Insects in Christmas trees and Firewood

Christmas is a wonderful, joyous holiday. Most people really enjoy decorating for the holidays, and put a Christmas tree in their homes. Real Christmas trees are a fun tradition for many families during the holiday season, providing us holiday scent of spruce or pine. Remember, these trees are from nature. Sometimes it can bring too much nature into your homes, such as insects and spiders.

Insects on Christmas trees

It is rare to bring insects into your home on a Christmas tree, but it can occur. The most common pests found on freshly cut trees would be aphids and spiders. Neither of these pests would cause us any harm or populate in the home. They are coming from eggs that were laid on the tree in the fall. Once the tree warms up in the home, the insects emerge, thinking it is spring. Because they are in the home and not outside, these pests will die of starvation or desiccation, drying out.

There are practices in place by the grower to ensure there are no insects on the trees. However, these insects are on the tree as tiny eggs in the field and the growers have many trees, once in a great while an insect may be missed.

Managing Insects from Christmas Trees

Spiders and Aphids will not harm us in our homes. As stated, they will likely die soon after emergence indoors. There really is no need to control them other than hand removal if you see them. It would help to shake out the tree prior to bringing it indoors to remove insects found on the tree.

Insects on Firewood

Flickr image courtesy of Shay Sowden per CC license

Many people also enjoy a fire in the fireplace for the Christmas season. I don’t have a fireplace now, but growing up, it always made the holiday more festive with a nice fire burning in the fireplace. There are many different insects that may be overwintering in the wood and some others that are using it as a food supply during the winter months. Insects that may be found in the wood you pile for your wood stoves include: bark beetles, powder post beetles, carpenter ants, wood boring beetles, and many other insects. These insects may not be active due to the cold winter temperatures, but once inside may become active again. Typically, insects in firewood will only be a nuisance pest in your home because they cannot survive in your home.

Managing insects in firewood

Insects found in your firewood are not harmful and therefore do not need to be sprayed with any type of insecticide. Do NOT spray insecticides on firewood prior to burning because the insecticide could be flammable or cause an inhalation hazard while the log burns. Insects found in the home can be controlled with sticky traps this time of the year.

The best management for insects in firewood is to only bring wood inside as you need it to avoid insects getting into your home and flying around. Don’t stack wood inside and don’t bring in multiple loads at once. Wood boring insects will not come out of the wood and begin feeding on your furniture or any other wood material, but they will be moving around in your home if you let the wood warm up too much. Wood that remains at a temperature of less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit will keep any insects inside of it at a dormant stage, meaning that they will be overwintering with no real action from the insect. If you bring too much wood into your home at a time, the wood will warm up and the insect could emerge from the wood and move around your home. If you bring only a few pieces of wood into your home at a time, you will be placing it into the fire before the insect is able to emerge and it will die in the fire.

Thanksgiving Meal from the Garden

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday to remind us of all the things in our lives we can be thankful for and to do so over a shared meal with friends and family. Thanksgiving is a little late for our backyard gardens, and most of us are not thinking about the garden. However it may help you to plan your garden next year so you can plant vegetables to be incorporated into your Thanksgiving dinner next year. There is nothing more fulfilling that eating a meal that came from things you harvested.

Side dishes

There are so many delicious side dishes at our Thanksgiving feasts, often too many to fit on our plates or our appetites. Most of these side dishes can be grown in your garden and frozen or stored for use at Thanksgiving. Sweet corn, green beans, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and one of my favorites, brussels sprouts can all be grown in your gardens in Nebraska. The corn and green beans should be canned or frozen just after they are harvested in the summer months. These products can then be used at the holiday. Brussels sprouts are typically harvested in the fall, they can withstand temperatures down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. So they can be grown through the season and harvested fresh to be used in your Thanksgiving dinner. Once they have been harvested, they can be stored for 3-5 weeks at 32 degrees and 90-95% humidity.

Both kinds of potatoes can be grown in Nebraska as well. Potatoes need to be cured in a warm, humid location and then they can be stored at a cooler temperature and stored for multiple months to be used for the holiday as well.


