Ask the ISU Experts

Last year rabbits severely damaged several annuals and perennials in my garden.  Are there any herbaceous ornamentals that would be safe from hungry rabbits?  
The feeding habits of rabbits often vary due to fluctuations in the rabbit population, availability of alternate foods and other factors.  However, there are a few annuals and perennials that rabbits usually ignore. 

Rabbits seldom damage ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum), wax begonia (Begonia semperflorens-cultorum), vinca (Catharanthus roseus), spider flower (Cleome hassleriana) and geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum). 

Perennials seldom damaged by rabbits include lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), columbine (Aquilegia spp.), astilbe (Astilbe spp.), garden mum (Chrysanthemum x morifolium), bleeding heart (Dicentra spp.), hardy geranium (Geranium spp.), daylily (Hemerocallis spp.), Siberian iris (Iris sibirica), bee balm (Monarda didyma), daffodil (Narcissus spp.), peony (Paeonia hybrids), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), moss phlox (Phlox subulata), perennial salvia (Salvia x superba) and speedwell (Veronica spp.). 

Is it possible to grow peanuts in Iowa?  
While peanuts are grown commericially in the southeastern United States, they can be grown in Iowa. Their unique growth habit makes them a fun addition to the home garden. 

Peanuts grow best in loose, well-drained soils. Avoid wet, poorly drained sites and clay soils. Plant peanuts after the danger of frost is past. Peanuts require a soil temperature of 65 F for germination. Sow peanut seeds 1 to 1.5  inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart. Rows should be spaced 24 to 36 inches apart.  Suggested varieties for home gardens include ‘Spanish,’ ‘Early Spanish,’ ‘Virginia Improved’ and ‘Jumbo Virginia.’ Peanuts are warm-season annuals that require a minimum of 120 frost free days to reach maturity. 

The flowering and fruiting of peanuts are unique. Flowers are borne above ground, but the pods develop below ground. Peanut plants bloom about 30 to 40 days after emergence. The flowers are small, bright yellow and pea-like in appearance. After pollination and fertilization occurs, the stalk (peg) below the fertilized ovary elongates and curves downward. It takes about 10 days for the peg to penetrate into the soil. A week after soil penetration, the peg tip enlarges and pod and seed development begin. The fruit mature in 9 to 10 weeks with favorable temperatures and moisture conditions. 

Harvest peanuts when the foliage begins to yellow in late summer or early fall. Dig up the plants with a spading fork and carefully shake off the loose soil. Cure the peanuts in a warm, dry shed or garage. After the plants have dried for 1 or 2 weeks, pull the pods from the plants and dry the peanuts for an additional 1 or 2 weeks. Once dried, place the pods in mesh bags and store them in a cool, well-ventilated place until roasted. 

Several apples have formed on a newly planted fruit tree.  Can the apples be allowed to mature or should they be removed?  
It’s generally best to remove all fruit that form on apple trees during their first three growing seasons. Removal of the fruit maximizes plant growth and increases yields in later years.  Removing the fruit also may prevent limb breakage on young trees.