Before buying compost, check for excess rocks

I recently purchased several truckloads of composted horse manure for my garden. Why are there so many rocks in it?

The rocks didn't come from the horse. Ideally, the company that supplied the manure should be familiar with how it was composted. Big composting productions use large machinery to turn the manure as it composts to keep it properly aerated; sometimes this is done on a macadam or gravel surface and rocks can get mixed in. If the amount is objectionable, voice your dissatisfaction with the supplier. Keep in mind that compost (like topsoil) is unregulated. That's why we always recommend inspecting the product before purchasing it and again at delivery time, while still in the truck before dumping.

I'm cooking with kale and chili peppers more and more. I want to try growing them this year. Any suggestions?

Go to the Home and Garden Information Center website's food gardening program, Grow It Eat It, for instructions on how to grow each of these. We have profiles on most home vegetables. Kale culture is in the Leafy Greens profile. To decide which variety to grow, click on our fact sheet, "Recommended Vegetable Cultivars for Maryland Home Gardens."

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

Neon pothos or devil's ivy

Scindapsus aureum or Epipremnum aureum

The leaves of neon pothos make it a first-rate choice to add bright green to a dark corner. Often confused with philodendron because it has similar heart-shaped leaves, pothos is another easy-to-grow houseplant for folks with a black thumb. It can be grown in a hanging basket or tabletop pot, trained to grow up a support or mixed with other tropical plants in a dish garden. Filtered sunlight, sufficient water when the soil feels dry and occasional liquid houseplant fertilizer is all the care it requires. Cut back vines periodically to just above a leaf to make the plant fuller. Cuttings root easily in potting mixture or water. — Debbie Ricigliano

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