Q&A: Here’s the scoop on using manure in the garden

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Answers to your questions

By Jeneen Wiche


Q: I have access to alpaca manure. Can it be used in the garden? Michele

A:Manure from vegetarian animals is safe to use in the garden once composted. Never use manure from carnivores like dogs or cats, for example. If the manure is fresh, it needs to be incorporated into an existing compost pile to break down further. If you do not have a pile, the manure can sit for several months, although mixing it with other green and brown kitchen, lawn and garden debris will expedite the decomposition of all the materials. The general rule of thumb when composting manure is if it doesn't look or smell like fresh manure anymore, it is ready to use in garden!


Q: I am looking for the best ground cover for a slope that is difficult to mow. It is 5-6 feet high and 150 feet long. The drop is approximately 3 feet in 1 foot. I always appreciate you wisdom filled answers. A T Fisher

A:This is a frequently asked question, and I have had first-hand experience at the farm with treacherous mowing sites, too. Have you considered a mini prairie for the slope? You could kill out the existing fescue and plant native prairie grasses and wild flowers. The mix of plants like Indian grass, big blue stem, ironweed, golden rod, etc. has seasonal interest, controls erosion, chokes out undesirable weeds, provides wildlife habitat and requires zero mowing. If you are in a rural area and there are no potential threats, all you have to do is burn the area in early spring before new growth begins. We have done a similar thing with the side of the dam, and it is quite nice; lots of lightning bugs at night and gold finch and butterflies during the day.


Q: We have a lima bean plant that is in a pot on the sun porch and it is being invaded by something that had gotten into another plant we had last year. There are tiny little mite things crawling around all over it, and fine little webs on some spots. What are these things, how did we get them, and how do we get rid of them? We just put in a garden in the back yard for the first time and didn't want to put the lima bean plant in with everything else for fear that the things would spread to the other plants. Thanks for any help you can give us!

A:Your description sounds like spider mites to me. Since the plant was on a sun porch, the tiny mites could have easily wintered in the soil among your plants. Prior to planting it out in your garden, you can use insecticidal soap a few times or horticultural oil which will effectively smother the pests without chemical residue. Super fine horticultural oils (also called summer oil or superior oils) are effective in controlling soft-bodied pests like spider mites, scale and aphids, for example. When using these summer oils, be sure that there is adequate moisture available to the plant prior to application because the oil can prevent respiration through the leaf tissue, too. There are also clove, cedar and cinnamon oils that are labeled for insect control that have dual action in scent and smothering to control the pest.


To submit a question to Jeneen Wiche, E-mail jwiche@shelbybb.comand include Sentinel-Newsin the subject line.