in fruit and foliage staying...

Question:
Should I fertilize a newly planted tree?
Answer:

It is generally not necessary to fertilize newly planted trees.  Most Iowa soils can supply sufficient amounts of nutrients during establishment.  If trees are growing poorly 2 or 3 years after planting, fertilization may be beneficial...

Question:
When can I plant cabbage seedlings in the garden?
Answer:

Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower seedlings can be planted outdoors in early April in southern Iowa, mid-April in central portions of the state, and late April in northern counties.  Harden (acclimate) the seedlings in a protected location...

Question:
How often should I water a newly planted tree?
Answer:

The key to watering newly planted balled and burlapped and container-grown trees is to keep the plant’s rootball moist for several weeks after planting.  Water newly planted trees every day for 4 or 5 days and then gradually reduce the...

Question:
When should I sow my cabbage seeds indoors?
Answer:

Sow cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower seeds indoors 4 to 5 weeks before the intended outdoor planting date.  Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower seedlings can be planted outdoors in early April in southern Iowa, mid-April in central portions...

Question:
What are some good tomato varieties for the home garden?
Answer:

Tomato varieties are classified as determinate or indeterminate.  Determinate tomatoes are small, compact plants.  They grow to a certain height, then flower and set all their fruit within a short period of time.  The harvest...

Question:
When can I plant tomatoes in Iowa?
Answer:

Transplant tomatoes into the garden after the danger of frost is past.  In central Iowa, it’s usually safe to plant tomatoes around May 10.  Gardeners in southern Iowa can plant one week earlier, while those in northern areas should...

Question:
What is the proper spacing when planting tomatoes in the garden?
Answer:

Tomato varieties are classified as determinate or indeterminate.  Determinate tomatoes are small, compact plants.  They grow to a certain height, stop, then flower and set all their fruit within a short period of time.  The harvest...

Question:
In regards to tomatoes, what is meant by the terms determinate and indeterminate?
Answer:

Determinate and indeterminate refer to the tomato’s growth habit.  Determinate tomatoes are small, compact plants.  They grow to a certain height, stop, then flower and set all their fruit within a short period of time.  The...

Question:
When mowing the lawn, what is the proper mowing height?
Answer:

Kentucky bluegrass lawns should be mowed at a height of 2½ to 3 inches in the spring and fall months.  Mow bluegrass lawns at a height of 3 to 3½ inches in June, July, and August.  A higher mowing height in summer helps to cool the...

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

Kentucky bluegrass lawns should be mowed at the height of 2½ to 3 inches in spring and fall.  Set the mower blade to a height of 3 to 3½ inches during summer. 

As a general rule, never remove more than 1/3 of the total leaf...

Question:
Should I remove the grass clippings when mowing the lawn?
Answer:

When the lawn is mowed properly, grass clippings do not need to be removed or bagged.  Small clippings filter down into the turf and quickly decompose, returning essential plant nutrients to the soil.  Lawn clippings do not...

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