Extension News

Ask the ISU Experts

Note to media editors:

Got gardening questions? Contact the Hortline at (515) 294-3108 (Monday-Friday; 10 a.m.-12 Noon and 1-4:30 p.m.) or send an e-mail to hortline@iastate.edu. For more gardening information visit us at Yard and Garden Online at www.yardandgarden.extension.iastate.edu.


When is the best time to divide bee balms? 

Bee balms (Monarda spp.) spread rapidly via underground stems or stolons. In addition, the centers of the clumps often die out within a few years.

To control their spread and rejuvenate the plants, it's usually necessary to dig and divide bee balms every 2 to 3 years. Early spring is the best time to dig and divide bee balms. Dig up the plants as soon as shoots begin to emerge from the ground. Divide the clump into sections with a sharp knife. Each section should have at least two or three shoots and a good root system. Replant immediately. 


What is the proper mowing height for shady turfgrass areas? 

Do not mow shady areas less than 3 inches in height.  Because of the lower photosynthetic rates in shady areas, the turfgrass plants need a large leaf surface to manufacture adequate amounts of food.  The recommended mowing height for grass growing in shady areas is 3 to 3.5 inches.  (A 3 to 3.5 inch mowing height is also fine for sunny areas.) 


When mowing turf, never remove more than a third of the total leaf surface at any one time. If the mower is set at 3 inches, cut the grass when it reaches a height of 4.5 inches. 


If possible, alternate the mowing direction from one mowing to the next. Mowing the lawn in the same direction or pattern may damage certain areas. The damage is caused by the mower wheels repeatedly going over the same areas, resulting in soil compaction and physical wear. 


How deep should I plant bearded irises? 

When planting bearded irises, dig a hole large enough to accommodate the rhizome and roots.  Build a mound in the center of the hole. Place the rhizome on top of the mound and spread the roots in the surrounding trench. Then cover with soil. When planted, the rhizome should be just below the soil surface. 


How can you tell when to harvest honeydew melons? 

Unlike muskmelons, the fruit of honeydews do not slip off the vine when mature.  The best indicator of ripeness is a slight softening of the blossom end of the fruit.  There also may be a subtle change in the color of the honeydew.  Honeydews can be stored for 2 to 3 weeks at a temperature of 45 to 50 degrees F. 


Contacts :

Richard Jauron, Horticulture, (515) 294-1871, rjauron@iastate.edu

Jean McGuire, Extension Communications and Marketing, (515) 294-7033, jmcguire@iastate.edu