Friday, October 28, 2016

Just SCRAPE IT! Spotted Lanternfly Egg Masses

Spotted Lanternfly Adult, Photo courtesy U.S. Dept of Agriculture
Spotted Lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula, is a new threat to Pennsylvania and the United States. Experts are still learning about this threat to agriculture and how to combat it.

This pest poses a significant threat to Pennsylvania's $20.5 million grape, $134 million apple, and $24 million stone fruit industries, as well as the hardwood industry in Pennsylvania which accounts for $12 billion in sales.

Early detection is vital to the effective control of this pest and the protection of PA agriculture and natural resources-related businesses.

It's a good time of year to spot the egg cases of the Spotted Lanternfly, now that leaves are falling, foliage is dying back and surfaces are exposed.  SLF adults lay eggs starting in October and will continue to lay eggs through the first few hard frosts.  Egg masses are live and viable from about October through July.

Egg masses can be found on tree bark and other nearby smooth surfaces, like rocks, outdoor furniture, vehicles and other vertical man-made objects which are stored outside. The egg masses are about 1-1.5 inches long and 1/2 -3/4 inches wide. They are gray-brown in color. Newly laid egg masses are somewhat shiny – covered in a waxy coating. The wax, when it is first deposited, is light gray, but it takes on the appearance of mud as it dries.

Photo ©Holly Raguza, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Property owners can scrape egg masses whenever encountered using any hard or rigid tool such as a stick, a putty knife, or credit card. It's unknown if eggs scraped onto the ground can survive, so the best advice is to scrape egg masses in a downward direction into a container with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. They can also be double bagged and thrown in the garbage.

Here's a Penn State slideshow on what to look for:

Please report any egg masses you scrape here: 

More resources:

Guidelines for the Control of Spotted Lanternfly

Scrape It! Campaign information

USDA Pest Alert

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Overwintering Pepper Plants by Master Gardener Karen Murphy

Photo courtesy ©Heather Clemons

There’s always something new to try when gardening. This fall I plan to overwinter peppers, which can be done in two ways.

Method 1:
1) Check plants for bugs or disease.  If diseased or heavily infested with pests, toss them. If not, spray the good plants gently with a hose to remove any insects.

2) Place the plants in containers using existing garden soil or a good, fresh potting mix. Slowly acclimate them to the indoors to avoid stressing the plants and continue to monitor for pests.

3) Once indoors, place in a sunny window and/or under grow lights or fluorescent lights. Peppers prefer temperatures of 60-70F, but not below 50F.

4) Do not let them dry out but water moderately, about once a week.  Continue to fertilize the plants.

5) Harvest peppers during the winter!

6) When planting time arrives, gradually move  the plants outside.

Method 2:
1) Follow steps 1 & 2 above.

2) Once indoors, place in a cool area (about 55F degrees) with a little light.

3) Reduce watering to every three weeks but don't let them go completely dry. The leaves will begin to drop initiating hibernation.

4) Cut back plants to approximately  4" leaving a "Y" shape. Remove any peppers.

5) About one to two months before planting time, move the plants to a warmer, brighter place in your home. Water the plants more frequently.

6) Follow step 6 above.

I plan to experiment with both techniques. Hopefully, I can pick some peppers but if not I'll have great plants for next year's garden!

- Karen Murphy, Bucks County Master Gardener

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Native Plant Expert Barry Glick at Del Val, 09/20/16

The Penn State Master Gardeners of Bucks County, Bucks Beautiful and the Henry Schmieder Arboretum are excited to present: 

WOODLAND WONDERS FROM THE WILD with native plant expert Barry Glick,
owner of Sunshine Farm and Gardens:

Tuesday, September 20, 2016
6:30pm Reception and Light Refreshments
7:00pm Lecture

Some of the most interesting and unusual wildflowers are growing in our own backyards, right under our noses!
  Take an enlightening, entertaining and educational look at some of the plants that we overlook on our woodland hikes.  Join native plant expert Barry Glick for a fascinating, wild wander into the wonderful world of woodland wildflowers.

Barry Glick is a Philadelphia native who relocated to Renick, West Virginia in 1972 to start Sunshine Farm and Gardens where he specializes in rare and exceptional plants for gardeners and plant collectors. Over the last four decades, Barry has amassed a diverse collection of over 10,000 different flowering perennials, bulbs, trees and shrubs from around the world, many unknown to cultivation, on his 60-acre mountain top farm in beautiful Greenbrier County.

