Issue: April 19, 2008

It's ok to prune water sprouts in early summer.


I know I am not supposed to prune trees after they have bloomed and produced leaves, but my trees are producing some vigorous stems in places where I do not want the tree to grow them. I think they are called water sprouts. Do I have to wait until this autumn to prune these new growths?


There are always exceptions to the rules. In this case, you should remove the water sprouts (very vigorous, usually vertical, growths) as soon as they form. By removing them early, before they grow much, you will minimize the negative impact on the tree.

Nurseries often prune these growths in a manner called "gloving". They will just rub the new sprouts off using a gloved hand. You can also just snap this new sprout from the plant by gently pulling upward and to the side. The sprout can be easily removed in this manner when it is still very new and tender. If you remove it early in this manner you will also prevent the formation of buds at the base of the new stem. By preventing the formation of those buds, you will preclude the need to remove sprouts that grow from these buds next year.

Problems with bread and meat in compost.


Why do books say that I should not compost bread and meat? I don't want to waste anything that could help me improve my soil.


The reason you are advised to avoid putting bread products in the compost is because these materials will attract rodents and vermin. If you are not concerned with this (rodents = hantavirus), if the compost is far removed from your residence and your neighbors, you can add the bread to the compost, but turn it frequently to discourage the rodents and other visitors from taking up residence by burrowing into the compost.

Meat is not recommended because it decomposes in a different manner from vegetable matter. It putrefies. The protein and fats in meat will decompose at a different rate from vegetable matter and will develop foul smells (it will smell putrid). It is best not included in the compost.

Some people get around the problems encountered with bread, meat, and other slow composting materials by worm composting. Vermicomposting uses red worms (manure worms) to eat and decompose things that you would not otherwise compost. These worms are different from common earthworms and will remain in the compost environment. Earthworms are nomadic and, while they may visit the compost pile, they do not remain and are unreliable for the composting process. To learn more about vermicomposting you can get NMSU Extension Publication H-164: Vermicomposting from your local NMSU Cooperative Extension Service office or the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences web site

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!