NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
December 9, 1999
Ron Smith, Extension Horticulturist
North Dakota State University
Q: Could you give me the common name and type of the following plants and also tell me if they can be grown around North Dakota?
Andropogon gerardii, Rudbeckia hirta, Monada fistulosa and Verbena hastata. (Fargo, N.D.)
A: Here are some answers and a bit of speculation:
- Andropogon gerardii--big bluestem or turkey foot grass. Native to our tallgrass prairie.
- Rudbeckia hirta--black-eyed Susan. Good as part of a wildflower planting.
- Monada fistulosa--wild bergamot. Can grow to 5 feet tall.
- Verbena hastata--I'm not familiar with this species, but plenty of others of this species grow in North Dakota. Most likely this one will too. Could be a hybrid.
Q: When I was repotting my fern I forgot to put peat moss in the bottom of the container as you recommended. Will it be harmful to my plant? (Carrington, N.D.)
A: No, it is not necessary to have the peat moss at the bottom of the container. Just pay good attention to the water needs of your plant.
Q: My husband and I have the same problem each year at this time. How do we pick out a good Christmas tree? I like the short needle type, and he likes the long. Which one is best? (Detroit Lakes, Minn.)
A: First, choose a fresh tree. A fresh tree will have a healthy green appearance with few browning needles. Needles should be flexible and not fall off if you run a branch through your hand. Raise the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it on the butt end. Green needles should not drop off the tree. It is normal for a few inner brown needles to drop off.
Make sure the handle, or base, of the tree is straight and 6 to 8 inches long so it will fit easily into the stand.
Do a little research on different Christmas tree types. Some Christmas tree varieties will hold needles longer than others. Typically the long needle ones like the pines will hold their needles the longest.
Now that you and your family have chosen that perfect tree, it's time to bring it home. The following are a few tips on how to keep your tree fresh throughout the holiday season:
- If you are not putting the tree up right away, store it in an unheated garage or some other area out of the wind and cold (freezing) temperatures. Make a fresh 1-inch cut on the butt end and place the tree in a bucket of warm water.
- When you decide to bring the tree indoors, make another fresh 1-inch cut and place the tree in a sturdy stand that holds at least a half-gallon of water.
- Be sure to keep the water level above the base of the tree. If the base dries out, resin will form over the cut end and the tree will not be able to absorb water, and it will dry out quickly. Commercially prepared mixes, aspirin, sugar or other additives mixed in with the water are not necessary. Research has shown that plain water will keep a tree fresh.
- Check all tree lights for worn electrical cords. Use UL approved electrical decorations and cords. Unplug tree lights at night. Miniature lights produce less heat and reduce the drying effect on the tree.
Q: What is an easy way to water my Christmas tree once it's up for the holiday season with all the decorations? (e-mail)
A: It's a nuisance to water a Christmas tree once it's decorated with a tree skirt and surrounded by presents. Buy a funnel and a 3 to 4 foot length of vinyl tubing to slip over the funnel outlet. Fasten the funnel/tube with a twist-tie or twine in an out-of-the-way but reachable part of the tree. Extend the tubing down the tree trunk and into the tree stand reservoir. Now you can water the tree through the funnel without bending over or disturbing the tree skirt or its ornaments.
Q: Do you have any clever ideas for what to do with my tree after Christmas? (Fergus Falls, Minn.)
A: Many communities will pick up the trees for recycling and turn them into chips. Another thing you might want to try is to put the tree in your backyard and place bread and suet among the branches for the birds.
Do you have a gardening or houseplant question? Write to Hortiscope, Box 5051, NDSU Extension Service, Fargo, ND 58105 or e-mail to Ron Smith at email@example.com .
Source: Ron Smith (701) 231-8161
Editor: Dean Hulse (701) 231-6136