Through a state-of-the art-tissue culture laboratory, Sunshine Farm & Gardens breeds new and better plants for the landscape and the garden and provides high quality, unusual plants at reasonable prices to garden centers, nurseries, landscape professionals and home gardeners worldwide. 
A primary focus at the farm is native plants.  Barry has developed propagation protocols and growing regimens for many native species previously thought to be difficult to grow.

Barry writes for many gardening publications including Fine Gardening Magazine, Garden Design Magazine, Brooklyn Botanical Garden Journal, Castanea: The Journal of the Southern Appalachian Botanical Society,  North American Rock Garden Society Newsletter, New, Rare and Elusive Plants Journal (UK),  Viola Society Newsletter and  Native Plants Journal. Barry is also a regular columnist for Washington Gardener Magazine.

Barry will be giving away four copies of Amy Stewart’s books as well as selling six varieties of trillium.

Delaware Valley University Life Sciences Building
700 E Butler Ave
Doylestown, PA 18901

6:30pm       Reception, light refreshments
7:00pm       Presentation

Arboretum Members – Free DVU Students – Free
Military – Free
Senior Citizens -  $3.00
Non-DVU Students - $3.00
Faculty and Staff - $3.00
Non-members - $5.00


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Wheel bug in our Almshouse Demonstration Garden

Bucks County Master Gardener Kim Lawrence noticed this Wheel bug in our Almshouse Demonstration Gardens today. It's paralyzing a bumblebee on a Hyssop plant!

Our Almshouse Demonstration Gardens are maintained by Bucks County Master Gardeners and feature plants that perform well in Bucks County gardens. We have a beautiful display of seasonal flowers and plants, most of them named for reference.

The gardens are open to the public during business hours. To schedule a tour of the gardens with a Master Gardener, for yourself or your group, please call us at 215-345-3283.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Timely Tips for April & May

Photo © James Helminski

If it flowers, don’t cut it now!  This includes lilac, azalea, rhododendron, hydrangea.  These plants set next year’s buds shortly after flowering.  If you want to prune these plants, wait until they’re done flowering.

Be prepared for late spring frosts. Cover tender plants with row covers, cardboard, blankets, hot caps, or newspaper. Do not use metal or plastic for protection; they can conduct cold to plants. The last frost date in Bucks County is between May 15th and May 30th.  Keep an eye on local forecasts.

Buy healthy vegetable transplants. Leaves and stems should be green and healthy without any signs of yellowing or browning which may indicate an insect or disease problem.

Use a water-soluble starter fertilizer to water in vegetable transplants. A starter fertilizer is high in phosphorus, which helps to promote good root development, getting the plant off to a good start. The most common water-soluble starter fertilizers (such as 5-10-5, 10-52-17 or 8-32-16) should be used at the rate of one to two tablespoons per gallon of water.

Cut back the foliage of ornamental grasses to about four to six inches. Not removing the foliage delays the warming of the crown slows new growth. Ornamental grasses can be divided in the spring, especially if the center of the plant has died out or if it has overgrown its space. If the base of the grass looks like a doughnut, it's time to divide it. You can dig up and divide the entire plant or you can just dig up half and leave the rest in the ground.

Don't apply a nitrogen fertilizer to your lawn too early in the spring. Research has shown that grass roots thrive, forming a network of deep roots, in early spring. Deep roots will help your lawn survive hot, dry summer weather.  Applying fertilizer too early will promote grass shoot growth at the expense of root development. If you usually apply a pre-emergent crabgrass killer, try to find one without fertilizer, then wait until mid-May to put down a nitrogen fertilizer to the lawn.

Many beneficial insects (butterflies, praying mantis, spiders, bees, ladybugs, etc.) lay their eggs in the garden debris, and under the leaves and mulch on the garden floor. Leave as much as you can for another month. Your beneficial insects either eat other insects, or are pollinators, or both. We need them in our gardens!

Summer flowering bulbs, including tuberous begonias and cannas can be planted in mid-May. Choose a well-drained and partially shaded area. Set the tubers in the ground so they are barely covered, placing them 18 to 24 inches apart to allow plenty of space for growth and air circulation. Fertilize and water when the soil is dry, preferably in the morning or early afternoon to give the foliage time to dry before nightfall to reduce chance of disease. 

Coffee Grounds for the Garden

By Scott Guiser
Penn State Extension Horticulture Educator, Retired
Barnes Foundation Weed Science Educator 

Photo ©Tony Smith

Coffee grounds. Almost everyone has them. Only gardeners look at them and say, “I wonder how they’d work in a compost pile?”

For many years while talking about soils and compost with Master Gardeners, and others, the questions would arise:  Are they too acidic for gardening? Can I add them to the compost pile? Will they make my worms hyperactive?  All I knew was…. a Penn State reference said the C:N ratio was 30:1. That was it. Also, I knew I had been adding them to my compost pile for years, along with the other kitchen crap, and observed no problems.

