Extension News

Ask the ISU Extension Garden Experts: Turfgrass, Dividing Bee Balm, Planting Strawberries and Woodland Wildflowers for the Home

Note to media editors: Note to media editors: Got gardening questions? Call the Hortline at (515) 294-3108, Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m., or send an e-mail to hortline@iastate.edu. For more gardening information, visit us at Yard and Garden Online, http://www.yardandgarden.extension.iastate.edu.


Is there any turfgrass that grows well in shade?
A key to successfully growing grass in shady areas is to select the proper turfgrass species for the site. Kentucky bluegrass is the most widely grown turfgrass in Iowa. However, most Kentucky bluegrass varieties do not perform well in shady areas. The fine-leaf fescues (creeping red fescue, hard fescue, chewings fescue, etc.) are the most shade tolerant of the cool-season turfgrasses. When attempting to establish grass in a shady area, select a grass seed mix that contains a high percentage (75 percent or more) of the fine-leaf fescues. Late summer (mid-August to early September) and April are the best times to establish grass in shady areas.

When is the best time to divide bee balm?
Bee balm (Monarda species) spreads rapidly via underground stems or stolons. In addition, the center of the plant often dies out within a few years. To control their spread and rejuvenate plants, it’s advisable to dig and divide bee balms every two to three years. Early spring is the best time to dig and divide bee balms. Dig up the plants as soon as they emerge from the ground. Divide the clump into sections with a sharp knife. Each section should have several shoots and a good root system. Replant the divisions immediately.

What is a good planting site for strawberries?
When selecting a planting site for strawberries, choose an area that receives full sun and has well-drained soil. Planting sites should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. Leaf and root diseases are often problems in poorly drained, wet soils. Do not plant in areas that are heavily infested with perennial weeds. Perennial weeds, such as quackgrass, are extremely difficult to control in strawberry plantings. Also, avoid sites where strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers have been grown in the last two years to prevent possible root disease problems.

Are there spring-flowering woodland wildflowers that perform well in the home landscape?
Spring-flowering woodland wildflowers that are attractive additions to shady areas in the home landscape include wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata) and bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).


Contacts :

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

Christopher Weishaar, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-1327, cweishaa@iastate.edu