Wednesday, December 26, 2012

10 Tips for Recycling cut Christmas Trees

When you are finished with your cut tree Crabapple LandscapExperts recommend that you do not simply throw it away; instead, recycle or upcycle it!  Here are some tips on alternative options for what to do with your tree after the holidays. 

Tips on Re-using the Christmas Tree

1.         Win one for the "Chipper”. Mulching programs are a fast-growing trend in communities across the nation. Large chipper/shredders are used to grind up the trees, and afterward the mulch is made available for use in residents’ gardens. Municipalities or sometimes Tree Companies or Big Box Stores garner good will by contributing to this effort. Make sure the tree is cleaned of ornaments, hooks, tinsel, garlands, etc. and drop it off at a yard to be chipped. Or ask a buddy. A neighbor may have a chipper/ shredder and be willing to shred a couple of neighbors each year.

2.                  Bottle Trees. Old Christmas Trees are the perfect vehicle for creating some yard art. Using sharp bypass pruners or large, two-handed ratchet loppers, clip branches off at about 6-8 inches out from the trunk, eliminating those that are not spaced evenly around the trunk by cutting flush. Anchor the tree upright in the ground then mount your collection of long-neck colored glass bottles on the branch-stubs for a down-home style garden ornament that looks well as the sunlight sifts down through the glass. Use the branches that were removed to loosely cover tender perennials, leaving plenty of air surrounding the crowns. 

3.       Wildlife Habitat. The National Wildlife Federation suggests that wildlife need places to hide in order to feel safe from people, predators and inclement weather, and awards Certified Wildlife Habitat registration to home landscapes that fulfill many needs.  Brush piles and dead Christmas trees are perfect hiding places. Lay the tree down in an out of the way area of the garden, perhaps near the wood pile or under cover of other evergreens to invite wild creatures to live at your home. 

4.         Bird Feeders. After removing all decorations prop the dead Christmas tree in the perennial bed and use it as a bird feeder and sanctuary. Hang with suet feeders, fresh fruit like orange or grapefruit halves, popcorn garlands, or seed feeders for thistle, black oil sunflower and millet seed.

5.     Call in the Cavalry. Telephone for an appointment to have the Boy Scouts or an environmental  non-profit group in the area pickup the tree and recycle it in return for a small donation (in the $5 range)  

6.     Barriers to Soil Erosion. Turn old trees into soil erosion barriers on river banks and lake shorelines. Use as beach stabilization to protect sand dunes and preserve beaches. Use dead trees as filters to manage delta sedimentation.  

8.          Fish Feeders. Back when we lived on a property with a half-acre earth-bottom pond, I submerged our old Christmas tree in the deep end to make a fishy refuge, egg-laying habitat and feeding areas for the bream, catfish, bass and bullfrogs to escape the alligator snapping turtle living there.  

9.      Be Crafty. Strip fragrant spruce or pine needles and put them in tiny cheesecloth drawstring bags to sweeten your next hot bath. Let the hot incoming water rush over them to make a fragrant soak. Or add a few to the dog's bed or hamster's cage to add a fresh, clean pine-y aroma. 
10.       Use mulch to pave Hiking Trails or Woodland Walkways. Parks, nature walks and larger properties use shredded evergreen trees as a free, renewable path material that is agreeable to the environment and cushions the steps of walkers and hikers! 

As a Last resort: put the tree out on the curb. The solid green waste removal guys often haul the tree away. Many areas collect trees during regular pickup schedules during the two weeks following Christmas, although there are often requirements for size, removing tinsel, ornaments, limitations on flocked trees, and so forth. Chop the tree into 3 or 4 foot sections for easier removal and put it with the green yard waste container.

Living, rooted trees. To avoid recycling issues, next year choose a living, rooted (container-grown or ball and burlapped) tree and then plant it in your landscape after Christmas. There are plenty of options for choosing a tree. Pre-dig the hole while the soil is still soft at the beginning of December, then plant the tree immediately after Christmas, and remember, living trees have a better survival rate in mild climates like metro-Atlanta.  

For Safety's Sake cautions people: do not burn a tinder-dry tree that is full of resin and apt to go up in an uncontrolled whoosh; not in the fire place and not even outdoors. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Voles and Moles- Landscape Scourge

Meadow Vole 

Although the names sound similar, moles and voles are entirely different landscape pests with different diets and different ways of affecting the landscape. CrabappleLandscapEXPERTS explain the differences between these animals. 

University of Maryland photo
Voles are tiny, brown, mouse-like rodents with big front teeth but short, stubby tails that create runs in the grass or burrow under the mulch at the soil line. They are vegetarians that are particularly damaging to landscape plantings during the winter when other food is scarce. Because Georgia Pine Voles are low on the food chain, they can reproduce rapidly, with litters every three weeks that build up tremendous (and voracious) colonies quickly (up to 300 voles per acre).

Vole damage- trunk is girdled
Voles are active both day and night all year long, and eat seeds, nuts, bulbs like tulips, rhizomes and tubers like iris, the solid crowns of perennials such as hosta and daylilies and even bark, girdling the trunks of your favorite hydrangeas or finest tree roses at ground level and killing them. One day a plant appears healthy and green and the next it looks a bit wilted. On closer inspection, though, the soil is moist and it does not need water.But if the gardener gives a leaf or branch a tug the entire plant comes up in your hand! All the roots have been severed from the stems or trunk and the plant is a goner.

