Home & Garden

Let the holidays live on in the landscape

I have to admit that I didn’t do as much with my front-porch pots this Christmas as I usually do.

It started with the sudden cold blast that befell us in early November. My shopping for discounted plants that could survive over the winter on my porch was cut short. While I don’t mind paying full price for a tree in the yard, the odds of a tree surviving long in a pot at my house are not good, so I will gamble only so much on it.

Then the holiday time crunch, shorter days and lack of interest in working outside in the cold hit. When I went to pick up trimmed-off boughs from the Christmas tree lot, I ended up simply laying the fir branches in a pile – albeit a draping, pretty one – over my pots and sticking artificial branches of holly berries in them for color.

It’s important to decorate the front of the house not only for Christmas but because the decor, minus the red bows, will be all that the porch will be able to boast for the next few winter months. Unless I buy a couple of new outdoor pillows.

“There will be time for improving it later,” I thought of the pots – i.e., after Christmas. “How much time won’t there be after Christmas?”

Well, that remains to be seen.

Also after Christmas, when it starts drying out too much, the Christmas tree comes outside and is potted on the porch, providing a good-enough evergreen for quite a while and making another argument for going the “real” route for the Christmas tree.

This makes me miss the deadline of Jan. 16 for recycling my Christmas tree at one of the sites in the city that turns the trees into mulch. But I recycle the tree in other ways in the spring, after it loses its luster and when fresher plant material can come on board. Boughs can be cut from the tree and laid on the garden, and the trunk can be used as a plant support. Be aware, however, that by then the tree will be quite prickly, and you should get out your rose-pruning gloves when working with it.

Another option for the real tree – especially if yours is bigger than my Charlie Brown one – is to “plant” it in the landscape. This doesn’t necessarily mean digging a hole for a tree that has no roots and is living on borrowed time for looking good. You can simply prop it up in a corner or tie it to a fence – just make it look good as another element in the yard for winter. Birds can use it for perching and cover. You can also decorate it with natural, edible ornaments that the birds can feast on.

Or you can set it up in the corner of the deck, extension forester Charlie Barden says in K-State’s Horticulture 2014 newsletter. If the tree is not set up near a feeder, you can sprinkle birdfeed nearby, he says.

Or cut it into logs and let it dry for a few weeks, “and you will have some easy lighting firewood,” Barden writes. “Just beware that most conifer species tend to spark and pop more than hardwoods, as resin pockets in the wood make tiny explosions. This can delight the youngsters, but for safety’s sake, keep an eye on the fire when burning Christmas tree logs!”

As I’ve said, I’m an advocate of keeping Christmas lights up at least through New Year’s night – or, even better, through the 12 days of Christmas.

If you don’t plan to put up your Christmas tree in your yard, here are the locations for recycling it. Whether or not you do, you can always drive by these sites and pick up the mulch made from the chipped trees whenever it is available. Be aware that this mulch can be placed atop the soil around plants to hold in moisture and stabilize the soil temperature or to create a path, but it is not suitable for working into the soil as a soil improvement.

In Wichita:

Boston Park, 6655 E. Zimmerly

Buffalo Park, 10209 Hardtner

College Hill United Methodist Church, First and Erie

Earhart Environmental Magnet School, 4401 N. Arkansas

Edgemoor Park, 5815 E. Ninth St.

Extension Center, 7001 W. 21st St.

Great Plains Nature Center, 6232 E. 29th St. North

Old Cowtown Museum, 1865 Museum Blvd.

Osage Park, 2121 W. 31st St. South

South Linwood Park, Hydraulic and Mount Vernon

Elsewhere in Sedgwick County:

Cheney, East South Avenue and Garfield

Clearwater, Aquatic Center parking lot

Colwich, 115 N. Third St.

Derby, 2801 E. James (northwest corner of High Park)

Garden Plain, at the water tower

Goddard, Means Park

Kechi, 107 Sioux St.

Maize, 201 S. Park

Mount Hope, 400 S. Thomas

Mulvane, 117 E. Main

Park City, 6801 N. Hydraulic

Valley Center, Veterans Park

These areas are offering their own recycling programs:

Haysville, north of public works facility, 401 S. Jane

Andover, Central Park, north of compost bin, 1607 E. Central (Dec. 26-Jan. 15)

Newton, Harvey County rodeo grounds, 700 W. First St. (starting Jan. 2)

Butler County: Trees can be recycled free at the Butler County landfill, 2963 SW 40th St., El Dorado. The landfill is open 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @anniecalovich.