Insects in compost not a worry

GARDEN Q & A

October 21, 2006|By Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali | Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali,Special to The Sun

My compost pile has now turned to rich black dirt and I was ready to put it into my garden, but I noticed reddish-brown bugs throughout that look like cockroaches. Is it safe to use? Should I spray it with something?

You probably see a type of beetle. There are some outdoor species of cockroaches that do not breed or survive indoors. Many types of soil invertebrates like earthworms, grubs, maggots, ants and beetles help break down the materials in compost piles. When the compost is spread, these insects usually disperse and are not a problem. No insecticide is recommended.

When my mandevilla vine was outside, I never had a problem with yellow bugs. They used to be green, and I thought they were aphids. I have applied insecticidal soap after a thorough hose wash, but now it's getting cold and this is harder to do. The vine gets full sun in my solarium. I repotted, using potting soil with fertilizer. Every 10 days these bugs reappear, and I'm ready to ditch the plant.

The yellow insects are aphids. There are many aphid species and color variations. Frequent applications of fertilizer high in nitrogen make plants more prone to aphids. Aphids reproduce rapidly, so populations can rebound quickly after applying a control. Isolate your mandevilla from the rest of your houseplants. Treat it with a horticultural oil or other pesticide labeled for houseplants. Mandevilla prefers bright, not direct, sunlight. Full sun may be stressing your vine, making it more susceptible to problems.

Checklist

Plant garlic cloves 4 inches deep and 6 inches apart in fertile soil. Select the largest cloves. Mulch heavily with leaves after the plants emerge.

Shred fallen leaves with a mower or string trimmer and spread over flower and vegetable beds.

Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist, and Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, work at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, which offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's "hotline" at 800-342-2507 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.) or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at hgic.umd.edu.

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