Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys

April, 2004
Regional Report

Local Buzz

Keeping the Compost From Smelling
If you are considering constructing a compost pile but are leery of a potentially disagreeable smell and hovering insects, be aware that these result from the pile not being aerated enough. The foul odor and large numbers of insects are due to anaerobic decomposition.

To properly construct a "breathing" compost pile, collect some moist greenery, such as grass clippings, green foliage, and kitchen scraps with no grease or fat; some dried leaves or woody material in small pieces; and some soil, manure, or compost.

Begin the pile on top of some rougher, dry brush or small twigs. Then mix the ingredients well or thinly layer them until the pile is about 3 feet tall and wide. Add finely chopped, moist greenery, such as grass clippings, in thin layers, or stir them into the top layer of other ingredients. Otherwise, thick layers will compact, decompose, and smell rotten in the summer heat.

Water the pile until it's moist but not soggy. Mix the pile every several weeks to let in more air if it seems to be compacting without breaking down the ingredients.

Favorite or New Plant

Ferns
Ferns are the essence of restful and soothing greenery. Available in many sizes and shapes, they recall lush forest floors and are a welcome addition to our homes and gardens.

They will thrive year-round in south- or west-facing windows that have sun-screen film and an outside awning to protect the plants from direct sun. When ferns are potted in a porous mix containing some horticultural charcoal, you can water less frequently. Providing ferns with a deep drip dish that always has at least one-quarter inch of water in it will allow the plants to absorb as much water as they need when they need it, without rotting. The deeper the drip dish, the fewer times you'll have to refill it.

Fertilize with a quarter-strength solution every time you water. This makes nutrients available as the fern requires them, resulting in a healthier plant.

Misting the fronds may or may not be needed, depending on the humidity levels under which it was grown before you purchased it and the indoor humidity in your home. The fern can be "weaned" from its need for misting by lessening the frequency gradually over a two-month period, as long as sufficient water is available in the drip dish. A wide-bottom drip pan will provide humidity to the fronds as the water evaporates.

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