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December 2017

Holiday Tree Recycling

by Erin Spencer / December 4, 2017

"Don’t throw away your Christmas tree; give it another life by recycling it! City of Austin curbside customers can recycle their trees by leaving them at the curb on their regular collection day. All other residents can drop trees off at Zilker Park."

"The Zilker Drop Off times are on the weekends, from DEC 30-JAN 7. Check out the website for more details. 

"Trees collected will be turned into mulch and will be available for free on a first-come, first-served basis beginning Jan. 18, 9 a.m."

One Man’s Tree Is Another Bird’s Treasure

by Erin Spencer / December 4, 2017

Every year around Christmas time millions of families huddle up in their minivans and hit the road looking for parking lots, home improvement stores, nurseries, and schools all with one thing on their minds - fir or spruce? Picking out and decorating evergreens has been a winter tradition for centuries. But, have you ever wondered what happens to trees once the season is done?Nowadays, there are a lot more uses for cut trees than just firewood. In fact, fallen trees play an integral role in the ecosystem, providing shelter and protection for fish, birds, mammals and insects.In Chesapeake Bay, old Christmas trees help bring Poplar island new life by providing shelter and nesting for local sea fowls. This is just one part of a larger effort by The Poplar Island Restoration Project to rebuild the once 2,000 acre island into a thriving wildlife habitat.In just over 10 years the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has restored the beach from a meager 10 acres to over 1,140. However, because the land is so new, the marshes will need more time before shrubs and trees reach maturity and can support bird species on their own.

Christmas trees have proven to be a viable answer to this temporary problem. According to FWS biologist Peter McGowan, since  biologists have been on the scene documented bird species have increased from ten to over 170, with over 26 nesting species. Since 2005, unsuspecting families' trees have become new homes for black ducks, diamondback terrapins,  snowy egrets, and red-winged blackbirds.The project is set to be completed in 2027 and will max out around 1700 acres, containing uplands, wetlands, and several acres of open water habitat. 

A Cactus Christmas

by Erin Spencer / December 4, 2017

It's Christmas time, and down here in Texas we do things slightly differently than in other states. That's why, with a name like "Christmas cactus", you knew I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to talk about this succulent sweetheart. 1. Watering/Soil. Christmas cactus, or Schlumbergera bridgessii, needs moist soil to grow, but not soaking. Too much and the plant will rot, too little and it might not bloom. Well draining soil makes this much easier. Put sand or small stones at the base of the pot to help you get this effect. 3. Sunlight: Bright, indirect light is best, like that which comes through a house window. Direct sunlight, especially in Texas, can burn the plant. 4. Temperature/Humidity: Christmas cactus prefer the temperature to hover around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 50-60 at night. They are tropical plants, so high humidity is a must. Fill their drip tray with pebbles and water, or mist often to keep them happy. 5. Fertilizer: Fertilize monthly from late winter to late summer with 20-20-20. Don't  fertilize in the winter as the plant will start to go dormant. 6. Blooming: The Christmas cactus can be a finicky bloomer. They require at least 12 hours of total darkness for 6-8 weeks during the evenings to form buds. This includes indoor lighting! Cover your plant with a tarp if you are unsure and be sure to cut back on how much you water. Once buds form you can remove the tarp.  Be sure to start this process earlier in fall if you want a thanksgiving bloom; it can take up to 12 weeks for the buds to bloom once they've formed.  Don't take my word for it? Gardening Know How has several articles specifically on caring for Christmas cactus.