A green reminder

By Quentin Stocum

What in the world are we thinking of and why do we do this? We go and buy a live tree, yes, for some reason we shell out good money for something that is going to dry out and leave needles, only to be discovered months later, quite often when you are in your stocking feet.

Or, you may have decided that you didn’t want the mess and buy an artificial tree. A tree, once stored after being used only once, will never regain its original shape the following year. Why, because we want a tree to help remind us that green actually exists, green that is still months away.

Actually this practice of bringing a live tree goes way back into history. It may not have been a tree that the early Egyptians brought into their homes, but something of the evergreen variety. Actually our ancient ancestors would decorate their homes by hanging evergreen boughs over their doors and windows to ward off evil spirits, ghosts or witches. Having evergreens in the home was also thought to help with animal and human fertility. Um, there could be an interesting study here.

Martin Luther is credited with adding lights to a tree. The lights were in the form of candles. The Germans, who settled in Pennsylvania, are credited with the first decorated trees. Up until the 1840s, the idea of a Christmas tree only began to start showing any signs of acceptance, since many of the religious denominations still felt this was a pagan practice. Come to think of it, it actually resulted from pagan practices.

Today, the tree has become a decorating tradition, waiting for Santa Claus to leave gifts for the good boys and girls. You can extend the trees use, long after the tree has lost favor as a household decoration. The tree can be placed in a sheltered location for birds to roust in for the winter. In the spring you can add the tree to a brush pile at the back of the yard for wildlife. I suggest you have an area that is away from your neighbors. You can also recycle the tree by sending it to the landfill to be ground into mulch.

For some reason the sweet potato for me is a seasonal vegetable, although it is available year around. Might be that during my early years, it was only available during the November and December holiday feasts so they were really considered a delicacy in our home. Its popularity as a regular garden plant to yield a harvest in our area for home owners, I don’t think has really taken off; although the sweet potato has been available at the local Amish produce stands. The vines have been used in potting decorations, occasionally producing one or two small tubers.

I ran across an article that stated sweet potatoes can warn their neighbors of insect attacks. A scientist from Germany discovered a difference in defense given off by two varieties of sweet potatoes that are grown in Taiwan.

One variety, when attacked gave off airborne chemicals with an odor that to say the least was not pleasant. This chemical caused plants, which were exposed to the chemical, to produce a protein that caused some test caterpillars to stop eating. The other variety did not have any or very little of this defense mechanism.

Currently work on this has just begun with trail plantings to see if the non-chemical sweet potato can be altered genetically to be able to send out the chemical defense found in the other variety. This is only in the early stages and the idea is to try to genetically alter other sweet potatoes, that do not produce this chemical to produce the chemical, would meet with resistance. Plus this could be opening another Pandora’s Box.

I don’t know how many of you have any sizable wooded areas or those of us who do have some wooded area can benefits from what is called hack-an-spray methods of controlling unwanted trees. If anyone has large wooded areas and would like to know how to remove unwanted trees that inhabit the growth of seedlings by shading the ground and preventing either germination or growth of oaks, hickory, cherry and maples, I would advise you to contact your local extension office.

I think hack-an-spray may be a good method to rid your property of the Tree of Heaven. Instead of trying to explain how, when and what to use, I have given you the Extension web site. https://extension.psu.edu/using-hack-and-squirt-herbicide-applications-to-control-unwanted-trees

Here we go again. American chestnut gone, Elms gone, Ash going, Hemlocks going and now it has been reported that the American beech tree is in danger. The American beech is important because its crop of nuts is a food source for birds, squirrels and deer.

The beech tree has been under attack by a bark infesting fungus, which has been causing major concern. Now it had been discovered that a small worm or small leaf eating nematode found on beech trees that are only found in Asia is attacking the native trees. Studies are of course being done to try and find out what effect these worms have. Do they contain a disease that may be causing the die off of the American beech, whereas the Asian beeches are immune?

Burgers and fries, fish and chips, sour cream and onion potato chips with a BLT, may be in danger with one of the parts missing or scarce. It has been reported that due to unusual cold wet weather in various parts of the country, the potato crop has been damaged, resulting in a possible shortage of potatoes. Enjoy your loaded baked potato, as the price may reflect the possible shortage.

At least there is something happening that may soften the possible lack of French fries, the micro-breweries along with the wine industries have been given grants to help increase the production of state beer and wine businesses. You know the slogan, buy local and support your local businesses. Cheers!

Many of us probably stuffed ourselves at Thanksgiving, piling the plates with stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and turkey. It probably required a weight lifter to carry your plate. Loads of white and dark meats, depending on your preference, were consumed.

Did you know that the uses of the words white and dark are the results of our Victorian ancestors? No one dared to ask for a piece of breast meat or a tasty thigh or even a meaty leg. That could cause some poor woman to have the “vapors.” Interesting to learn something new, no matter how trivial.

Hopefully in early November you remembered to turn your clocks back one hour, but more important did you reset you scales back ten pounds? Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry. I’m looking forward to 2020. When I’m asked what my New Year’s resolution is for 2020, simple……make it to 2021! Every year I have met my resolutions.

Remember, it is easy to be green. Happy Gardening!


Quentin Stocum, Just Your Common Ordinary Gardener