Can paper plates be composted?

QUESTION: Will paper plates compost adequately for garden use? R.W., Terrell

ANSWER: Yes, as will many paper products. My only concerns with paper are some of the inks used for printing on them. Most contaminants will be destroyed by the composting process, but if you have a concern about paper or other ingredients, do not use the compost on food crops.

QUESTION: I like small plants, and I recently purchased a bonsai. The problem is that we have a cat that also likes such things, so the plants need protection. Would these small plants grow in an aquarium with a mesh or screen over the top? R.L., Belton

ANSWER: It depends on what kind of plant the bonsai is, but most plants can grow in containers such as aquariums if the soil moisture is properly managed. It is very easy to overwater in such tight environments. Organic fertilizers would be essential; synthetic fertilizers cause salt buildup in the soil.

QUESTION: I recently moved to a new home that has Copper Canyon daisies in the planting beds. They were beautiful this fall. What kind of care and feeding do they need? Trimming? Cutting back? R.H., Waco

ANSWER: This perennial, also known as Tagetes lemmonii and by other names including mountain marigold, should be sheared during early to midsummer every year so that it is not floppy in the fall. Enjoy the fall color. After a freeze has killed the top, the plant should be cut back to just above the soil line and covered with shredded tree trimmings. The foliage will bush out in the spring.

QUESTION: I have an infestation of mistletoe in my trees. Could I spray a little bit of Roundup herbicide on the mistletoe while the trees are dormant? D.M., Denton

ANSWER: Avoid all toxic pesticides including Roundup, which is much more problematic than advertised. Such products could damage the trees and surrounding plants. What works on mistletoe are physical removal and following my Sick Tree Treatment. (See Resources.) Eliminate stress on the tree, and the mistletoe eventually will dry up and die.

QUESTION: I have read that barley straw will keep algae from growing in outdoor water tubs. Is this true? I have a horse ranch with six 100-gallon water tubs that I want to keep clean. L.S., Justin

ANSWER: Barley will work, but whole ground cornmeal works as well or better and is easier to obtain and use. Just toss a cupful into each tank. This should take care of the problem for quite a while. If the green color returns, use cornmeal again. You can buy whole ground cornmeal at many nurseries and feed stores.

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