, Salem, MA


November 8, 2013

Do cocoa bean shells make good garden mulch?

Q: A neighbor has done her mulching with the shells of cocoa beans this year. I’ve never seen it before. The shells are very rough, even though they are shredded for mulch. It’s still the husk of the cocoa bean, something like chocolate. Will it hurt pets or even squirrels?

A: Cocoa is indeed part of the cocoa plant, which is a toxic plant. So, besides being toxic, cocoa would be very damaging to the intestines and could cause bleeding and vomiting if eaten. The chance of the mulch causing physical harm is minimal, however. A 50-pound dog would have to eat more than 5 ounces of the mulch to cause seizures and rapid heart rate. But is it worth the chance? I don’t think so. There are many substitute mulches you can use.

Caution: a lot is being said about mulch being a fire hazard. Be safe and rake the mulch several feet away from buildings, and wet the mulch thoroughly during dry weather.

Q: I’m planning to plant about a hundred new bulbs this fall. Is there a simpler way to plant than a shovel — that hurts my back. The soil I’m planting in is sort of hard but not rocky, with a few large rocks.

A: You need something to dig the planting holes. If there are only a few bulbs to plant, use a trowel or a bulb digger. Bulb diggers are available in short or long-handled varieties. The longer-handled one is better for use in very firm, rocky or rooty dirt. A shovel will work, too.

But what if you have a lot of bulbs? You need to invest about $20 in a bulb augur or drill. It’s a very large drill bit, which fits in your electric or battery-powered hand drill and drills all the holes in the soil for your bulbs. They’re not terribly expensive, and if you can share the tool with a neighbor, the cost is even less. It’s a tool you won’t use very often, but when you do use it, you’ll really appreciate it. You will use this simple tool now to drill the holes in the earth for each bulb. And you can use it again in the spring to plant a mass of smaller annuals along a garden border.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • macaws Vet Connection: Pet birds need training, social interaction and time out of the cage People are fascinated with the big colorful birds on display at Animal Kingdom and wild bird sanctuaries. It's always fascinating to see someone walking down the street with a big-beaked bird on his or her shoulder as a companion. We are all drawn to

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ask Dog Lady: Her little dog is obsessed with food Dear Dog Lady: I have a 3-year-old, long-coated Chihuahua named Mexipep (after a brand of hot sauce). She has many fine attributes -- she's very sweet, not nervous and barky like the short-coated Chihuahuas can be. On the subject of food, however, th

    July 25, 2014

  • howe Book Notes: Local novelist sees ‘conversion’ syndrome in witch trials The parallels between 1692 and today are so close, they're frightening. That's one conclusion you could draw from reading "Conversion," Marblehead resident Katherine Howe's new novel, which compares the world of the Salem Witch Trials to the life of

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • vehicles Quick pick: Festival of vehicles

    Festival of vehicles Take a ride over to the Hamilton-Wenham Public Library for the 16th annual Vehicle Night on Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The festival of fire trucks, emergency vehicles, cruisers and snow plows takes place in the library park

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Friday's Best Bets Best Bets for Friday, July 25

    Looking for something to do today? Here are The Salem News' Best Bets:

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dear Abby: Tyke becomes a terror when mom takes back her cellphone Dear Abby: When my friend "Fran" and I get together with our kids, they often play games on her cellphone until the battery dies. If she tries to take the phone from her 6-year-old to make a call or recharge the phone, he starts yelling at her, pushe

    July 25, 2014

  • misselwood_2 Rare, classic cars make an appearance at annual Endicott College show

    The original Concours d'Elegance was a fashion show on wheels. "It did start in 17th century France, where some of the aristocracy wanted to show off the fashions they were wearing," said Patrick Cornellison, chairman of the event. "Mainly women woul

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • twenties_3 Ipswich's Castle Hill braces for 1,000 at Roaring '20s Lawn Party

    The latest dance craze started in the 1930s. The Lindy Hop, which first flourished in the ballrooms of Harlem, is expected to draw hundreds of people to a dance floor at the Crane Estate this Sunday. Organized by Boston Swing Central, a dance club in

    July 24, 2014 4 Photos

  • kallyson North Shore entertainment calendar Good cause YARD SALE TO BENEFIT JIMMY FUND. Saturday, July 26, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., 11 Anna Drive, Danvers. Family yard sale with all proceeds benefiting the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk. WOOSHIE'S WARRIORS FUNDRAISER FOR MS. Sunday, July 27, 10 a.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • The reader's eye Name: Erika Torkildsen Hometown: Beverly Description: "I took this at the Salem Common around a park where I noticed a ripped basketball net amid the blue sky. Instead of taking the picture from my original view, I tipped the camera up from under the

    July 24, 2014

NDN Video
Comments Tracker