Author Linda Cobb
Master Gardener Linda Cobb

Linda Cobb is a garden writer and certified Master Gardener who lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She is the author of My Gardener's Guide: Easy Steps to a Better Garden.

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Our Garden by Linda Cobb

Our Garden at the Holidays

Colder weather is on the way, but let's settle down and surround ourselves with greenery for the holidays

It is time to take that walk through the garden with a journal or notepad to record what plants did well and what plants failed.  Keeping these notes will help you to know when something bloomed, what you will not plant next and many more things.  Keep that journal of garden diary.  I have done it for ten years now and it certainly is beneficial.

Now is the time to mail order some amaryllis bulbs for the holidays.  I love the quality of the bulbs at This year I will be ordering some white nymph, red peacock, and dancing queen.  These are all double amaryllis and are show stoppers. When the bulbs arrive I will plant them in a six inch plastic pot and fill the pot half full with soil, leaving half of the bulb exposed.  Then I keep them watered and near a sunny window.  In about four weeks they will send up a huge flower spike. I give these plants out as hoatess, teacher, or friend gifts.  Just top off the blooming plant with some moss to dress it up.

There are several great reasons to have a real Christmas tree.  While they are growing, Christmas trees support life on earth by absorbing carbon dioxide and other gasses, and emit fresh oxygen.  This helps to prevent the earth warming greenhouse effect. Every acre of Christmas trees produce the daily oxygen required for 18 people.  There were one million acres of growing Christmas trees, and that means that 18 million people a day are supplied with oxygen, thanks to Christmas trees.

Artificial trees may be convenient and easy, but let’s not forget that the average life of an artificial tree is six years.  They are a burden to the environment and are not biodegradable.  They wind up staying in the landfill for centuries.

The other subject on our list is some suggestions on how to recycle your Christmas tree.  Here are a few ideas. 

Of course there is the tried and true method of putting the tree out by the curb for recycling pick up. But do you really know what they are going to do with the old tree? Call them and ask. Then make your choice.

Another method is to cut the boughs off of the tree and lay them over your perennial beds (peonies, hostas, delpheniums benefit from this). Then I like to take the trunk of the tree and recycle it by using it as a post for my extensive birdhouse collection. I love using real tree trunks as birdhouse posts. This adds authenticity to the birdhouse.  There are so many types and varieties of birdhouses available. Mounting the birdhouse on top of the Christmas tree trunk makes it seem like the birdhouses are in the woods. It is a great way to use every part of your Christmas tree.

You can take the tree to a drop-off point and have the tree ground into mulch that can be used in many ways.  Most of the time they use the ground up mulch to spread in shrub and flowerbeds in public parks and gardens. 

The best method of recycling is to take the tree to a fish hatchery.  They use the tree to provide habitats for wildlife and fish.  You can sink the Christmas tree into a pond or river, but be sure to contact forestry biologists before you do.  Biologists will place the trees in varying depths of water.  The trees do not need to be placed too deep where oxygen is a limiting factor to the fish. 

Christmas trees make great underwater structures, which attract fish.  Their branching patterns are appealing to fish, and they like to lay their eggs in the branches.  Basically the tree structure provides shelter for the fish.  Sunken trees are also an erosion barrier, which is an additional benefit to recycling the Christmas tree.

A final method to recycling the Christmas tree is to buy a ball and burlap bound tree and plant it in the garden when Christmas is over.  Choose a good site, keeping in mind that they usually grow to be 40 feet tall at maturity, so give it lots of room to grow.  When buying the tree, select one that has a single, straight trunk.  A tree less than 5 feet is a good choice, as smaller trees are more successfully transplanted than taller trees. 

During the holidays, keep the tree ball watered and evenly moist.  You should dig the hole well before the ground freezes.  The hole should be 2 inches wider and 6 inches deeper than the root ball. You can cover the hole with plywood until planting time.  When planting the tree, remove all rope, burlap, and pots.  Plant the tree, backfill, and water well.  Keep the water coming throughout the winter.  Stake the tree at two points to prevent movement from the wind, which can break new roots.  Planting a Christmas tree is a real challenge, but it will always serve as a reminder to those wonderful holiday season and family memories.

Consider carefully all your choices when it comes to recycling. Make the right choice, and enjoy the holiday season.

Posted by Linda on Oct 23, 2008

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