Friday, January 26, 2007


This morning I was reading my newest issue of "Business 2.0". In it there is an article which is titled, "8 Technologies for a Green Future".
One of those 8 is called "Toxin-eating Trees". That caught my attention immediately! Anyway, reading that article was interesting. I know there are grasses Water Treatment Plants use to help them reconstitute water. I also know that plants can remove harmful chemicals from soil. When I toured our local Water Treatment Plant, they showed us some of those grasses, but said that the heavy metals they remove are retained in the plant, making them toxic to any grazing animals that partake of them. That seems to negate their usefulness, as far as I'm concerned. It also seems to indicate that it's presence in the "food chain" might be of concern.
However, it does appear that the science community is taking this seriously, and we should as well!
I have a few web-sites that you will find of interest if this topic is close to your "green" heart.
This first one, a Fact Sheet from Michigan State University, gives you definitions, pros, and cons, and all kinds of explanations.
The next one, is a USDA article about soils and plant phytoremediation for contaminants. It too probably tells you enough to get you up to speed on this topic.
The last one is a Blog from that "Business 2.0" magazine I told you about. It's called Green Wombat. (Don't ask) It seems that phytoremediation is not one of the ones he addresses, but it's interesting to read anyway!
Maybe after you check these sites out, you may be more interested in this topic. As a gardener, it's one we should at least know a little bit go get educated! It'll give you something to do on this wintery day!

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Pruning trees is always a conundrum of sorts. When is the best time to do your tree pruning? It, of course, depends on where you live and what hardiness zone your trees occupy. Since this is a blog for the North Country of New England, I'm going to assume these are the folks I'll talk to now. If you live somewhere else, refer to the Extension Office of the Land Grant University of your state (usually titled, "University of_state name_").
My personal opinion is that the best time to prune is in the winter. However, there are a few things that you have to think about before you make this decision. In mid-winter the snow may be deep; temperatures horrendous; and your spirit, unwilling.
This pruning is usually termed, "late winter pruning", but in late winter the sap is already beginning to run in trees like maples and birch (think maple syrup and birch beer. Both are tapped in February and March.) And, there are those that feel cutting hard, frozen wood can damage the cells, making it difficult for the cut areas to heal properly. Another complication is that severe pruning can cause a flush of growth the minute temperatures rise. If it's a blooming tree that may flower, and you consequently get a hard frost, you can picture the next step. The new growth will be damaged and your fruit curtailed. So, we wait until March and April.
The reason winter is a good time to prune is that you can see what needs to be done when there are no leaves on the branches. The shape of the tree becomes obvious. You can also, quickly, pick out the broken branches.
As you can see, this is not a really simple decision. I personally wait until a warm "January Thaw" type day (whether in January, February, or early March), and get my tush out there!
I have found an absolutely wonderful site at Texas A&M that explains a TON of stuff about pruning. Go to this page and LEARN!!!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007



Start looking for those wonderful gardening catalogues!

This is a good time to check old seeds for viability

Remove any heavy snow from evergreens.

Put your Christmas tree outside to provide shelter for the birds.
You can also smear the branches with peanut butter mixed with corn meal.
The birds will love it!

Keep those bird feeders full.

Any questions about January?

Friday, January 05, 2007


Here's a little section from the National Gardening Association's Regional Report that I receive via e-mail. After you read it, keep reading...I have a few comments of my own to make about this problem.

"If you've noticed disease in the past on plants near your bird feeder, particularly if infected parts are covered with white fluffy growth, the problem could be a fungus that's contained in sunflowers seeds. In addition, sunflower seed hulls themselves can impede the growth of certain plants, so to be on the safe side, move your feeder away from your gardens. If that's not possible, periodically clean up any seeds and hulls around the base of the feeder and destroy them."

This is true, those sunflower seed hulls are toxic to grass, which is the plant often right under our feeders. In the spring you'll find the lawn is in terrible shape under the feeder. That's not nice!
This is relatively easy to control. Just buy, and use, shelled sunflower seeds. They are also called Sunflower Hearts. There will be NO seed hulls cast to the lawn, because there aren't any. This type of seed IS more expensive, but what you get is almost entirely consumed by the birds. The ground feeding birds, like Juncos and Cardinals will happily pick them off the ground...and there's always that "friendly" little squirrel who's willing to help with clean-up chores. You'll also find that the birds are less prone to toss seeds to the ground. I'm sure you have noticed that the birds will often throw away 3 or 4 seeds to every one they eat. Using the hearts, they are more likely to eat each one. At least try it. I find the clean-up in the spring is negligible.