Extension Information


Training to be Held for New 4-H Leaders

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development Staff announce statewide trainings for all new 4-H Club, Project, and Clover Kids. This training is targeted to those who are beginning as volunteers or those with three years or less experience. The training is open to all volunteers and current club leaders are encouraged to attend if they have not attended before.

Advantages of this training program include: learning about the role of a caring adult, dynamic training to boost positive youth development knowledge and skills in order to support a vibrant 4-H club or Clover Kids group, and an opportunity to meet and network with other volunteers. The interactive training includes an agenda loaded with knowledge, skills, and tools needed to enhance a volunteer’s work with 4-H youth. Volunteers will receive a binder of resources to prepare them for working with their club or group.


Training will be held on February 21 at the First United Methodist Church in Fayette. The training will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There are numerous trainings throughout the state; volunteers may attend any of the locations. To register, go to http://www.extension.iastate.edu/4h/volunteertraining and click on the registration link in the red box on the right. Registration is due by February 14 for the training in Fayette. The training includes lunch and snacks. There is no fee to attend.

For more information on how to volunteer with 4-H in your county please contact, Clayton County Extension & Outreach Office at 563-245-1451. For more information on New Volunteer Training in Region 4 in Iowa, please contact Youth Program Specialist, Kendra Crooks, 641-394-2174 or kcrooks@iastate.edu.


Yard and Garden: Add Butterfly Weed to Spring Landscape Plans

When temperatures are cold outside, it’s the perfect time to plan spring plantings. Include butterfly weed, a pretty, low maintenance perennial, in those plans to add significant beauty and value to a lawn. For maximum growth and beauty, specific growing procedures should be followed.

These tips from horticulturists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach instruct how to best handle butterfly weed. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or

What would be a good planting site for butterfly weed? 

The butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a member of the milkweed family. Plants grow two to three feet tall and produce flat-topped clusters of bright orange flowers from July through September. Their flowers attract several butterfly species, hence the common name.

Butterfly weed is an easy-to-grow, low maintenance, long-lived perennial. It performs best in full sun. Plants should receive at least six hours of direct sun per day. Plants grow well in a wide range of soils. However, good soil drainage is a must. Once established, the butterfly weed possesses excellent heat and drought tolerance. Because of the butterfly weed’s long taproot, transplanting is difficult. Carefully choose a planting site and don’t disturb it. Also, the butterfly weed emerges slowly in spring. To prevent possible injury, mark the planting site and don’t cultivate in the area until the plant emerges.  

While most butterfly weeds produce bright orange flowers, a few plants in the ‘Gay Butterflies’ mixture have yellow or red flowers. The cultivar ‘Hello Yellow’ has yellow flowers.

Can the butterfly weed be divided?

The butterfly weed possesses a long taproot. Because of its long taproot, division is difficult and generally not recommended.  The butterfly weed is most commonly propagated by seeds.

How do I germinate butterfly weed seeds?

Harvest the seed pods of butterfly weed when the pods begin to split. Seeds can be sown directly outdoors in late fall or started indoors.  

When sowing seeds outdoors, work up the soil in a protected location in early to mid-November. Scatter the seeds over the prepared seed bed and then cover the seeds with approximately 1/4 inch of soil. The cold, moist conditions over winter improve seed germination. Seedlings should emerge in spring. Carefully transplant the seedlings to their permanent locations when the seedlings are three to four inches tall.  

To start seeds indoors, fill a flat with a commercial germination medium. Moisten the medium. Scatter the seeds over the surface of the germination medium and lightly press the seeds into the material. Cover the seeds with an additional 1/4 inch of the germination mix. Carefully moisten the additional material. Slide the flat in a plastic bag and place the bagged flat in the refrigerator. Leave the flat in the refrigerator for four to six weeks. After four to six weeks, remove the flat from the refrigerator and place it in an area with a temperature of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Seeds should begin to germinate in three to four weeks. (If no seedlings appear after four weeks, place the flat back in the refrigerator for another four to six weeks and repeat the process.) Take the flat out of the plastic bag as soon as seedlings appear and place the flat under fluorescent lights in a 60 to 65 degree Fahrenheit location. Transplant the seedlings into individual pots when the seedlings are one to two inches tall. Continue to grow the seedlings indoors under fluorescent lights for several more weeks.

