The "Ask the ISU Experts" column is taking a holiday break and will resume Jan. 4, 2006.
Got gardening questions? Call the Hortline at (515) 294-3108, Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m., or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more gardening information, visit us at Yard and Garden Online, http://www.yardandgarden.extension.iastate.edu
What are some good ways to dispose of a Christmas tree after the holidays?
After the holidays, there are several ways to dispose of or recycle your tree. Before recycling your Christmas tree, be sure to remove all tinsel and ornaments.
Place the tree in the yard or garden for use by birds and other wildlife. The branches provide shelter from strong winds and cold. Food can be supplied by hanging fruit slices, seed cakes, suet bags or strings of cranberries or raisins on the tree’s branches.You also can smear peanut butter and seeds in pinecones and hang them in the tree.
Prune off the tree’s branches and place the boughs over perennials as a winter mulch. Chip the tree and use the chipped material as a mulch around trees, shrubs or in perennial flower beds.
If you can't use the tree yourself, contact local government offices, such as the Public Works Department, or your sanitation service. Most communities have some type of Christmas tree disposal program. Some have central collection points. Others collect the trees at curbside.
Conservation groups may be another option. Some hunting and fishing groups collect trees and use them to provide habitat for wildlife.
My onions don’t store well. Why?
The storage life of onions is largely determined by the variety (cultivar), harvesting and drying procedures and storage conditions.
When selecting onions, choose varieties that store well, such as ‘Copra’ and ‘Sweet Sandwich.’ ‘Walla Walla,’ ‘White Bermuda,’ and ‘Yellow Sweet Spanish’ are poor keepers.
Harvest onions when most of their tops have fallen over and begun to dry. After harvest, dry or cure the onions in a warm, dry, well-ventilated location for two or three weeks. When the onions tops are dry, cut off the tops 1 inch above the bulbs.
Place the cured onions in mesh bags, crates, or wire baskets and store in a cool (32 to 40 degrees F), dry location. Onions will sprout if storage temperatures are too warm. The bulbs may rot in damp locations.
‘Copra,’ ‘Sweet Sandwich,’ and other good keepers can be stored for several months if they are properly harvested, dried and stored.
How can I remove the unsightly mineral deposits on my pots?
Mineral deposits on clay pots can be removed with steel wool or a wire-bristle brush. Plastic pots can be cleaned with a scouring pad. Stubborn mineral deposits that remain on clay and plastic containers can be scraped away with a knife.Wash and dry the pots before using them again.