Thanksgiving is a great time to have a slice of pumpkin or apple pie. Again, the main portion of these delicious desserts can be grown in our gardens.

Pumpkins are great for both Halloween and Thanksgiving, but not the same type of pumpkin for both. It is best to use the correct pumpkin for the task, such as using a jack-o-lantern pumpkin for carving and a processing pumpkin for making pies. Both types of pumpkins can be used for either activity, but they work better if you get the right type for the task at hand. Pie pumpkins are smaller, sweeter, and less watery than jack-o-lantern types of pumpkins, making them easier to bake with.

Apples can be picked from your own tree in your backyard. They can be preserved in multiple ways. People often make them into pie filling and then freeze or can that for storage and easy pie baking later on in the year. Fresh apples store fairly well under home storage conditions for up to 6 months. So they can just be harvested and stored indoors for use in our Thanksgiving pies. Later maturing varieties work best for storage in a basket or box lined with plastic. One bad apple truly can spoil the barrel because apples give off ethylene gas which speeds ripening of fruits. When damaged, that ethylene is given off more rapidly and can speed up the ripening process for the other apples stored with it. Apples will store best around 32 degrees.

So we may not be able to grow all of the parts of Thanksgiving in our backyard gardens, but a good portion can come from our homegrown fruits and vegetables. Keep this in mind when you go to plant your garden next year, what parts do you want to grow in your own backyard to preserve for Thanksgiving. And take time this Thanksgiving to be Thankful for all that you have, I know I am. Happy Thanksgiving!

*For more information on Storing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, see this NebGuide


Poinsettia Blog

A common host gift we take to Holiday parties are Poinsettias. If you receive one for Christmas this year, do you know how to care for it? Poinsettias are a staple for the Christmas season, but they don’t have to be a short-lived gift that is thrown away at the beginning of the year.

2018-12-20 10.09.28
Red bracts and yellow flowers of a poinsettia

Typically, poinsettias are most commonly found in red, but the color range is expanding all the time. They can now be found in white, pink, green, or a marbled pink or marbled red. On an old-fashioned poinsettia, the red colored portion of the poinsettia is not actually the flower of the plant. The colored, leaf-like structures are actually bracts, which are modified leaves. The actual flower of a poinsettia is the yellow center of the colored bracts.

Poinsettias need to be cared for during transport and while in the home. When you first purchase a poinsettia, you need to protect it as you transport it. Wrap it in a plastic bag when you take it outside to protect the plant from the cold, windy outdoor conditions. This should be done when you leave the store, when you move it from your car to your home, and if you take it to another house as a gift. Once in its permanent location, remove the decorative foil wrapping from the pot of the plant. This foil can retain water for the plant, but in a bad way. It can make it so that the plant roots are constantly wet and root rot may occur.

The care of a poinsettia can be tricky as the plants tend to be particular. Water the plant when the soil becomes dry to the touch, but don’t wait until the plant wilts prior to watering again either. Place poinsettias where they receive indirect light for 6 hours a day. Keep the plant away from cold drafts and keep them from touching a window. This plant prefers temperatures of 60-70 degrees F during the day and 55 degrees F overnight. Do not fertilize poinsettias during the flowering period. Poinsettias can be fertilized monthly with a houseplant fertilizer during the rest of the growing season if you choose to keep it alive.

You can keep the poinsettia year round if you wish. After Christmas, care for the poinsettia as you would any other houseplant. Keep it evenly moist and in bright, indirect light. In February or March, cut back the plant to 4-6 inches in height. In May, repot into a larger container. It can be placed outdoors after the danger of frost has passed. In the fall, bring the poinsettia indoors before night temperatures drop below 55-60 degrees F.

To encourage poinsettia to bloom again, it takes a specific routine of light and darkness. Poinsettia flowering is induced by a photoperiods, like Christmas Cactus. It takes 12 hours of darkness per night to initiate flowering. Starting at the end of September, place the poinsettia in a closet or cover it with a black cloth to keep it in total darkness from 5pm until 8am the next morning. Even the lights in our homes can interfere with the flowering cycle of this plant, so it needs to be completely dark around the plant. Once the flowers begin to develop in mid-December, you do not need to continue the dark period. It will help, though, if you continue this until the bracts are fully expanded. Then, you can enjoy your poinsettia through the holiday season for years to come.

