Frequently Asked Questions

Question:
Can the butterfly weed be divided?
Answer:

The butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a member of the milkweed family.  Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall and produce flat-topped clusters of bright orange flowers from July through September.  Their flowers attract several...

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:
Can dog or cat feces be placed in the compost pile?
Answer:

It is advisable not to add dog or cat feces to the compost pile.  Dog and cat feces may contain harmful pathogens that may not be destroyed during the composting process. 

Question:
Why are my tomatoes ripening so slowly?
Answer:

Once fruit set has occurred, it normally takes 45 to 55 days for tomato fruit to fully develop and ripen.  Cool temperatures during tomato fruit development will slow maturity.  Tomato fruit may require an additional 7 to 10 days to...

Question:
The leaves on my red-twigged dogwoods are spotted and beginning to fall off. Why?
Answer:

The spotting and premature leaf drop on your dogwoods is probably due to Septoria leaf spot.  Septoria leaf spot is a common fungal disease of dogwoods in Iowa.  The disease typically causes irregularly shaped grayish spots with dark...

Question:
Is it necessary to water an established lawn during hot, dry weather?
Answer:

Gardeners have two basic options when confronted with hot, dry weather.  One option is to do nothing and allow the grass to go dormant.  The alternative is to water the turfgrass during dry weather to maintain a green, actively growing...

Question:
How do I stop birds from eating my blueberries?
Answer:

Birds are the biggest threat to the blueberry crop in the home garden.  If not controlled, hungry birds may devour most of the crop.  Scare devices are sometimes helpful.  However, netting is the most effective way to protect the...

Question:
I have a chokecherry that sends up suckers in the yard around it. Is there any way to stop it from suckering?
Answer:

Chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) and several other trees will send up shoots (suckers) from their roots.  Unfortunately, there is nothing the home gardener can do to prevent these trees from suckering. 

The best way to...

Question:
How do I control water grass in my lawn?
Answer:

“Water grass” is an ambiguous name.  Several plants are occasionally referred to as water grass.  Two common lawn weeds that are sometimes referred to as “water grass” are crabgrass and yellow nutsedge. 

Crabgrass

...

Question:
What type of pruning equipment is needed to prune grapevines?
Answer:

Tools required to prune grapevines include a hand shears, lopping shears, and saw.  Brightly colored ribbons or cloth strips can be used to identify fruiting canes and renewal spurs.  

Question:
How do I preserve cockscomb?
Answer:

Air-drying is the best way to preserve cockscomb.  After harvesting cockscomb, strip the foliage from the stems.  Tie the stems into small bunches with rubber bands.  Hang the loose bunches upside down in a warm, dry, well-...

Question:
Some of my strawberries in the garden are covered with a gray, velvety growth. What is it and how can it be controlled?
Answer:

The gray, velvety growth on your berries may be gray mold.  It is also known as Botrytis fruit rot.  Gray mold is favored by poor air circulation and a high humidity in the strawberry planting.  The most commonly infected berries...

Question:
The foliage on my bleeding heart dies back in early summer. What is wrong?
Answer:

The common bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) typically dies back in mid-summer in Iowa.  However, plants may die back in late spring or early summer if growing conditions are not favorable.  The common bleeding heart...

Question:
How can I control Colorado potato beetles?
Answer:

The Colorado potato beetle is difficult to control.  Hand picking is a control option for individuals with small gardens.  Hand-pick beetles, eggs, and small larvae from infested plants as soon as possible (practical for a few insects...

Question:
Should I apply lime to my garden?
Answer:

 In Iowa, gardeners should apply lime to gardens and lawns only when recommended by a soil test. A soil test will indicate the current soil pH and, if necessary, the amount of lime to apply to the area. Liming materials include ground...

Question:
Why are my tomatoes cracking?
Answer:

Fruit cracking is a common problem on tomatoes.  Cracks usually appear at the top or stem end of the fruit.  Cracks radiate out from the stem (radial cracks) or circle the fruit in concentric rings (concentric cracks).  Fruit...

Question:
My crabapple has begun to drop some of its leaves. Why?
Answer:

The leaf drop is probably due to apple scab. Apple scab is a fungal disease caused by the fungus Venturia inaequalis. Cool, wet weather in spring favors apple scab development. Crabapple varieties differ in their susceptibility to apple...

Question:
What is the proper way to water a lawn?
Answer:

Most lawns in Iowa require 1 to 1½ inches of water per week.  When watering the lawn, apply this amount in a single application or possibly 2 applications 3 or 4 days apart.  Avoid frequent, light applications of water which promote...

Question:
I just planted some blueberries. When can I expect them to produce a crop?
Answer:

Blueberry plants should not be allowed to bear fruit in the first 2 years.  Any blossoms which form should be removed (rubbed off).  Removal of the flowers will maximize vegetative growth and increase yields in later years. ...

Question:
A large evergreen was partially uprooted in a storm. Can I save it?
Answer:

Tree roots are not as deep as most people imagine.  Most tree roots are located in the top 12 to 18 inches of soil.  While tree roots are quite shallow, they often extend out into an area that is 2 to 3 times larger than the crown area...

Question:
When should I apply a preventive type insecticide to control white grubs in the lawn?
Answer:

White grub populations and damage to lawns vary greatly from year to year and place to place, even varying from spot to spot within the same lawn due to variations in beetle numbers, weather, turfgrass vigor, soil conditions, and other factors....

Question:
Are there any peach varieties that can be successfully grown in Iowa?
Answer:

Peaches are not reliably cold hardy in most parts of Iowa.  It is possible to grow ‘Reliance’ (yellow flesh, freestone) and ‘Polly’ (white flesh, clingstone) in the southern one-third of Iowa. 

Growing peaches in Iowa is...

Question:
How often should I water plants in hanging baskets?
Answer:

Plants in hanging baskets need to be watered frequently (especially in summer).  Potting mixes are light, well-drained, and dry out quickly.  Plus, hanging baskets may contain several plants.  In general, water plants in hanging...

Question:
There are small, black, yellow-spotted beetles feeding on my strawberries. What should I do?
Answer:

The small, black beetles are likely sap beetles.  They are also known as picnic beetles or picnic bugs.  Sap beetles commonly feed on overripe or damaged fruits and vegetables in the garden. 

Sanitation is the best...

Question:
When can I divide lungworts?
Answer:

Lungworts (Pulmonaria spp.) can be divided in late summer/early fall or after flowering in spring.  Carefully dig up the entire clump, then divide the clump into sections with a sharp knife.  Each section should contain several...

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