Fir tree can be burned in your own fireplace

Garden Q&A

January 04, 1998

They don't pick up Christmas trees curbside where we live. Is it OK to burn our tree in the fireplace? It's a Douglas fir.

It's fine to burn any real Christmas tree. You can also use your fir twigs and needles for kindling. However, freshly cut softwood species, like spruce, pine and fir, will produce a lot of creosote, which could build up inside your fireplace flue if you burned them all the time. If you decide not to burn your tree, drag it into a wooded area to create a habitat for birds and small animals. Be sure to remove all ornaments and tinsel first.

I am determined to grow my own vegetable and flower transplants this spring. Last year I followed all the information I got from books and seed catalogs, but my plants grew so slowly. I grew them under fluorescent bulbs in the basement. The plants were close to the lights, which were turned on for 14 hours each day. What went wrong?

Cool temperatures in your basement probably slowed the growth of your plants. The temperature of the growing media should be at least 70 degrees to ensure rapid root and plant growth. Most basements are cooler than that.

You can cover your lights and plants with a plastic tent and place a small, thermostat-controlled electric heater under the plants. Vent the plastic. The temperature should stay around 75-80 degrees.

You can also buy an electric grow mat or electric soil-heating cables to place under your plant containers. Either creates a safe and effective way to raise the root-zone temperature.

My 8-year-old found what we think is a praying mantis egg case. We've got it in the garage, but my daughter wants to put it in a terrarium in her room. What would be best for the little beasts?

Praying mantis egg cases are frothy-looking, light-brown masses that contain 100 to 300 eggs. Imagine what you'd be facing if all those little predators emerged inside your daughter's terrarium. You wouldn't have to worry about feeding them, however, because they would start eating each other!

Avoid this catastrophe by placing the egg mass back outside in a protected area near a garden. If all goes well, come spring, you can watch and enjoy these beneficial insects in their natural habitat.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507 or visit its Web site at http: //www.agnr.umd.edu/hgic.

Checklist

* Prevent fungus gnat problems around houseplants by allowing the top of your potting soil to dry out between waterings.

* Check yourself and family members for ticks when hiking on mild winter days. Ticks remain active as long as temperatures exceed 45 to 50 degrees.

Pub Date: 1/04/98

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