Make a Wreath from your Landscape

Happy Thanksgiving blog

Happy Thanksgiving! With the passing of Thanksgiving means the full wave of Christmas preparations. Many of us like to shop for our Christmas trees and put out all of our holiday decorations through our homes within the week of Thanksgiving. For Christmas trees and other holiday traditions, we often use artificial replicas of real plant material for our decorations. However, if you choose to use real trees and use real branches in your wreaths, the smell is a wonderful alternative to any artificial selection.

Wreaths are a great decoration for the Christmas season. Wreaths have been used for centuries to decorate for the holidays. According to North Carolina Extension, using evergreens in holiday celebrations comes from the middle ages when people viewed evergreen trees to be very special, representing life and growth to come. This can be especially important to us during long, cold winters.

Plant Selection for Wreaths

Plant material used for Christmas decorations can come from your own landscape. Many of our tree and shrub species make great wreaths, swags, and garland for use during the holiday season. White Pine has long, soft needles that can be used in these decorations, but it needs to be kept moist and needs to be layered to look full. Junipers are often used in decorations as well for good fragrance, but they can be messy. Firs have a great scent that can fill a room with a fragrance reminiscent of the holidays. They hold their short needles well and will tolerate indoor conditions. Spruces can be used as well, but be careful with these, the needles are short and sharp. It might be best to wear gloves when handling spruce to avoid injuring your hands. You can also add in accents from other plants such as berries from Ivy, unique leaves and berries from holly, and pinecones. Just stroll through your landscape and gather some materials from whatever is green and catches your eye.

Making your own Wreath

DSCN5798If you are making your own wreath from your landscape materials, walk around to find the best quality materials to use. Small amounts of pruning from your landscape for your wreath will not be harmful to your plants. Make sure you still make a good pruning cut and remove small branches back to a larger branch and do not leave a stump behind. Once back inside with your branch materials, cut them into 6-8 inch sections and overlap them along the frame as you wrap them with wire to hold them in place. If done correctly, the overlapping of plant material will cover up the wire as you build the wreath. Build your wreath as full or thin as you choose. When finished with the base of the wreath, you can add berries, other leaves, and pinecones that you find in your landscape as well.

Maintaining Freshness in your Wreath

Wreaths made from live material has a shelf life, they will not remain green and full of fragrance long term. Given good conditions, however, they should remain green and full of scent for the holiday season. If the wreath is kept indoors, it will only last for a week to 10 days. If the wreath is hung outdoors, it can remain fresh for 3-4 weeks. However, if hung on a front door in full sun behind a glass door, it will not last this long. It would be best to store the wreath in a cool, damp location where it is sheltered from the wind, rain, and sun but has good ventilation. A door on the north side of a building would be best. It will also help with longevity of your wreath if you spray the wreath with water often to maintain moisture to the plant materials. If a floral foam is used, it can be watered down every 2-3 days to ensure the plant material stays hydrated to last longer.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving blog 2017

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is the beginning of the Christmas season for many of us. I know many families go pick out their Christmas Trees on Thanksgiving weekend. It’s a great time to do that and it really begins to get you into the Holiday Spirit.

The biggest decoration in size and in use is the Christmas tree. Christmas trees have been used for centuries for many different reasons. According to Alabama Cooperative Extension, Christmas trees are believed to symbolize immortality. The Germanic people used evergreen boughs in their homes during winter for protection of their home and to return life to the snow-covered forest. There have been many different civilizations throughout history that have used evergreens in their homes, decorated or not, to celebrate the holidays, according to the University of Illinois Extension. The ancient Romans used decorated trees during their winter festival to honor their god of agriculture. Trees were sold in Germany in the 1500’s to be put in homes, undecorated.

Christmas Trees came to the United States in 1747, when people in Pennsylvania decorated wooded pyramids with evergreen branches and candles. By 1850, decorated Christmas trees were a widely used tradition in America.  The first retail tree market was in New York in 1851 and the first President of the United States to put up a Christmas tree in the White House was Franklin Pierce in 1856.  The first national Christmas tree was put up in 1923 on the lawn of the White House by President Calvin Coolidge.

