Here's another good reason for making your own compost: some commercial horse feed contains herbicides that can poison your soil for years to come.
For the past 10 years or so we've had to watch out for Clopyralid, Aminopyralid or Picloram in composted animal manure, now those herbicides are in Purina horse feed and perhaps other commercial brands. So far, only Purina has been tested, according to Biocycle news and Mother Earth News, February/March, 2013, but it may be in other brands, too.
These herbicides have multi-page instruction sheets, including "do not compost" instructions, but most people do not have time or patience to read them. The problem is that commercial composting companies pick up manure for composting without knowing that they're getting herbicidal solid waste.
If the EPA is going to permit these threats to our food future, they ought to at least require the company manufacturing these substances to also manufacture antidotes. I'd rather they not approve these damaging products.
Those herbicides will destroy home gardens, except for corn and other grasses such as grains. Picloram's poison lasts for at least 10 years.
CHILE PLANTING TIME
This is the month I usually start my chile plants. Chile (or pepper) seeds require bottom heat, and do best at a heat mat temperature of about 80 degrees.
If you're growing very hot chiles, they may germinate faster if they've been soaked in a solution of one teaspoon saltpetre (potassium nitrate) per quart of water for a few hours or overnight. Some chile seeds take several days to germinate, and this soak helps shorten that germination time. Saltpetre doesn't seem to have any effect on sweet pepper seed germination.
I like to get chile plants fairly well leafed-out and vigorous, then nip out the top of the plant to force bushiness before planting outdoors about June 1. These additional branches on your plant will increase your yield, some say double your yield.
Learn how to prune and care for your trees this month and next, on Wednesday evenings at the Public Library auditorium. Faculty will be three arborists from the Boise Community Forestry division of Parks and Recreation, and Gary Moen, arborist and professor emeritus of Boise State University.
The first session will be on pruning fruit trees, taught by Matt Perkins, arborist and manager of Boise's Laura Moore Cunningham City Arboretum and a veteran of fruit tree pruning.
The class will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 27. All other classes will be held at that time, too. To register online, visit www.parks.cityofboise.org. Or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (208) 608-7700. The talks are free.
Gary Moen will teach "tree biology" March 6. Arborist Dennis Matlock will instruct tree pruning for the long-term health and beauty of your non-fruiting trees March 13.
On March 20, arborist Ryan Rodgers will address selection of a tree for a given site, and explain correct planting techniques and maintaining the health of the tree. His talk will also tell you what to look out for if someone else is planting your tree.
The last talk, March 27, will be on tree problems, conducted by arborist Debbie Cook. She will focus on insects, tree diseases and cultural problems in our area.
Send garden questions to email@example.com or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.