Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
How and when do I prune suckers from the base of my tree?
Answer:

Remove suckers with a hand pruners as soon as they appear from their point of origin.  Often this requires pulling a little bit of soil back to find the base and clip it off while still less than 6 to 12 inches in length.  If suckers...

Question:
Will newly emerged perennials be seriously harmed if they begin to leaf out and are then subjected to freezing temperatures?
Answer:

Some perennials emerge early in the spring.  In Iowa, it’s common to have relatively warm days in early or mid-March and it is equally common to have below freezing temperatures in April or even early May.  In most cases, early leaf...

Question:
Will fruit trees be seriously harmed if they begin to leaf out or flower and are then subjected to freezing temperatures?
Answer:

Freezing temperatures don’t harm dormant plants. In some years, warm late winter temperatures can cause some fruit trees to break bud, leaf-out, or develop flower buds earlier than normal.  The inevitable below-freezing temperatures that...

Question:
Will trees and shrubs be seriously harmed if they begin to leaf out and are then subjected to freezing temperatures in spring?
Answer:

In some years, warm late winter temperatures can cause some trees and shrubs to break bud, leaf-out, or develop flower buds earlier than normal.  The inevitable below-freezing temperatures that follow in early spring can potentially cause...

Question:
What cultivar of apple should I plant to ensure good pollination?
Answer:

Apples are considered self-unfruitful.  While a few cultivars, like Gold Delicious, set a good crop without cross-pollination, most apple cultivars will not produce a good crop without a different cultivar nearby to provide pollen.

...

Question:
What native woodland perennials bloom in spring?
Answer:

There are many native woodland wildflowers that are great additions to the shade garden.  Most are ephemeral with a relatively short (but impactful) bloom time in early spring before the foliage dies back to the ground in early summer....

Question:
What trees bloom in spring?
Answer:

While most deciduous trees have flowers of some kind in springtime, they tend to be small and not showy.  There are several species of smaller, ornamental trees that have showy blooms in the spring. 

The eastern redbud...

Question:
How do I control perennial grassy weeds in the lawn?
Answer:

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

Question:
How do I manage and kill poison ivy in my garden?
Answer:

Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is a native vine common to woodland areas but found frequently growing in gardens and along fence lines.  This vine causes an allergic reaction (dermatitis) in most people when their skin comes in...

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:
What are garlic scapes and what should I do with them?
Answer:

Hardneck cultivars of garlic will produce a scape or flower stalk from the center of the leaves in mid- to late-May.  Removing the scape is advised as it will help the bulb grow larger because the plant will put energy into bulb production...

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

Fertilization

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...

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

In Iowa, October is the time to plant garlic cloves 1-1.5 inches deep and 3-5 inches apart in well-drained, fertile soils.

Ideal Planting Conditions

Grow garlic in well-drained, fertile soils that are...

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:

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 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 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:

Planting Depth

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...

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

Light Requirements

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...

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:
Can trimming, pruning, & mowing be used to control weeds effectively?
Answer:

Cutting back or mowing off weeds is sometimes used to control weeds in the garden or lawn.  Timely or frequent cutting back stresses the weed and reduces its competitive advantage over more desirable plants.  Consistent removal of the...

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...

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