There are many different tree species you can choose from for your family’s enjoyment through the Holiday season. The most common tree species used for Christmas trees in Nebraska include: Balsam Fir, Douglas-Fir, Fraser Fir, Noble Fir, Scotch Pine, Virginia Pine and White Pine. Before leaving to go pick out your tree, it might be a good idea to measure the area of the room where the tree will be placed to ensure you get a tree that fits in the room.

Christmas tree farm, flickr, UGA College of Ag & Env

When choosing your tree, assess the tree to learn the condition it is in. Walk around the tree to look for holes in the branching. Slightly tug on the needles that are on the tree to ensure they are tightly attached to the tree. Also, give the tree a good shake, if green needles fall off this is not as fresh of a tree, choose another. Brown needles can fall from the tree and not indicate a problem with the tree.

When you take your tree home, cut a fresh cut on the stump of the tree and place it immediately into the tree stand with plenty of water. Ensure that the stand maintains an adequate amount of water through the Holiday season. A fresh tree can use one quart of water or more per day. If you allow the water to drop below the fresh cut, a seal will form. A new cut would then be necessary to keep the tree fresh, use hot water the first time you water the tree after the new cut to dissolve any sap that would clog the water conducting tissues. The use of additives in the water will not help the tree stay fresh longer, just use fresh water and make sure the tree has enough.

A few fun Christmas tree facts from the Nebraska Christmas Tree Growers Association:

  • When one tree is removed for a Christmas tree, 2-3 seedlings are planted in its place
  • It takes 7-15 years to get a mature tree height of 6 feet tall for Christmas trees
  • Christmas trees are grown and harvested in all 50 states, including at 15 choose and harvest farms in Nebraska
  • There are approximately 1 million acres in production for growing Christmas trees


Halloween Pumpkins

October is a great month. From harvest to football and cooler weather to…Pumpkins!

Pumpkins are great for eating and for decorating homes for Halloween and Thanksgiving. People seem to go crazy for all of the different edible pumpkin ideas. I even use products to make my house smell like pumpkins. The pumpkin industry is huge in the United States. In 2015, every person in the United States consumed an average of 3.1 pounds of pumpkin. This was even lower than the typical average of 5 pounds per year, but in 2015 we had a pumpkin shortage due to poor weather events, making it more difficult to find pumpkin food products in stores.

Pumpkins are a member of the cucurbit family of plants. They are in the same family as cucumbers, squash, watermelons, cantaloupe, zucchini, and, their cousin for decorations, the gourd. They can be grown throughout the majority of the United States. For mass production, the majority of our pumpkin comes from Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. Illinois grows around 90-95% of the processed pumpkins for the Libby corporation located in their own state. Libby is the company that makes the majority of the canned pumpkin products found in stores.


Pumpkins are easily grown, but need a lot of space to grow well. They need full sunlight and a lot of water because pumpkins are 90% water. Vining pumpkins need 50-100 square feet of space per hill. Allow 5-6 feet between hills. It is hard to keep the correct spacing when planting little seeds, but the plants will fill in fast. If they are planted too closely together, they can get diseases from the humidity during the summer months amongst all of the large leaves. Pumpkins can be planted when tomatoes can, as long as it is after the last frost of the spring. However, if planted too early, you will have pumpkins for Halloween in August, so it is best to wait until mid-June to plant your pumpkins. You know when your pumpkins are ready to harvest when they have turned color and resist a fingernail when it is gently pushed against the rind of the pumpkin.

Saving seeds from pumpkins can be done easily when carving, however the next year your pumpkins may look different. Plants can cross pollinate with other plants within the same species. Pumpkins, zucchini, gourds, and some types of winter squash all share the same plant species, Cucurbita pepo. These plants could then cross-pollinate among each other and cause a unique type of pumpkin to grow. However, the cross-pollination will only change the plants that are grown from saving seeds. So, if you save seed or throw old pumpkins into a garden patch and don’t disrupt them too much next spring, you will get plants to grow, but the pumpkins you grow will not look the same as what you had this year. Cross-pollination does not affect the current seasons produce.