Mole is nearly blind with only tiny ears
Moles are not rodents but are often confused because of the similar names, the appearance and tunneling habits. They are a bit larger, often with grey fur and specialized forefeet with powerful digging claws that do a “breast stroke” through porous soil. 

Moles are carnivorous hunters that search for earthworms, grubs and soil-dwelling insects. While they don’t eat landscape plants, their tunnels can expose the roots of shrubs and trees to air, provide access for plant-destructive voles, and cause  sprained ankles for people treading unknowingly among the tunnels.

Mole tunnels- unsightly + dangerous
Moles make unsightly tunnels under the ground in lawns or garden beds, rarely surfacing because they are essentially blind. These solitary, territorial creatures are typically limited to one or two per location, but they tunnel at a great rate (up to 15 feet an hour) and quickly can make a maze of a fine turf.

Give CrabappleLandscapEXPERTS a call to solve your digging animal pest problems at 770-940-9739. 

Digging Deeper: Georgia Cooperative Extension Service in Cobb County has put out a flier listing the differences

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

National Poinsettia Day is 12/12/12

Red bracts + tiny flowers
 12/12/12 is the last repeating date in our lifetimes, plus it is also designated National Poinsettia Day

Lighting up homes for the Christmas holiday, the poinsettia is a decorative houseplant (tender perennial) that blooms during the long nights and short days at the end of December, in sync with Christmas and the New Year. Ask your Crabapple Rep for an estimate to decorate your Rental Office or HOA Clubhouse with poinsettias next year! 

Modern Breeding
Modern breeding has created rainbows of poinsettias from red and pink to yellow and white, spotted and speckled, with variegated foliage and shapes from roses to stars. More than 100 cultivars are listed.

Pink edged with white
All this from a non-descript Mexican and South American native wildflower that the Aztecs called Cuitlaxochiti, meaning “star flower”. Also a medicinal plant, the sticky sap was used to control fevers. Contrary to popular belief, the plant is not poisonous and Poison Control Centers do not list it. However, the milky sap of all Euphorbias (poinsettias included) can irritate the skin.

Variety 'Ice Punch' 
In Mexico and Guatemala the flower is known as Noche Buena or “Christmas Eve”. 

Ambassador Joel Roberts Poinsett 
In English-speaking countries, poinsettias are named for Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, who became enamored of the wildflower in the 1820s. In 1826 he shipped plants to his plantation in South Carolina, introducing the Mexican wildflowers to the U.S. They grew well when transplanted to his greenhouse and the name “poinsettia” became the accepted name of the flower.  

In July 2002 the House of Representatives created Poinsettia Day that also honored Paul Ecke Jr., an Encinitas, California grower and breeder considered the “father of the modern poinsettia”. Until the 1990's, the Ecke family had a monopoly on a technique they discovered that caused seedlings to branch, creating bushy plants for sale throughout December. Wholesale poinsettias contribute $250M+ to the U.S. economy annually and are the best-selling houseplant in North America.

Yellow Bracts
Hate to Throw Away Plants?
Poinsettias hold their colorful blossoms long after the holidays, and can be carried over outdoors during the summer, eventually growing to be large shrubby plants, although tender and susceptible to freezing. They will bloom in subsequent winters if protected from frost and sheltered from electric lights after sunset throughout the autumn. This will cause flower buds to set and continue the annual blooming cycle.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Cool Season Winter Color

Metro-Atlanta properties that CrabappleLandscapExperts maintain enjoy moderate winter temperatures and a full array of cold season color in the form of annuals and biennials to brighten up the landscape even during the “dead of winter”

Crabapple can recommend many unusual color choices in  addition to the more familiar ones. 

Flower List
Violas (also known as “multflora pansies”) and Pansies are the first cool season annuals that come to mind. These flashy violet relatives bloom in color beds from October through April as though it were summer.

Daisy-like Calendulas come in shades of orange, yellow or peach and brighten up winter days. They are named for the calendar, and are said to bloom in every month of the calendar year.

Brilliant yellow Wallflowers (Cherianthus) can be recognized by their 4 petals. They are members of the Cruciferae Family (root word, cruci or cross-like and much more descriptive and helpful that the more modern Brassicaceae)   

Snapdragons in a rainbow of colors from white and yellow to pink and dark red come in tall or short growing varieties.  

Colorful Veggies
Rainbow Chard 
As far as the vegetables go, Rainbow Chard has a rich, fleshy texture and a bit of height.

Flowering Kale also  adds color to the winter landscape.

Brilliant emerald green of parsley is both beautiful and edible. 

Cilantro prefers cool weather, and doesn’t bolt (go to seed) as it does in hot weather.

Flowering Cabbage
Flowering Cabbage heads turn lavender or white and weather Atlanta winters beautifully. Eventually they will produce a flower stalk (known as bolting) but not until hot weather arrives.  

Unfortunately many weeds are also cool season annuals. They are wild-sown in late summer or early fall and sprout in winter or early spring. Crabapple is on top of this challenge with pre-emergent herbicide that is applied before they sprout will control winter annual weeds in turf.

For more information about adding cool season annuals to the properties you manage, contact your Crabapple LandscapExpert Rep at 770-740-9739.