Yes, Virginia -- and all others -- there is Christmas tree recycling. Once again, Alaskans for Litter Prevention and Recycling (ALPAR) in partnership with Municipality of Anchorage Solid Waste Services and Carrs/Safeway is hosting free Christmas tree recycling from Friday through Jan. 15 at Anchorage, Eagle River and Palmer Carrs store parking lots. Last year, over 7,800 trees were recycled. This saves a lot of space for other things in our landfills.
There is a protocol to follow, however. First, only real trees. No artificial ones and no wreaths which have a wire that breaks the chippers. Only trees, and these should be without ornaments, lights and the plastic bag they often go home in. These trees will be chipped up, and plastic, wires or ornaments can damage the chippers. Please help keep the costs of the program down. Its free for you, but not to ALPAR and the other sponsors.
Next, please look for the signs and barriers in the Carrs parking lots. Many know the routine, but there are lots of new folks up here and this information is for them. Keep it neat and they will keep letting us use their lots for this worthwhile program.
Next, there are always questions about carrying over poinsettias after Christmas. They will keep their red bracts for a month or more, but usually they drop most of their leaves. In the end, toss the plants. Keep the soil and pots, which make for a nice end of season present.
You can cut yours back later next month and try and keep it growing all summer and then try to get them to flower again, but the results are never as good as the original plant nor worth the effort. More often than not, you get a ratty looking plant.
Amaryllis bloom time has come around. If you followed directions in the fall, then it is more than eight weeks since yours went dormant under cool and dark conditions. Now is the time to get them out of storage, water once, place in a spot with good natural light (or under artificial ones) and wait for the green stalk with a dimple at its tip. This is the flower stalk and those without the dimple are merely leaves.
You can (and definitely should) buy amaryllis locally this time of year as the red ones are big Valentine Day gifts. In fact, if you start one in the next week or so it should be in bloom in six weeks. In any case, do check in with your favorite nursery as they usually have the most varieties and the biggest bulbs. Bigger is usually better with commercial amaryllis, producing larger and more flowers.
If you are keeping any other plants in cool storage or if you are forcing bulbs, this is a good time to check on them. Make sure soil has not dried out on stored plants. A cup of warm water on each should do if they have. The temperature for the stored bulbs is best around 47 degrees. The first ones that can come out of storage are the daffodils. They need about 10 weeks of dormancy at that temperature. Tulips need 12 or so.
Now is a also a great time to take cuttings from pelargoniums you kept growing indoors this winter. Take cuttings now, let them heal over for a few days and get them growing in damp sandy soil. Start and you will have plants large enough to use in this year's hanging baskets and boxes.
Finally, if you are seeing moose hanging around in the yard, that is a bad sign. It might be time to do some emergency painting of Plantskydd on branches. Wait for a warm day and get out there, but don't wait too long. Playing a CD of a wolf howling and human urine are said to also get some action -- or deter it.
HAPPY PLANTS: The solstice has passed and there is increasing daylight. However, that doesn't let you off the hook for providing your plants with light. Come on. What are you waiting for? Invest in plant lights now and use them this spring to start seeds too.
HAPPY NEW YEAR: From all of our plants to yours. It's the readers that make this column worth the while.
Jeff Lowenfels' is author of "Teaming With Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to The Soil Food Web." He can be reached at www.teamingwithmicrobes.com .