There are a lot of different pumpkin varieties to choose from, each having their own niche in the pumpkin market. The most common one this time of year is the Jack-o-Lantern type pumpkin which is medium sized and good for carving. It is best to not use the Jack-o-Lantern type for cooking, they don’t have the best flavor and texture. For cooking and baking use the pie pumpkin, a smaller type with creamier flesh and better flavor, which are not ideal for carving. There are many other choices including Fairytale pumpkins which are squattier, heavier, and light orange colored. Mini pumpkins are fun for easy decorating indoors and out and can be found in many colors including traditional orange and white. Giant pumpkins are grown for competitions and festivals and are specially grown. A regular Jack-o-Lantern type can get large, but for the extraordinarily large, choose seed for giant pumpkins. There are pink pumpkins, striped pumpkins, blue pumpkins, warty pumpkins, and even gourds that like to help accent your Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations. This information came from John Porter, Urban Agriculture Program Coordinator at Nebraska Extension.

Be Thankful for…


Be Thankful for…Tasty Treats from the Garden!

Thanksgiving is a time to be Thankful for everything that you have to enrich your life. One great thing about Thanksgiving is the wonderful meal that you can share with your loved ones and closest friends. Your Thanksgiving feast featured a great deal of products that you can grow from your garden in your own backyard.

Green Snap Beans photo courtesy of Alice Henneman via Flickr Creative Commons License.


Green Bean casserole and sweet corn are staple side dishes to any Thanksgiving dinner. These vegetables could have been purchased at the store, or you may have grown them in your garden and preserved them to be used in this meal. Sweet potatoes can also be grown in Nebraska and stored in a cool location in your home to be enjoyed for the Holiday season. The cranberry sauce uses cranberries that may not have been grown in your garden, but could have come from the United States. Massachusetts is the leading producer of cranberries in the United States, followed by Wisconsin. There is also the delicious and healthy relish tray that is always present at these meals to snack on while waiting for the meal. The relish tray includes many vegetables grown in the United States, including carrots that could have been grown in a cold frame or fall garden that could be fresh from your Nebraska garden. Pumpkin pie is also a must for any Thanksgiving table, the pumpkin from the Famous ‘Libby’s Pumpkin Pie Mix’ is grown in Illinois, but you can make your own pumpkin pie filling using pumpkins grown in your own backyard. You can also use apples, cherries, and pecans from your trees for these pies.

Gourd arrangement provided to Extension Office by a Master Gardener.

We also use plenty of horticulture products as decorations for the holidays. Often we use pumpkins and gourds to decorate for Thanksgiving. These can be grown in our own backyards. There is a nice basket arrangement of gourds that are sitting on the front counter of the Gage County Extension office that were graciously donated to us by a Master Gardener who grew them in her garden. We are very thankful to have this to enjoy throughout the season.

Also, many people use the long Thanksgiving weekend to decorate their homes for the Christmas season, mainly putting up their Christmas tree, which is a wonderful gift from nature. The most common tree species used for Christmas trees in Nebraska include: Balsam Fir, Blue Spruce, Concolor Fir, Douglas-Fir, Fraser Fir, Scotch Pine, or Eastern White Pine. The trunk needs a fresh cut before being placed in the stand. Cuts more than 4 hours old may not take up water. Avoid removing bark because the tissue that transports water is under the bark, removing it will prevent the tree from taking up water.


Be thankful to the Tree and to the growers for this wonderful enjoyment for the season, it took about 7 years for a Christmas tree farmer to grow the trees from seedlings to retail sale height, which is about 6 feet, according to the Nebraska Christmas Tree Growers Association. They also say that for every live Christmas tree harvested, 2-3 seedlings are planted in its place. This helps to ensure future years of tree sales and tree replacement is always a good practice.

So this year, remember to be thankful for the wonderful growing opportunities we have in Nebraska. Be thankful for the soil, plentiful rain, and warm sunlight. Enjoy your horticulture commodities this Thanksgiving and throughout the winter months that you grew in your garden and were able to preserve for use throughout the year. And, next year plan to grow some of these products in your garden to enjoy for the next Thanksgiving gathering.