Prior to planting outdoors, place the seedlings outdoors in a shady, protected location and then gradually expose the seedlings to longer periods of direct sun. Plant the seedlings in their permanent locations after they have hardened outdoors for 10 to 14 days.  


Yard and Garden: Avoid Problems with Stored Produce

As Iowa gardeners dig into the produce they harvested in the fall, they may be having issues with produce storage, leading to disappointment.  

Here are some tips from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists on why produce problems are happening and how to avoid them. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-294-3108 or

My acorn squash have turned yellow during storage. Why?

The problem may be improper storage. Acorn-type squashes should be stored at a temperature of 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Some acorn-type squashes will turn yellow when stored at temperatures above 55 F. High storage temperatures also may cause the flesh to become stringy.

Why are my potatoes beginning to sprout?

Potatoes should be stored at a temperature of 40 F and relative humidity of 90 to 95 percent. Tubers often begin to sprout if storage temperatures are above 50 F. Also, don’t store potatoes with apples or other fruits. Fruits produce ethylene gas. Ethylene promotes sprouting of potatoes.

My sweet potatoes have become dry and stringy.  What caused this?

It’s likely the sweet potatoes were not cured and stored properly. After harvest, sweet potatoes should be cured for seven to 10 days at a temperature of 80 to 85 F and relative humidity of 80 to 90 percent. (These conditions are difficult to find in the typical home. Select a site that comes as close as possible to these conditions.) Curing promotes healing of minor cuts and bruises, prolonging the storage life of the sweet potatoes.  

Curing also improves the flavor of sweet potatoes as starches are converted to sugars during the curing process. After curing, store sweet potatoes at a temperature of 55 to 60 F and relative humidity of 85 to 90 percent. Sweet potatoes stored at temperatures above 60 F will shrivel and become dry and stringy. Sweet potatoes may develop an off-flavor and the flesh may become discolored when stored at temperatures below 55 F.

My onions don’t store well.  Why?

The storage life of onions is largely determined by the variety (cultivar), harvesting and drying procedures, and storage conditions.  
When selecting onions, choose cultivars that store well, such as ‘Copra,’ ‘Stuttgarter’ and ‘Red Zeppelin.’  ‘Walla Walla,’ ‘Candy,’ and ‘White Sweet Spanish’ are poor keepers.  

Harvest onions when most of their tops have fallen over and begun to dry. After harvest, dry or cure the onions in a warm, dry, well-ventilated location for two to three weeks. When the onions tops are dry, cut off the tops 1 inch above the bulbs.  

Place the cured onions in mesh bags, crates, or wire baskets and store in a cool (32 to 40 F), dry location. Onions will sprout if storage temperatures are too warm. The bulbs may rot in damp locations.  


2015 Crop Cost Estimates Released

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach released its annual publication titled Estimated Costs of Crop Production in Iowa – 2015. The publication is intended to help farmers determine their own potential 2015 crop costs per acre and per bushel. The calculations take into consideration the various crop costs like tillage practices, machinery, inputs, labor and land for varying yield expectations.

In 2015, we expect a drop in the crop cost estimates for both corn and soybean production in Iowa,” said Steve Johnson, farm management specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. Due to differences in soil potentials, crop rotations, quantity of inputs used and other factors, production costs will vary from farm to farm.

As reported in the January 2015 issue of Ag Decision Maker newsletter, Johnson explained how they present the estimates, “The 2015 Iowa Crop Cost Estimates bar chart indicates the 2015 cost estimates for three different crop rotation options assuming conventional tillage practices and medium-yield expectations. Total costs are expected to decline from 2014 by 1 to 2 percent depending on the crop planted," he said.

These cost estimates are representative of average costs for farms in Iowa. Very large or small farms may have lower or higher fixed costs per acre.

To calculate annual production costs, farmers may enter individual assumptions in the blanks on the budget tables in the 13-page publication. “Under ‘Your Estimate,’ farmers can list inputs like cash rent equivalents, rents for lower-grade land and even machinery operating costs, which all are projected to drop. Others like seed corn or fertilizer and lime costs for corn production may increase. "This tool will make it easier to project crop production costs when planning this year’s income and expenses,” said Johnson. Decision Tool spreadsheets for each crop budget also are available to do the calculations electronically and allow users to save the analysis to their computer.