Cover prevents waterlogged compost

Garden Q&A

November 16, 1997

Now that we're getting more rain, I'm wondering if I should cover my compost bins?

Yes, it's a good idea to cover compost bins with a tarp or a piece of plywood or plastic. This will keep the ingredients from becoming waterlogged, which would then slow the decomposition process. A cover will also help minimize the leaching of nutrients from your piles.

I'm noticing tiny, white, moth-like things flying around the fuchsia and citrus plants that I'm looking after for my sister. What are they and will they kill the plants?

You are describing the greenhouse whitefly, which is often found on these plants. When inexpensive houseplants are heavily infested with whitefly it is sometimes best to simply compost the plants and start over. If the infestation is relatively minor, you can spray the plants with a safe insecticide containing horticultural oil or insecticidal soap. Always check the label to be sure your particular plant and pest are listed.

The apple trees my husband said I was crazy to plant finally produced their first crop of large, worm-free apples. But I did notice a lot of black dots and smudges on the fruit surfaces that I wipe off with a wet towel. Is this a disease? Is there a way of preventing it?

Sounds like your apples had a case of fly speck and sooty blotch, two minor fungal diseases. These pathogens show up late in the season and are usually more severe in wet seasons. As you've noticed, they do not enter the skin or flesh or affect eating quality. No chemical fungicides are recommended for this disease in the backyard orchard. You can try immersing your harvested apples in a weak (10 percent) chlorine bleach and water solution for a few minutes to kill the fungi.

Checklist

* Protect fig trees from extreme cold weather with an insulating cover of leaves or straw surrounded by wire fencing.

* Cut back cannas and dahlias and lift them out of the ground for storage in an unheated garage or basement.

* Hasten the composting process by shredding or chopping leaves, spent plants, newspaper and the like and keeping brush, twigs and other woody materials out of the pile.

Pub Date: 11/16/97

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