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This time of year, it’s hard to avoid pumpkin spice. It’s being used for candles, lattes, and even beef jerky. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Aaron Steil, assistant director for Reiman Gardens about what makes up the iconic blend.

Horticulture expert Richard Jauron also joins the conversation to answer listener questions.

Why October is the Best Time to Plan Your Spring Garden

Oct 14, 2016
Field Outdoor Spaces / Flickr


The rich yellows, oranges, and reds of fall are dominant in the landscape right now, but it’s time to start thinking about the pinks, purples, and whites of spring. 
On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Iowa State University horticulturists Cindy Haynes and Richard Jauron about fall bulbs and how to plan for your spring garden.   


Best Places to See Fall Colors in Iowa

Oct 7, 2016
TumblingRun / Flickr


Fall is here and beautiful colors are creeping across the landscape.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with DNR district forester Mark Vitosh about why and how leaves change color in the fall and the best places to see fall color in the state.


Vitosh says his top five favorite trees in the fall are:

There’s a great deal of history to be found on most university campuses, but not just in the buildings and the libraries - the trees also have a story to tell.

On this horticulture day edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with horticulturist Bill Graves about the Heritage Tree Program at Iowa State University. Also, he and horticulturist Richard Jauron answer listener questions.

Liese Coulter, CSIRO

When you plant an apple tree, it's sometimes a long wait for that tree to mature. But when it does you can suddenly find yourself with a lot of apples, which is great for pie making and canning. 

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Diana Cochran, Iowa State University Extension fruit crop expert about the best ways to harvest and store apples. Richard Jauron, ISU Extension Horticulture expert also joins the conversation to answer listener questions. 

Thompson Greg, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Public Domain

Your friendly neighborhood herbivores, like deer and rabbits, aren’t opposed to snacking on your garden in the best of times, but they are particularly prone to snacking on ornamental trees and shrubs when the snow flies. 

Iowa State University Extension Horticulturist Richard Jauron says the plants that are most vulnerable to deer during the winter months are evergreens like arborvitae and yews, but new plantings of trees and shrubs should also be protected.

Michael Hartl / Wikimedia Commons

As summer comes to a close, insects and arachnids have some work to get done, and that makes them easier to see. According to Iowa State University Extension Entomologist Donald Lewis, it's been a good year for spiders. 

"I don't know that it's been a spectacular year, but it's been a good year," he says. 

"Its in the fall of the year when we can see them. Its in the fall of the year when they make their biggest webs, and it's the time of year when dew settles on the webs and makes them most visible." 

F_A / Flickr, licensed through Creative Commons

Much of gardening is intuitive. Not so with lawn care.

Plants grow in the spring and summer, so you might think that would be the time to re-seed or over-seed your lawn. You would be wrong.

Iowa State University Extension Turf Grass Specialist Nick Christians says the date he circles on the calendar for planting grass seed is August 15th. He says that date gives the seed enough time to grow before a freeze, and cooler temperatures will give it a better chance of competing with other weeds.

Muscatine's Secret to Perfect Melons

Aug 12, 2016


What's the difference between cantaloupe and muskmelon? How many types of melon are there? And how in the world do they grow seedless watermelon?


With Melon season finally upon us and harvest time in full swing, the Hort Gang helps answers those questions, and find out just what makes those melons so irresistibly juicy.


Should I dry or freeze basil? How do I keep cilantro from bolting? Why is there so much mint?

In this edition of Talk of Iowa Host Emily Woodbury fills in for Charity Nebbe, and talks with Cindy Haynes, Associate Professor of Horticulture at Iowa State University, about all things herb-related. Later, Richard Jauron, Extension Horticulturist joins the conversation and answers listener questions.


What's Going On Inside a Firefly?

Jul 29, 2016
More Weeping / Flickr

Watching fireflies as they light up a soft warm night is one of the pure joys of summer. As fireflies dwindle and send their last signals of the season, we find out what all of that flashing is about.

In this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa, Chairty Nebbe talks with Iowa State University Extension entomologist Donald Lewis about the majesty and fertility of fireflies, the genesis of Hort Day, and the upcoming 30th anniversary celebration. Later, ISU Extension horticulturist Richard Jauron joins the conversation to answer listener questions.

What is a master gardener? Someone who loves gardening, has a strong interest in helping others improve their gardens, and is willing to volunteer on projects.  Iowa State Uniersity offers training classes every fall semester starting Sept. 1. 

During this hour of of Talk of Iowa Charity Nebbe talks with Iowa State University Extension Master Gardener Coordinator Denny Shrock about what it means to become a master gardener and his work with ISU to help other gardeners get the best yields each year. 

In the height of the growing season, it's important to keep a careful eye on your beloved crops.

In this episode of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Assistant Director of Remain Gardens, Aaron Steil and ISU Extension Horticulturist Richard Jauron to answer listener questions about pruning, mulch alternatives and organic pest solutions. Here's their to-do list for taking care of perennials and other plants.

As we brace for the end of storm season, wind damage and tree wounds are expected.

On this hour of Talk of Iowa Host Charity Nebbe talks with Professor and Chair of Horticulture Department at Iowa State University Jeff Iles, and Iowa State University Extension Horticulturist Richard Jauron about tree recovery. They both share advice for caring for fallen limbs. 

Jauron and Iles also answer listener questions about stability and root systems and discuss the value of ground assessment, as well as the advantages of pruning trees young.

With a wave of dryness hitting the western and southeastern part of Iowa, it can be hard to keep your thirsty plants satisfied. 

