Q: I understand that the temperature maintained in a compost pile or pit during decomposition is important. Is that true?
--G.C., Pasadena A: Many people believe that monitoring the temperature of the material in the interior of a compost pile is the proper way to determine whether it needs attention. When temperatures exceed 180 degrees Fahrenheit, the material should be chopped or aerated to increase its oxygen content and thereby slow down decomposition. When temperatures are close to the temperature of the surrounding air, no composting is occurring. The secret to producing a good compost is not so much a matter of temperature as it is of the texture of the material in the pile. The most useful material is that which is of uniform size so that it can be spread evenly over the garden or used as a soil amendment. A good compost also will release nutrients evenly and quickly so that it has a fertilizing effect. Compost is ready when it crumbles freely in your hand.
Q: Should palm trees ever be pruned?
--N.A., West Los Angeles A: You don't need to prune established palms for their own well-being, but you do have to take off dead or damaged fronds to minimize disease or fire damage. Take care to avoid cutting into live growth; unsightly scars will be the result.