Baltimore County won't allow kitchen scraps in compost bins

BACKYARD Q&A

November 25, 2001|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Q. I was recently told that Baltimore County residents were not permitted to compost kitchen scraps in their backyard compost bins? Is this true, and what is the reasoning for the rule?

A. Baltimore County residents are not permitted to compost kitchen scraps. Only grass clippings, leaves, flower cuttings and fertilizers are permitted in compost piles. Baltimore County officials think that kitchens scraps attract rats to compost piles and provide a food supply for them. I would argue that a well-constructed or well-tended compost pile does not harbor rats. However, the county probably bases its rules on the fact that some compost piles are not well constructed or well tended.

Q. We are looking for some large evergreens to plant in the rear of our yard and have considered planting eastern red cedar. Would this be a good choice?

A. Eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana, is a native plant that can be very nice in the landscape. When planning their gardens, most gardeners and landscapers overlook this plant and choose other evergreens such as spruce and pine. While there are many nice spruces and pines, they are not as adaptable as eastern red cedar. The cedar will grow in some very difficult conditions that are overly stressful to spruce and pine.

Eastern red cedar grows tall and narrow in its youth but gradually broadens with age. At maturity, it will be as wide as tall. Hence, it makes a nice screen. The only problem with this plant is that it is the alternate host to cedar-apple rust disease. Therefore, it should not be planted near apple trees.

Q. We have noticed that the ginkgo tree grows very well in the city and would like to plant one in our boulevard. However, the female trees produce very foul-smelling fruits. How can we be sure we are getting a male tree at the nursery?

A. You cannot be sure because ginkgo trees do not develop flowers and fruits for many years (20-50). I would suggest you buy from a known reputable nursery and buy only a known male cultivar that has been clearly labeled. You are right about ginkgo trees growing well in the city. They grow to be very large trees, but they adapt to city conditions as well as, or better than, other shade trees.

THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST

1. Looking for a great deal on bulbs? Now is the time to look for bulbs on clearance at nurseries and garden centers. Buy only firm, healthy ones.

2. Have you planted a new tree this fall? Be sure to give it a good watering before winter and provide it with a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch.

3. Be sure to clean your empty pots before spring. A solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water and a little dish soap will eliminate diseases that overwinter in the pots.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site www.agnr.umd.edu / users / hgic.

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