TX Organic Research Center



Composting breaks up flowers' toxins
October 08, 2004
By Howard Garrett

Question: Is it safe to compost the leaves, stems and petals of store-bought cut flowers? I am worried about contaminating my organic yard with poisons that may have been used in the wholesale floral industry.

M.G., Dallas

Answer: It is true that cut flowers have been sprayed with pesticides. On the other hand, the best way to neutralize the toxins is to compost the plants. If the compost temperature reaches 140 F, the toxins typically will be broken down by microbial activity.

Question: My nephew has a small compost box. He called me the other day when he found a grub worm in it and asked whether he could use the compost. I told him to remove the worm and turn the compost over and look for others and destroy them, too. Is this the right thing to do?

K.H., Dallas

Answer: Not necessarily. Many grub worms are beneficial. Only about 10 percent of the grub worms in the soil are plant root eaters. The rest are feeding on dead and decaying organic matter and aerating the soil as they travel. The grubs that are as large as your thumb are the beneficial and interesting rhinoceros beetles. If you are still confused, look at the photos and explanations in my Texas Bug Book.

Question: I have two live oaks that were planted by a home builder. Neither tree has done very well.

The tree trunks are about 3 inches in diameter, with one tree currently about 15 feet tall and the other about 12 feet tall. Leaf coverage is good, and neither tree seems to be losing foliage, but both have pale leaves.

A nursery here in Frisco recommended SuperThrive liquid concentrated plant food to help the trees. I've used it periodically, but it hasn't had the desired effect. Periodically, I've been watering the trees deeply, and my sprinkler system is set to water three times a week at intervals of 15 minutes a zone and again two hours later at 15 minutes a zone to avoid runoff.

R.B., Frisco

Answer: Those trees are lucky to be alive. You are drowning them. That is far too much water, especially for the cool and wet summer we have had. Now that it's fall, no watering is needed.

Compost tea or the entire Garrett Juice mixture (compost tea, seaweed, molasses and vinegar) are much better root stimulators than the product you mentioned.


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