Holiday Plants

Happy Holidays wreath for blog

Happy Holidays! The holiday season is very enjoyable, especially the wonderful decorations. Many of our holiday decorations are horticultural displays like the main centerpiece of the season, which is a tree. We use holly plants for their berries and green leaves. We also use greenery from conifers as wreaths, swags and garland. These decorations not only look nice for the season but they tend to bring a nice holiday scent inside our homes.


Wreaths can be made from greenery from your own landscape. Fresh greenery not only adds a great decorating touch to your home for the holidays, but it also will add a nice holiday scent to your home. White pine, juniper, spruce, ivy and holly are all great choices of live greenery for your home this holiday season. You can take these directly from your landscape, just be careful when you prune these decorations off of your living plants. Don’t make all of cuts in the same location and try to make them far enough back in the plant that the other branches cover the cuts. Use a hand pruner to make good cuts that will not harm your tree or shrub.

Holly makes a good to plant use as decoration in our homes for the holidays. According to Clemson Cooperative Extension, evergreens are used to decorate the house for the holiday because they are used to represent everlasting life and hope for the return of spring. Holly plants are evergreen shrubs with dark green or variegated foliage and have bright red berries to make a beautiful holiday display. The berries of holly are poisonous, so keep them out of reach of children and pets.

Mistletoe is another great holiday tradition. This is the small leafy plant that we hang from a doorway or just somewhere up high where people will walk under it. The tradition is that if two people meet underneath the mistletoe they are supposed to kiss. This tradition began in ancient times as a ritual people did to increase their chance of marriage in the upcoming year. The berries of mistletoe are also poisonous, so keep them out of reach of small hands and pets as well.

Multiple colors of Poinsettia
Poinsettia Photo by Jan Hygnstrom, UNL Department of Agronomy and Horticulture

Poinsettias are a wonderful plant for the holiday. The traditional poinsettia is red, but newer varieties can be found in white, pink, peach, yellow, and marbled or speckled colors. The colored portion of the poinsettia is actually a bract, or a modified leaf, not a flower. The flowers are the tiny yellow parts in the center of the colored bracts. Poinsettias are not poisonous, but can cause a skin reaction, so keep them out of reach of small children and pets.

When we purchase holiday plants, the care of them begins in the store where you purchase them. The first thing you need to do for the best health of those plants is to ensure that they are covered up with plastic as you bring them out to your car from the store and from your car to your home. Exposure to cold temperatures and wind, that is inevitable in Nebraska, can damage the leaves, the flowers or the bracts. When you get them home, you should take the plastic off of the plant and be sure to keep the plant watered. You also need to make sure that your plant is in a pot with drainage holes and remove the decorative wrapping from the pot when you get it home to allow for more drainage. This will help you enjoy your holiday plants for the whole holiday season and then some. Have a Happy Holiday Season!

Choosing a Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree canva

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s that time again, when we move into the Holiday Season. Typically, Thanksgiving weekend is the time when people begin to put up their holiday displays in and around their homes. These displays almost always include a Christmas tree. Getting a fresh tree from a local farm is an enjoyable experience for the family to do together.

There are 25 Christmas tree farms in Nebraska. A few of these farms are located very near us in southeast Nebraska. To get a tree from a local tree farm you can visit: Pinecrest Tree Farm in Blue Springs, Kohout’s Christmas Trees near Dorchester, Walnut Grove Tree Farm in Raymond, or Prairie Woods in Hallam, to name a few. There are many other listed, to find a tree farm closest to you, visit the Nebraska Christmas Tree Growers Association online at:

When choosing your Christmas tree, choose one that suits your room size and desires of your family. Make sure that it will fit in the room you plan to place it in and that it won’t overtake the room. It might be a good idea to take a few measurements before leaving home. The most common tree species used for Christmas trees in Nebraska include:

  • Balsam Fir
  • Blue Spruce
  • Concolor Fir
  • Douglas-Fir
  • Fraser Fir
  • Scotch Pine
  • Eastern White Pine
Christmas tree farm, flickr, UGA College of Ag & Env
Flickr image courtesy of UGA College of Ag and Environmental Sciences-OCCS per CC license

It takes about 7 years for a Christmas tree farmer to grow his or her trees from seedlings to retail sale height, which is about 6 feet, according to the Nebraska Christmas Tree Growers Association. They also say that for every real Christmas tree harvested, 2-3 seedlings are planted in its place. This helps to ensure future years of tree sales and tree replacement is always a good practice.

