For bay's sake, don't dump by the river


November 01, 2008|By Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld | Ellen Nibali and Jon Traunfeld,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Our neighbor said we should dump our leaf piles on the river bank for erosion control. Does this work?

This might seem like a good idea but it would be terrible for the Chesapeake Bay if done on any waterway, large or small. Of course, stopping erosion is good and recycling leaves on-site is good. The problem is that decomposing leaves release loads of nitrogen, which then gets washed immediately into the bay.

High levels of nitrogen, whether from fertilizer in home lawns, animal manure or farms fields, make algae growth explode in the bay. Algae soon dies, and its decomposition uses up the oxygen in the water. This leads to dead zones that lack the oxygen that fish, crabs and other creatures need to survive. To stop erosion, plant deep-rooted native grasses and plants or try other techniques. Using your leaves is great - just use them as mulch or compost elsewhere on your lot.

I found small black bugs in my pasta, rice and flour. I threw much of the food away. Do unopened items have the bugs in them, too? I had an exterminator spray my pantry.

We get many calls and e-mails about pantry pests. These insects, their larvae and eggs come into your house on starchy foods as well as spices, nuts, pet food, bird seed and many other items. They can chew through cardboard or plastic packaging.

After you dispose of infested foods, freeze or refrigerate questionable ones. Wash all your storage areas; vacuum cracks. We never recommend spraying pesticides around food or food-storage areas.

Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers free gardening information. Call the center's help line at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at

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