Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
Are leaves a good winter mulch?
Answer:

Winter mulches are applied to plants, such as strawberries and chrysanthemums, in fall to prevent damage caused by extreme cold or repeated freezing and thawing of the soil during the winter months. Leaves are a poor winter mulch for strawberries...

Question:
What is the nutrient content of composted leaves?
Answer:

The nutrient content of composted leaves is very small. The levels of nutrients vary somewhat from species to species. However, the nitrogen content of composted leaves on a dry basis usually varies from 0.5 to 1.0 percent. Potash amounts are in...

Question:
Can oak leaves be used as a garden mulch?
Answer:

Yes. While oak leaves are slightly acidic, an oak leaf mulch should have little effect on the soil pH. Shredded leaves are an excellent mulch for vegetable gardens, raspberry plantings, perennial flower beds and around trees and shrubs. Oak...

Question:
Can I empty my pool water on the lawn without killing the grass?
Answer:

In most cases, very little to no damage will occur to the lawn when a pool, hot tub, or other chlorinated water source is emptied on it, provided it is not done frequently, dumped all in one spot, and care is taken to reduce the chlorine...

Question:
How do I over-winter the common fig?
Answer:

Common or edible figs (Ficus carica) are not reliably cold hardy in Iowa. The stems of ‘Chicago Hardy’ (considered one of the hardiest edible fig cultivars) are hardy to 10 degrees Fahrenheit and the plant’s roots are hardy to 15 to 20...

Question:
Can I grow herbs indoors over the winter?
Answer:

Many herbs can be successfully grown indoors during the winter months. The best herbs to grow indoors include basil, cilantro, parsley, chervil, rosemary, bay laurel, mint, chives, oregano, thyme, sage, and lemongrass.

Light is often the...

Question:
What is this sticky substance all over the table, floor, and lower leaves of my houseplant?
Answer:

Honeydew is a sticky, sugar-rich substance produced by insects that suck sap from plant leaves and stems.  This excretion often coats lower leaves, tables, and floors and when severe, may promote the growth of black sooty mold. 

...
Question:
Why is my houseplant wilting?
Answer:

Wilting is the result of roots not being able to provide adequate moisture to the leaves and stems.  It can be caused by two completely opposite reasons, either under-watering or over-watering, which can make it difficult to diagnose and...

Question:
What causes leaves on my houseplant to turn yellow or brown and drop off?
Answer:

Yellowing, browning, and dropping of leaves is one of the most vague and difficult issues to deal with because it can be caused by a wide variety of issues. Many of the problems seen in houseplants are not caused by just one factor, they are the...

Question:
Why does my houseplant have brown leaf tips and edges?
Answer:

Brown leaf tips or edges can happen on any indoor plant but are common on some species like spider plant and dracaena.  Trimming the brown portions off the leaves with a scissors can improve appearance, but new browning will occur if...

Question:
Are philodendrons poisonous?
Answer:

Yes.  Philodendrons and closely related species contain calcium oxalate crystals which are toxic to humans, dogs, cats, and other animals.  When any part of the plant is eaten, it may cause pain and swelling in the lips, mouth, tongue,...

Question:
How do I propagate philodendron?
Answer:

Trailing types of philodendron propagate easily from stem cuttings.  Stem sections 3 to 6 inches long with the lower leaves removed will readily root in water or rooting media, like perlite or well-drained potting soil.  If rooting in...

Question:
What do I do with the aerial roots of a philodendron?
Answer:

Most philodendron species will produce aerial roots which allows them to successfully grow on or up other trees in their native habitats.  In the home, these roots can help trailing types climb a trellis or moss pole or help the plant...

Question:
What are popular types of philodendron?
Answer:

This large tropical plant genus is divided into two major types: climbing and non-climbing. 

Climbing Types

Those that climb or vine look great on a trellis, moss pole, or growing in a hanging basket.  They include...

Question:
How do I care for a philodendron?
Answer:

Philodendrons are native to the low-light understory of tropical forests, primarily in Central and South America.  Because of this, they prefer indirect or dappled light.  Some varieties, like heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron...

Question:
How do I store seeds collected from my garden?
Answer:

Once seeds are collected and properly cleaned, they need to be stored.  Proper storage conditions for seeds are essential to maintain viability and good germination at planting time. ...

Question:
How do I prepare seeds collected from my garden after harvesting them?
Answer:

The late growing season is a good time to collect seeds from vegetables and flowers.  Seed saving allows gardeners to preserve heirloom varieties or their favorite plants from year to year. Once harvested, the seed will need to be cleaned to...

Question:
How do I dispose of leaves that I collect?
Answer:

If fallen leaves are collected, there are a several options for what you can do with them. 

Add Leaves to the Compost Pile

Whenever possible, keep this valuable organic resource on-site.  Leaves can be added to a compost...

Question:
What do I do with fallen leaves in my flower beds?
Answer:

Leaves are an excellent resource for the garden. They break down to add organic matter and nutrients to the soil. As they decompose, they act as a mulch suppressing weeds and helping to maintain consistent soil moisture. Additionally, they can...

Question:
Can I just leave fallen leaves on my yard and garden?
Answer:

Keep Leaves in Place, When Possible

Leaving the leaves alone is a good way to support native pollinators and other insects and wildlife.  These valuable insects rely on the habitat fallen leaves provide, especially over the winter...

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:
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 scarce during prolonged periods of snow cover.  Deer often feed on the foliage on the lower...

Question:
How do I purchase high-quality bulbs?
Answer:

High-quality spring blooming bulbs are large, firm, solid, and purchased from quality retailers, both in-store and online.

Select Firm, Solid Bulbs

When buying bulbs, select only firm, solid bulbs for...

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. 

Locate...

Pages