Be sure to keep live trees watered throughout the holiday season. If they don’t have water they will dry out quickly and not look as fresh and beautiful. When you purchase a real Christmas tree, be sure to make a new cut on the trunk of the tree to open up the stem for water uptake. Christmas trees rarely, if ever, start fires in our homes, except in the famous National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, but they need to be watered to help them retain their color and keep your floor from getting too messy from fallen needles. Even if they don’t start fires, it is best to place your tree in your home away from fireplaces, air ducts, and televisions.

After the holiday season, it is best to recycle your Christmas tree. There are many ways to recycle your trees that give it better use than just taking it to the local landfill or burn pile. Many people take their trees out to local lakes to the areas designated for Christmas tree recycling. The trees are placed on the ice in the winter and when the ice melts in the spring, they fall into the lake for fish habitat. You can also chip your old tree and use it for mulch in your garden in the spring. These recycling methods will help you to enjoy your Christmas tree all year long.



The trees are beginning to turn beautiful fall colors, the leaves are beginning to fall, and scary movies are starting to come back into the theatres. This must mean Halloween is on its way.

The best part of Halloween, to me, is the pumpkins. I love the smell of a freshly carved pumpkin and the look of the carved pumpkins on my front steps lit up for Halloween night. Pumpkins can be used for a variety of things throughout October and November and they can be grown in your garden right in your own backyard.

Pumpkins are a member of the cucurbit family of garden plants, which includes cucumbers, squash, gourds, watermelons, cantaloupes, and zucchini. We can use them for eating, roasting the seeds, and carving for a Halloween decoration. We can also store them and use them for Thanksgiving decorations.

Flickr image courtesy of Robert S. Donovan per CC license
Flickr image courtesy of Robert S. Donovan per CC license

If you grow pumpkins in your garden, it is now time to begin harvesting them, if you haven’t already started. Pumpkins can be harvested when they are mature in color and when they have a firm rind, when your fingernail does not puncture the rind when lightly pushed into it. It is best to remove all pumpkins prior to or within 1-2 days after a killing frost. Cut pumpkins off of the rind leaving 3-4 inches of stem on the pumpkin to help them resist organisms that lead to decay.

After the pumpkins are harvested, they should be cured to last longer in storage. Leave pumpkins in an area where they receive 80-85 degree temperatures with 80-90 percent relative humidity for 10 days. Pumpkins will store if not cured, but they will store longer, up to 3 months, if they are cured first. After cured, they are best stored in areas of 50-55 degree temperatures.

It is best to use the correct pumpkin for the task, such as using a jack-o-lantern pumpkin for carving and a processing pumpkin for making pies. Both types of pumpkins can be used for either activity, but they work better if you get the right type for the task at hand. However, you do not want to carve a pumpkin and use it for Halloween and then use it for making a pumpkin pie. A carved pumpkin is a perishable item, therefore cannot be used for baking or cooking if it has been left out, after being carved into, for more than 2 hours.

2014-10-30 19.13.41

Many people are concerned about the length of time a carved pumpkin will last on their front porch. The problem is that there isn’t a good treatment to get them to hold that carving for very long. The best idea is to wait until no more than one week before Halloween until you carve your pumpkin. It is best for the carving if you can do it as close to Halloween as possible. Another thing that will help with longevity of a pumpkin for Halloween is to ensure that you purchase or pick a pumpkin in good condition. Avoid pumpkins with soft spots, signs of decay, short stems, and other signs to show that decay has already begun in the pumpkin. If decay is already present in the pumpkin before you carve into it, it will ruin your carving that much sooner. If the weather is warm outside, store the pumpkins in a cool area until Halloween to keep the carving intact. Hopefully all of these tips can help you grow a great pumpkin and have a great pumpkin for Halloween. Happy Halloween!