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Old Christmas trees, New Year's resolutions

Friday - 12/28/2012, 10:11am  ET

ChristmasTreeGardenPlot.jpg
It's getting close to the time when you'll undecorate your tree. (Thinkstock)

Resolutions for your lawn

WTOP Garden Editor Mike McGrath.

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Mike McGrath, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Now that the holidays are almost over, put your old Christmas tree to good use.

Have a cut tree in the house? Keep the water reservoir filled until you're ready to take it out — then use a turkey baster to empty it when you're ready to toss the tree.

Bring a small tarp or blanket into the room, turn the tree on its side and carry the tree outside on the cover, which will catch most of those needle-some needles.

If you have pansies growing outside, prune off the evergreen boughs and keep them handy to cover the pretty plants if heavy snow or ice are predicted.

If you are pansy-free, pile the pruned branches around the base of azaleas, rhododendrons or other acid-loving plants. It's the perfect loose, light mulch for them.

You can also stand the tree up in the backyard and cover it with suet feeders and/or big globs of peanut butter to create the most natural bid feeder imaginable.

New Year's special: American Academy of Pediatrics has an important resolution for parents

It's New Year's resolution time, and I'm going to latch onto the results of a new survey released by Liberty Mutual Insurance to make a timely and very important point. Specifically, the survey found that parents are more likely to make a resolution than folks without children (46 to 33 percent to be exact).

Why does WTOP's organic gardening expert find this hopeful? Because while it's good for everyone to resolve to use fewer pesticides in and outside the home, there's now an extra reason for families with children to do so.

In late November, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a pos ition paper on children and pesticides that urges pediatricians to be more aware of the many symptoms that can indicate pesticide poisoning and to routinely ask parents about pesticide use in the home.

The academy especially wants pediatricians and parents to be more aware of the possible effects of multiple pesticide exposures on children, from obvious ones like having your house sprayed for pests on a regular basis to less obvious ones like children playing with pets that have been treated for ticks and fleas.

So parents, resolve to pay more attention to your pesticide use this coming year. Your child's well-being may depend on it and you're not likely to find a better New Year's resolution - just ask your pediatrician.

A seriously sensible resolution, kids or no kids

During the season of New Year's resolutions, I like to remind all of our listeners and readers that chemical sprays are never the answer, especially indoors.

Fleas, roaches and flies are much better controlled by pest-specific traps than sprays and troublesome ants are easily undone with boric acid bait traps that aren't toxic to humans. Even structural pests like termites are easily controlled by outdoor bait stations and intelligent use of mulches which will keep your framing free of their feasting as well or better than those troublesome outdoor toxic trenches.

So resolve to research before you spray. You'll save money and perhaps add years to your life. If you can't find a good answer easily online, just email me and I'll set you straight.

Stop killing your poor lawn

Happy almost New Year's Eve, ‘TOPers!

Our single biggest "gardening" topic at WTOP is lawn care. I can assure you from reading 14 years of your emails that the biggest problem your lawn has is you.

Make a few resolutions you'll remember in March and I guarantee that you'll save money while getting a much healthier sea of green to roll around on come spring.

  1. Mulch your pulverized clippings back into your turf with a dedicated mulching mower. It feeds your lawn and disposes of clippings correctly.
  2. Whatever kind of mower you use, sharpen the blade or buy a new one before the first cut. Dull blades make for lame lawns.
  3. Never cut your lawn lower than three inches unless it's warm-season zoysia or Bermuda grass which each get a 2 to 2 1/2 inch cut.
  4. When you water, water deeply and infrequently. Never water more than twice a week. Daily waterings lead to lots of weeds.
  5. Unless it is zoysia or Bermuda grass, never feed your lawn in the summer. It'll just burn up the poor turf.

And that's it. Forget chemicals or organics. The secret to a great-looking lawn is simply intelligent lawn care.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)