Kitchen crap is not a technical term but it is a good description of what we generate in our kitchens because it turns out that vegetable waste has abut the same C:N ratio as many manures. Don’t believe me? Check this out. 

Ok, back to the subject at hand… coffee grounds. To shed some light on this question I urged Master Gardner programs to collect a sample of coffee grounds, submit it to Penn State’s fine Ag Analytical Services Lab and send me the results. After 20 years I got tired of waiting. It took retirement and the kind offer to pay for the analysis from the Bucks County MG program to get some real data. Ask Ms. Connally, Master Gardener Coordinator, for a copy of the entire report if you’d like it.

I collected grounds over a one week period from Starbucks Italian Roast beans that had been brewed in a double-walled, glass, French-press coffee maker made with Bedminster, PA, well water. Do the coffee brand, brew method and water source affect the coffee grounds? I don’t know. I can tell you that these results are very similar to tests done by others.

Here are some conclusions I came to after looking over the lab results.

Q. Are coffee grounds acidic?

A. Yes, but not so much that it matters for gardening and composting situations. At Oregon State Extension in Lane County they have composted more than 200 tons of coffee grounds from multiple sources. They found pH of brewed grounds to range between 6.5 and 6.8.

Hey, isn’t that about the sweet spot, pH wise, for most plants? Yep. It seems that the fear of the “acid” in coffee grounds is similar to the fear and misconceptions about tree leaves, bark etc. I will say that my Starbucks Italian Roast grounds came in at pH 5.5. But that is still not a big deal. pH changes in the decomposition process… probably rising from low to high. And remember, these grounds will go into a much larger body of growing medium… your garden soil.

Q. Are coffee grounds a good addition to the compost pile?

A.  Absolutely. No reservations…unless you find yourself approaching more than 25 % of the total volume of your pile. If you get to that point, you’ll want to know a lot more about the other feed-stocks in your compost recipe so you can dial in an ideal, or at least satisfactory, C:N ratio of about 30:1.

Photo © Jeff Moser

Q. What’s this C:N business?

A. You may know that we look at the C:N ratio  (the ratio of Carbon to Nitrogen) when composting in an attempt to create an ideal ratio that facilitates the decomposition process. We called stuff that has a C:N ratio of 30:1 or lower GREEN STUFF. And stuff with higher than 30:1 C:N ratios  BROWN STUFF.  The target ratio for the mix is about 30:1. Again, I refer you to this table from Cornell University On-Farm Composting Handbook for C:N ratios of lots of stuff.

Hey! Telephone books… C:N ratio of 772:1!

Q. A young person asks, “ What’s a telephone book?”

A. Sonny, in the olden days….

Q. OK Pappy, what’s the C:N ratio of coffee grounds?

A. The Oregon State and Cornell reference number is 20:1. My test results came in at 24:1. So, we should call coffee grounds GREEN STUFF since their C:N ratio is below 30:1. For comparison sake, see that vegetable kitchen waste is about 12:1.  Both are GREEN STUFF but veg scraps are greener than coffee grounds. And we are not talking about their color. 

Q. Isn’t Starbucks Italian Coffee quite expensive? How can you afford to pay for it on a state pension?

A. Yes, it is relatively expensive compared to the brewed sawdust you are drinking but it tastes much better. And packs a better punch. If you watch for the sales, it comes in nearly at the same price as other good coffees. Also, I will switch to Verona, Sumatra, French Roast or even the bland sounding Breakfast Blend if the price is right. Note that I don’t go out and pay someone to make my coffee. I figure I am making a high quality “Vente” for close to 58 cents, including the milk and sugar. I could brew up some Sawdust Brand for 29 cents a cup. But, I only drink one cup a day. A wise man once said, “You only live once ... but if you do it right, that’s enough.” I rest my case. Keep paying your taxes.

© Steven Depolo

Q. So what’s the bottom line on using coffee grounds in the compost pile?

A. Do it. It’s GREEN STUFF. So combine with some BROWN STUFF. Oregon State folks used up to 25 % coffee grounds, by volume and got nice hot piles. It was not clear to me what the other 75 % of the pile was but they suggest leaves and grass clippings as good partners. As usual, this is a good book recipe but is not too useful. Who has grass clippings and tree leaves available on demand? If you are like most of us, coffee grounds are just one of many kitchen items that go into the slop bucket and out to the compost pile. If you find yourself hauling home 10 lb. bags from the coffee shop, mix it with some brown stuff in at least equal portions. Maybe using 25 % coffee grounds as a starting point. When you start filling the truck with coffee grounds, get yourself a few of PSU compost analysis feedstock kits here and the Cornell On Farm Compost Handbook and go to work. Your Horticulture Extension Educator would probably enjoy assisting you.

