Archive for December, 2010
In a previous post I was lamenting about needle-drop. As much as I love trees and hate to see the holidays end, under my breath I look forward to the day when the holiday fir-ball and its few remaining needles can be put out on the curb. I’ve dutifully remove all ornaments, wire hooks, tinsel, stand screws, wreath wires—essentially anything that could bollix up the chipping machine. There the Poor Thing patiently waits for the DPW to take it away. From the curb it goes on to its next life in the form of . . . smithereens.
In my limited suburban experience, discarded Christmas trees have gotten hauled off to a local landfill lot and are made into mulch—used to pave a city or state park trail, other municipal property or used at a playground. Though I’ve seen instances of overusing mulch, it is good for weed control and it does not introduce invasive elements or seeds.
But with each year comes a new idea for recycling the roughly 30 million once-living Christmas trees sold each year. In San Francisco and Burlington, VT for instance, much mulch is used as biomass fuel, generating electricity by heating water and creating steam. Christmastree.org lists some of the ways trees are being repurposed in various communities.
Unchipped whole trees have been used to rebuild wetlands, and stabilize fish habitats along lake or river shorelines. They may also serve as shelters and perches for birds and other wildlife. Christmas trees have also been used for management of river delta sedimentation and for the prevention of beach erosion and coastal sand dune restoration.
And here’s a random curiosity. What is happening to this year’s huge Rockefeller Center tree in New York City? In keeping with the three previous years of “tradition,” the tree will be milled into lumber which will then be used in house building by Habitat for Humanity. The wood will go to housing in the Newburgh, NY area near where the tree grew.
If treecycling chipping is not in your area and you’d like to start a program, see the several how-to articles found by exploring the Earth911.com website. Some good suggestions can be found including the importance of promoting the event. A lot of treecycling programs come with clever themes and signage to gather interest. In New York City the program is called “Mulchfest.” The Keep Georgia Beautiful organization uses the title “Bring One for the Chipper.” My favorite? The drop-off signage at Prospect Park—“Thank you very Mulch.”
Nancy R. Peck
. . . SNOW ! Could it be nature’s way of telling us to slow down?
Mistletoe is a hemiparasite that embellishes trees such as this one at Hampton Court Palace where Henry VIII once lived. Hampton Court Palace has a renowned maze and extensive gardens open to the public. Hampton Court Palace is southwest of London. A public ice skating rink here is open between late November and early January.
Photo by Jonathan Cardy, Wikimedia Creative Commons
Flowers in parade at the Galway Arts Festival: photo by Peter Clarke, Wikimedia Creative Commons
Does it seem like the conifers that you bring into the house are getting drier and drier—or is it my imagination? No sooner does the tree get into the house that the needles begin their fall-off—even as you’re cramming the trunk into its water trough or gingerly placing ornaments on the tree. A real indication that the days are numbered for this already dead tree.
I keep my fingers crossed that the tree doesn’t lose its needles in unison in front of everyone. I know it is going to happen shortly. Will it be right after the last-gasp Vacuum of the Year? Or in the middle of the New Year’s Eve Epic Party of the Year. The anticipation rather reminds me of Cinderella waiting to lose her gown at the stroke of midnight EST.
If you happened to be listening to National Public Radio on December 10 you might have heard an interview with Dr. Raj Lada, founding director of the Christmas Tree Research Center of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. His research aims to increase needle retention where growing fir trees is a multi-million dollar commercial industry. Good news, Dr. Lada is said to be on the verge of doubling the life of the cut Christmas tree. At the facility they are working on a method that will block the release of ethylene. In basic terms, this would be like slowing or halting the ripening of a banana.
His remedy isn’t here yet but in the meantime, I deduced these recommendations from the interview:
- The trauma of transport can trigger the start of the ethylene process. You might want to buy from producers closest to you, cutting down when you select it. In transport—the less shaking the better.
- If you do buy from a retailer, hope that they’ve been keeping them in a water vessel.
- Once you have your specimen home, re-cut the trunk at least one inch.
- Lights alter a tree’s metabolic function and they are also spectrum sensitive. White lights might be preferable and don’t turn them off at night. “When the tree is in the dark it will start “respiring” more, using all its carbohydrates too soon.”
- Keep your tree stand filled with water, checking it daily. A glycerin product in the water is pointless as it will not reach the necessary height due to its viscosity. Also adding sugar to the water or fertilizer will have little effect.
- Don’t use products that close stomata as they will shut down the carbon dioxide exchange needed for photosynthesis. It needs to have the sugar synthesized every day.
- Keep the tree in a cooler room if possible (but not at freezing temperatures). Keep it away from the kitchen.
- Finally, keep fruit away from the tree. Fruit gives off ethylene.
I wonder how Cinderella would deal with needle-drop? I guess she’d just get out her dustpan every hour on the hour. Or maybe she would have thrown in the towel and had a tree crafted of glass instead.
Here’s the transcript of the NPR interview with Dr. Lada.
Photo by Jean-Pierre Bazard, Wikimedia Creative Commons
Nancy R. Peck