During this hour of Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with Iowa State Extension Specialist in Value Added Agriculture, Linda Naeve and Iowa State Extension Horticulturist, Richard Jauron about how the heat affects our plants, and the best watering strategies to keep your plants hydrated this summer. They also discuss the importance of checking leaf color and discuss how to tell if your plants are stressed.

A Stalk to Stand On

Jun 27, 2016

With tomato season fast approaching it's time to talk about how to train those unruly veggies.

Ben Stanton talks with Iowa State Assistant Professor and Vegetable Extension Specialist Ajay Nair about the best way to keep your precious plants upright, and alternative support setups for larger-scale systems. They also discuss the importance of pruning, and how to spot the difference between determinate and indeterminate plants.

"When we prune our plants, the fruits are bigger and the plants are more productive in terms of yield and performance," Nair said.

As the summer settles in, the bugs come out, and that includes ants. Iowa State University Extension entomologist Donald Lewis says there are more than 700 species living in Iowa. 

"If you combined all the ants of the world they would weigh about as much as the combined weight of all the humans," Lewis said. 

There are approximately 8,800 different known species that cover the terrestrial surface of the earth, Lewis says, but you need not worry that 8,800 different kinds of ants live in your backyard, as the majority of species live in limited areas of the tropics.

Liz West / Flickr

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us and peonies are starting to bloom across the state.

Cindy Haynes, Associate Professor of Horticulture at Iowa State University, says you shouldn’t be worried if your peonies haven’t opened yet. If your peonies haven’t started blooming by the first week of June, she says you should double check that your plants are in the right conditions, with shallow soil and lots of sun.

Day Donaldson / Flickr

The summer travel season is almost upon us, and this year travelers are thinking more about insects.

Fears about the Zika virus are heightened as the infested mosquitoes spread and more cases are reported in the U.S. Lewis says that currently all the cases in the U.S. came from people traveling, and that there is still no vaccine to help prevent the virus.

David Hawgood / Wikimedia Commons

Heat, light, water and nitrogen… put them together and you get lakes and ponds that are choked with plant growth. The balance between discouraging aquatic unwanteds and encouraging the plant growth that supports aquatic life is a tricky one to manage.

Allen Patillo, aquaculture and fisheries extension specialist says preventing problems is easier than solving them, and that means nutrient management. He says protecting the watershed is the best first step by limiting the nitrogen leaving lawns and fields, and planting prairie or other species that will absorb the runoff.

Stephen Melkisethian

Many gardeners consider Mother's Day to be the starting gun that signals the beginning of tomato planting season.

On this horticulture day edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Iowa State University horticulturists Linda Naeve and Richard Jauron about what varieties to pick, how to plant, staking and caging, managing diseases, and how to successfully grow tomatoes in containers.

“Hardening off” the plants

Richard Jauron

Arbor Day is a wonderful day to think about planting trees, but it’s also a good time to walk amongst beautiful trees and learn a little bit about the species that surround us.

Emily Woodbury

A lot of people get outside to explore nature on Earth Day, and right now is the perfect time to visit the woods.

  In the spring, Iowa’s woodlands come to life with wildflowers like Bloodroot, Dutchman’s breeches, Trillium, Hepatica, and May apples. Wildflowers are also found in wetlands and prairies.

This hour on Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Iowa State University Extension horticulturists, Richard Jauron and Cindy Haynes, about woodland wildflowers. They also answer listener questions.

Wikimedia Commons

Planning outdoor landscaping is one of the more overwhelming outdoor projects. If you're wondering where to start, Lisa Orgler, a lecturer in the horticulture department at Iowa State University says to think about your open spaces first. 

Kate Dugas / Flickr

It's almost time to start planting seedlings into the soil.

"This is an exciting time of year," says Ajay Nair, assistant professor of horticulture at Iowa State University. "One of the crops that comes to mind is potatoes. Sometime in the first week of April, or the second week of April, is the time to plant potatoes... Other crops that can go out are the cool season vegetables like broccoli and peas." 

Anita / Flickr

With April, spring has tentatively arrived, grass everywhere is starting to turn green, and Iowan eyes are cast to the lawn. One question facing homeowners is whether or not to rake the leftover leaves on the lawn.

"You can get some damage from it. On the other hand, in most situations those leaves will break down and they won't do a thing, Iowa State University horticulture professor and turf grass expert Nick Christians.

Christians says the leaf breakdown can even be beneficial.

Corvus moneduloides / Wikimedia Commons

There's nothing quite like the taste of a ripe, red raspberry, but cultivating a berry patch can be thorny and a little confusing. If you want berries in the fall, now's the time to prune them. 

Early Spring Blooms

Mar 18, 2016
DM / Flickr

There are few things as lovely as a spring time hike in the woods when wildflowers are in bloom and you can recreate that experience in a small way in your own yard.

On this horticulture day edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe sits down with Aaron Steil, assistant director of Reiman Gardens, and Richard Jauron, Iowa State University Extension horticulturist, to talk about perennials that bloom in early spring.

Jena Fuller / Flickr - Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

Morel mushrooms are one of Iowa's spring delicacies, but they can be very hard to find. Mark Gleason, Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at Iowa State University says if you want to be successful go mushroom hunting with an experienced forager. Gleason says you can often find morels in the vicinity of dead and decaying elm trees.

Wikimedia Commons

Do you have sugar maple tree in your backyard? If so, now's the time to tap it if you want to make your own syrup. Jesse Randall, a forester with Iowa State University Extension, says that the freezing nights and warm days of late winter get the sap flowing. 

"It’s a function of being warm, but it’s also a function of day length. And we’re racing against the day length clock. What will happen is the buds will begin to swell, and that changes the flavor of the syrup," Randall explains.