Editor’s note: Kelly R. Jackson’s Garden Corner column has a different format. He takes questions called into his phone recently at the Christian County Extension Office and answers them in the column.

Question. I piled my leaves in a corner of the yard to make compost. Why are they not decomposing?

Answer. It’s best to have a mixture of organic materials together in the compost pile. Dry leaves are high in carbon but the microbes that do the decomposing also require a certain amount of nitrogen for their own metabolism and growth.

Nitrogen can be provided

by adding green organic matter such as grass clippings,

vegetable scraps, and live-

stock manure.

A good mix would be one bucket of green materials for every three buckets of leaves. This type of mix will enhance and speed decomposition.

Q. Are poinsettia blooms poisonous?

A. No part of the poinsettia is poisonous. The story that eating poinsettia flowers (which are technically leaf-like structures called bracts) are poisonous is a rumor that has circulated for many years.

Research performed by Ohio State University tested all parts of poinsettia by feeding them to rats in different allowances. There were no mortalities, no symptoms of toxicity, and no changes in general behavior.

Since that report, a study was printed in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine which looked at 22,793 reported cases — mostly children who were exposed to poinsettia. 96.1 percent of the exposed patients were not treated in a health care facility and 92.4 percent did not develop any toxicity. It is possible that some people may be sensitive to the latex sap in the plant but the symptoms would be mostly upset stomach and in rare cases, vomiting.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say you should include poinsettia blooms in your salad, but there is no reason they shouldn’t be part of your holiday meal — as table decorations.

Q. I have a ton of ladybugs in my house. Is there anyway to save them to release next year?

A. The multi-colored Asian ladybug is a very beneficial insect … in the garden.

But when temperatures drop they seek shelter in homes and become a nuisance.

Some gardeners who recognize their benefit find ways to keep them safely and release them next spring.

Information from the University of Illinois recommends collecting the beetles in a jar with air holes.

Place a damp paper towel crumpled up in the jar. Then put the jar and beetles in the refrigerator.

Periodically check the paper towel for moisture. The beetles will survive several months in the jar.

After temperatures return to above freezing, you can move the jar outside and release the beetles back into the garden to take care of aphids and other pests.

Kelly R. Jackson is the Christian County Extension Agent for horticulture. He can be reached at 270-886-6328 or visit Christian County Horticulture online at www.christiancountyextension.com.

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