Q. Can I compost the coffee filters?

A. Who cares! I use a French Press… no filters! A French press is not a fancy as it sounds.  Yea, the paper ones will decompose. Don’t compost your gold filter.

Photo © Christy Baugh

Q. What about N-P-K and other nutrients in coffee grounds?

A. The PSU lab says 2.4 -.22-.44 as far an NPK goes. That 2.4 % N is not too shabby, as organic N sources go. Not so hot on the P and K. I did not want to stretch the resources of the Bucks County Extension service and get the super duper analysis with micronutrient content. Anyway, we don’t give a hoot about micro nutrients in Pennsylvanian soils since Mother Nature loaded us up a few million years ago on this account.

Q. Any other lab results?

A. Soluble salts levels are low. No issues there. The nitrogen is almost all in the organic form. This means that the N is tied up in complex, slowly released forms. In fact, most of the N is not readily available to plants. In the Oregon State work, they found that adding 25 % coffee grounds to seed starting mixes inhibited plant growth. It seems that there may have been a nitrogen deficit as the microorganisms involved in decomposition hogged up that N in the breakdown process. So, don’t use coffee grounds as a fertilizer, per se…. at least not a quick-release one. Moderate amounts applied to garden soil won’t present any problem. And once composted or broken down in soil, the N is free to be absorbed by plants. That 2.4 % N is a nice contribution to the needs of the plants you are cultivating.

Q. Can I just spread it on top of garden beds of any kind?

A. Sure! Recall that pH is in a decent range (5.5-6.8) for all kinds of plants and don’t confuse the weak acidity of a few pounds of coffee grounds applied per 100 square feet with the pH of the entire rooting zone of plants. I’d considerer it a weak, slow-release fertilizer when applied in this manner.  

Q. Can I work it into garden soil?

A. Sure, and here you’ll get the physical, soil amending properties of the organic matter in the coffee grounds, too. No composting necessary!
Q. Do worms like it?

A. I have no idea …but there are many Internet testimonials indicating it’s OK for worm composting or vermiculture. One thing that became very clear in my Internet search was that 95 percent of what was posted was a re-write of what a very few people actually did or observed. I don’t think this adds to the validity of any observation. I am sure glad I am holding my very own PSU Ag Analytical report of Starbucks Italian Roast brewed grounds. Not that you need to analyze your own coffee grounds. It’s just that I feel better talking to you about the chemical components of coffee grounds now.  I am unaware of any reputable studies on coffee grounds and worms. The apparent observation that worms thrive in coffee grounds feed-mixes is pretty clear. The conclusions we draw about how to use them in gardens and compost piles is from of fairly well understood science.

I must say I liked the comment from someone that Grandpa always put a pinch of coffee grounds in his fishing worm box to liven-up the bait.

Q. Aren’t you done yet? This is exhausting. I need a cup of coffee.

A. Finally, I am a big fan of Horticulturist Linda Chalker-Scott from Washington State. Here she discusses coffee grounds myths, etc.


Photo © Jessica Wilson

Scott Guiser
Penn State Extension Horticulture Educator, Retired
Barnes Foundation Weed Science Educator 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bucks County Master Gardener Plant Sale - Saturday, May 7, 2016

Photo © Julie Falk 

Bucks County Master Gardeners Annual Plant Sale
Saturday, May 7, 2016

8:30am - 1:00pm
Rain or Shine

Neshaminy Manor Center - Health Building Parking Lot
1282 Almshouse Road
Doylestown, PA 18901
(Corner of Route 611 & Almshouse Road)
  • Unusual perennials, annuals & woodies
  • Native plants
  • Pollinator plants
  • Large selection of veggies & herbs, including heirloom varieties!
  • Pond plants
  • Butterfly garden plants
  • Shade plants
  • Deer-resistant plants
  • Container garden plants
  • House plants
  • Beautiful selection of Mother's Day gifts - Mother's Day is May 8th!
  • Master Gardeners' own donated plants!

Larger sale area this year!    *   Easier checkout!   *   More parking!

Boxes are available for your purchases. Bring your wagon or cart.  Cash & checks accepted.

50+ Bucks County Master Gardeners on-hand to answer your home gardening questions!

More info:  215-345-3283 or

All proceeds support the Penn State Master Gardener Program of Bucks County.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Learn About Becoming a Master Gardener in Bucks County

Are you fascinated by gardening? Do you enjoy sharing your gardening knowledge with others? You may be interested in the Penn State Master Gardener volunteer program!

