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


How do I control weeds in my asparagus planting?

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.  


What would be a good planting site for blueberries? 

Blueberry plants require a sunny location and a well-drained soil high in organic matter. Avoid wet, poorly drained sites. Blueberries are susceptible to root rots in poorly drained soils. 


Soil pH is also important. Blueberries require acid soils with a pH of 4.0 to 5.5. Since the pH of most Iowa soils is above this range, the soil pH must be lowered to successfully grow blueberries. 


Home gardeners can lower their soil pH by adding Canadian sphagnum peat to the soil. Sulfur can also be used to acidify the soil. Sulfur should be incorporated into the soil a year before planting as it reacts slowly with the soil. Aluminum sulfate should not be used to acidify the soil as large amounts of this material can be toxic to blueberry plants. 


How do I get rid of moss in my lawn? 

The appearance of mosses in a lawn is usually a sign of poor growing conditions. Turfgrasses have a difficult time growing in heavy shade, compacted soils or other poor sites. However, mosses are adapted to a wide range of environmental conditions. Mosses in lawns are usually associated with heavy shade, low fertility, poor drainage, compacted soil or any combination of aforementioned factors.


Mosses can be temporarily removed by hand raking. However, the underlying conditions responsible for moss development must be corrected to achieve a permanent solution. Conduct a soil test of the area and follow the fertilizer recommendations. Some mosses are favored by highly acidic soils. However, this is not true for all mosses. Add lime only when recommended by a soil test. Prune low-hanging branches of trees and shrubs to allow more light into the area. Improve soil drainage by aerating with a core aerator. Plant fine-leaf fescue grasses in shady areas. Creeping red fescue, hard fescue and chewings fescue are more tolerant of shade than Kentucky bluegrass. 


I’ve started some flower and vegetable plants indoors. Can I plant them directly outdoors in the spring? 

Flower and vegetable plants started indoors or purchased from greenhouses should not be planted directly into the garden. The intense sun and strong winds may damage or kill the tender seedlings.


Bedding plants should be "hardened" (acclimated to outdoor growing conditions) before transplanting them into the garden. Initially place the plants in a shady, protected site. Then gradually expose the plants to longer periods of direct sun. Closely watch the plants during this period. If possible, check on them at least once or twice a day.


Thoroughly water the seedlings when the soil surface becomes dry to the touch. Move the plants indoors if strong winds, a severe storm or an overnight frost threatens them. The flower and vegetable plants should be ready to plant after six or seven days of hardening. 



Contacts :

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

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