Compost should go beyond kitchen scraps

I want to start a compost pile, but I'm worried that kitchen scraps will attract animals from the woods nearby. Any thoughts?

Usually kitchen scraps are a small portion of a pile's ingredients. Most kitchen scraps are small pieces, damaged or bruised. They begin decomposing while still in the pail. Kitchen compost pails made with lids that have a filter are very effective is eliminating odor. By the time you dump the pail, scraps are usually beyond being palatable to animals. Throw other organic matter on top. You can also bury the scraps in garden soil.

There are already animals in your woods, and they might nibble on a discarded apple, but unless you place your compost pile beside the house, you should be OK. Do be aware that some municipalities have regulations regarding kitchen scraps in compost. See our website composting publication for a list of ingredients which you can include, such as weeds, fallen leaves or tender prunings, and those to avoid, such as meat or dairy products.

An established vine on the south side of our house starts each cycle with nice grapes, but whole bunches fall off early each growing season. It was suggested that I cut the vine back, which I did. Same thing happened the following year. Does it need a specific fertilizer, or is the plant simply too old? I would really like to taste the grapes!

From the information you provided,it is not possible to say for certain the reason your grape bunches are falling off. Pruning is important but will not solve this problem; neither will fertilizer. Age is also not an issue — grapes can be productive for many years. Squirrels or other animals are a possibility. If squirrels are the culprits, the tips of the damaged stems would be ragged and on an angle. A weevil called a grape cane girdler is not common, but it can cause those symptoms. (

If this happens again, carefully inspect the severed ends of the bunches. Does the tissue look healthy, chewed, or diseased? In any event, the best time to contact us about any issue is when it is actually happening. Don't hesitate to call or email us.

University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at

Plant of the week Bee balm

Monarda didyma

Named in honor of 16th-century Spanish physician and botanist, Nicolas Bautista Monardes, monarda has long been a popular perennial, with rays of bright tubular flowers from June to August. Spreading by rhizomes, bee balm makes broad swaths of color in the garden. As its name implies, it attracts pollinators, butterflies and hummingbirds. Square stems and a fragrant scent when bruised place it in the mint family. Because Native Americans and colonists brewed it for tea, it is sometimes called "Oswego Tea." Monarda's cultivars work well as a cut flower, too. It grows best in full sun with rich, well-drained soil. Choose cultivars with mildew resistance. Monarda benefits from dividing (and sharing with friends!) every few years. — Christine Pfister McComas

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