Christmas Trees

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I am a little bit of a traditionalist when it comes to decorating for Christmas.  I like a real Christmas tree, and you aren’t supposed to start decorating until December 1 (or at least until after Thanksgiving).  Controversial holiday decorating opinions aside, hopping for a live Christmas tree is so much fun! I have a few pro tips for keeping your tree fresh throughout the Christmas season.

Selection:  Christmas trees come in a variety of sizes, so be sure to measure your space where the tree will be kept.  Consider the diameter of the base of the tree as well as the height.

Check your tree for freshness.  The needles should be fresh and flexible and should not come off in your hand.  The branches should also be pliable.  The tree is too dry if the needles and branches are brittle.  Shake your tree well outside before you bring it into the house to remove any dry needles inside.  It wouldn’t hurt to check for bugs if you cut your own tree from a Christmas tree farm.

A live Christmas tree is very easy to keep fresh for several weeks.  The most important rule is to supply plenty of water.  A traditional reservoir type tree stand is the best way to display your tree and maintain freshness.  Be sure it will hold plenty of water.  As a rule, stands should provide one quart of water per inch of stem diameter.  Check the water level daily.  Once a tree gets dry, it has a hard time taking up new water when you refill the reservoir.

Use a stand that fits your tree and avoid whittling down the sides or drilling holes in the trunk.  When you bring your tree home, cut a half inch disc off the bottom of the trunk and place it in water as soon as possible.

Keep your tree away from major sources of heat such as fireplaces and heat vents.  Lower the temperature of the room and use lights that produce low heat to slow the drying process.  Always inspect your lights before you place them on the tree and be careful not to overload the electrical circuits.

Christmas tree farms provide a really fun opportunity to cut a live tree, usually while you enjoy hot chocolate and Christmas sweets.  It’s also a great way to support a local farmer!  Most Christmas tree farms in our area grow Virginia Pine and Leyland Cypress trees, and they usually offer other pre-cut varieties like Frasier Fir.

I hope you enjoy the holiday season and have a fun time decorating your Christmas tree!  For more information about lawn and garden topics, contact Kate Whitney, Williamson County Extension Horticulturalist, at 512-943-3300.

Freeze Protection

One of the biggest challenges to Texas gardeners in the fall is the quick temperature swings that can catch even the most diligent weather-watchers off guard.  Last week we had a beautiful warm morning and freezing temperatures by evening.  I confess that I lost a potted plant to that freeze because I didn’t get it inside fast enough.  Oops!

Have you ever wondered what happens to a plant when it freezes or why some plants can handle freezing temperatures better than others?  We can do a lot to help our plants survive cold snaps if we understand how cold affects plants and the best ways to protect them. (more…)

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Pea Trial

One of the most fun parts of my job is working with the Master Gardener Volunteers in our Demonstration Garden.  The gardens include an herb garden, drought tolerant and native ornamental plants, roses, fruit trees, and vegetables.  The Master Gardener Volunteers do a fantastic job of maintaining the garden and growing all kinds of plants that will do well in our area. (more…)

Pecan Trees

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Texas Superstar

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Winter Weed Control

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When you shop for weed control products, there are a few things you need to know about your lawn before you purchase anything.  First, which type of grass do you have?  Is it Bermuda, Zoysia, or St. Augustine?  You need to match the product to your type of grass so you don’t damage your grass when you treat for weeds. (more…)

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Summer Lawn Watering Tips


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Rose Rosette

Rose Rosette Disease

Rose Rosette Disease (RRD) is a terrible rose disease that we’ve been hearing about for years, especially from the Dallas area. Unfortunately, we are starting to see more cases in Williamson County.  Rose Rosette has been around since the early 1940’s, but the problem seems to be growing in recent years as cultivated roses are used in more and more landscapes.  In 2011, Rose Rosette was diagnosed as a virus and researchers have recently confirmed it is spread by the eriophid mite Phyllocoptes fructiphilus. (more…)