by Anne Rivas
As we finish up outdoor chores this fall, let’s look at some actions we can take now to have a greener holiday season. For instance, it’s early enough to dig a hole for a live, ball and burlap holiday tree. Decide now what size tree you want, and figure out the best place to plant it, taking into account its eventual full-grown size, light and water requirements. The hole should be twice the size of the root ball, and you will want to save the dirt you remove so you can use it when you plant your tree after the holidays. Store the dirt in a shed or garage to keep it from freezing.
A potted houseplant can also serve as a holiday tree. We decorate a Norfolk Island Pine that spends the winters indoors and summers on the porch. Cut trees are still an option as they are a renewable resource, and can be tree-cycled.
Autumn’s colorful leaves, seed pods, and pine cones make wonderful decorations. When I was a child, we pressed leaves between sheets of waxed paper to preserve the color and keep the leaves from crumbling. One year,my mother decorated the fireplace mantel with a branch sporting a large cocoon. With the warmth of the house and daily use of the fireplace, the cocoon hatched in November. We had tiny praying mantises everywhere to gently gather up and put outside. Unfortunately, it was the wrong time of year for the babies to hatch, and I doubt they survived the winter. Live and learn – don’t bring cocoons inside, no matter how interesting they look.
Pressed leaves can be composted when you no longer want them. Seeds from the seed pods, particularly milkweed, can be saved and planted in the spring. Check to see if the plants are invasive before planting.
Bring some herbs indoors for the winter or take cuttings to root. If you pot plants from your garden to bring in, rinse the dirt off and put them in clean potting soil to avoid bringing insects indoors. Potted herbs (without bugs) make great holiday gifts.
Household paper can be recycled into homemade paper for gift tags and holiday cards. You can even embed seeds in the paper so your homemade card can be planted outside in the spring.