Thursday, March 24, 2016, 6:00pm - 7:00pm                                                            

Program Details
Master Gardener Coordinator Kathleen Connally will lead a free informational presentation, “Becoming a Master Gardener,”   followed by a Q&A and panel discussion with several active Bucks County Master Gardeners.
Registration is not required to attend this free program.

Additional Information
Penn State Master Gardeners are volunteers extensively trained in horticulture by Penn State Extension. Bucks County Master Gardeners assist Extension staff by providing and expanding educational programs in consumer horticulture for the residents of Bucks County. There is an application, a course fee, and an interview/selection process to join the Penn State Master Gardener program in Bucks County.
Master Gardener basic training classes will be held on Thursday evenings from 6:00pm to 8:30pm., beginning October 6, 2016, and ending March 2, 2017, with an open-book final exam. There are no classes during the holidays (November 24, December 22, and December 29).  All classes will be held in the auditorium at the Penn State Extension Bucks County office in Doylestown. Details will be discussed during this program.
Following successful completion of training, Master Gardener apprentices begin participating in Extension-approved volunteer activities to meet a first year requirement of 50 hours of volunteer service.  After the 50 hours are achieved, apprentices receive their Master Gardener certification.
With a mission in consumer horticulture education, the Penn State Master Gardeners of Bucks County volunteer for youth programs, demonstration gardens, plant sales, gardening workshops, garden tours, on our Horticulture Hotline, in our “Ask a Master Gardener” booth at local events, and more.

More information about the Penn State Master Gardener program.

Contact Information


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Help Save Penn State Research and Extension Programs!

The Penn State Ag Council is an industry advisory group to the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences and advocates for the college’s research and Penn State Extension programs.  These programs support Pennsylvania agriculture and communities and help keep Pennsylvania strong.

The college’s programs are currently at serious risk, and we are asking for your help to ensure they continue into the future.
The college’s agricultural research and Penn State Extension programs are funded through the state general funds budget, through the Land Scrip Fund, located in the PA Department of Agriculture’s budget.

This budget line represents the state’s commitment to the 150-year old land-grant partnership between Penn State and federal, state, and county governments.
Extension programs cannot be supported through tuition dollars.  Although there is strong support for the college’s Extension program at all levels of government, the Land Scrip Fund was part of the Governor’s line-item veto and is currently zeroed out.

If zero funding stands, it will have devastating impacts on the entire college - including the elimination of Penn State Extension and the college's agricultural research stations - and the loss to Pennsylvania of approximately $80 million of federal money leveraged by these state funds.
Flagship programs such as 4-H and Master Gardener would be discontinued.
If we do nothing these programs will likely disappear!
We are asking you to do two things to ensure this does not happen: 1) communicate to legislators and Governor Wolfe the importance of these programs in Pennsylvania and 2) request that they restore funding.  
You can do this in several ways:

1. Sign an online petition.

The website has information about the issue and a letter you can sign onto that will be sent to leadership in Harrisburg. Please take time to read and sign the petition so your voice can be heard.
You can also post comments on the site to relay why these programs are important. When you sign the petition you will receive updates from us on the situation and future calls to action. Currently we are approaching 10,000 signatures.

You can share the link to the petition on your Facebook and other social media sites, and email it to those you think would be concerned about this issue.

2. Call your local legislators (Representative and Senator) and legislative leadership.  A sheet of talking points is available by emailing  Find your legislator’s contact information here.

Phone calls are the most effective communications. Please consider calling the offices and politely relay your concerns.  Sample phone scripts are available by emailing

3. Attend the Pa Department of Agriculture House budget hearing on March 9th to “rally” and demonstrate strong support for the College and Extension, as well as other agricultural programs.
Registration is not required. Penn State Ag Council leadership will be in the Main (upper) Rotunda  of the State Capitol around 12 p.m. to distribute pins to wear to demonstrate support. The hearing will take place at 1:30 in room 140 Main Capitol.  Afterwards, we encourage attendees to distribute information, which will be provided, to legislative offices making them aware of the issue and the impacts. 

Please be sure all communications are respectful and professional and do not place blame or engage in the politics of the issue.
We are seeking restoration of the funding. It is up to the legislature and the Governor to determine state priorities and how to fund them. Thank the legislators for their support.

If you have questions or need additional information, please contact



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Seed Packet Contradictions

Photo courtesy © Derya

Seed packets can be so contradictory!  The glorious photo on the front grabs your attention as you're passing by. Suddenly you're fantasizing about filling a vase with gorgeous neon zinnias, or slicing up a zebra-striped heirloom tomato for a juicy sandwich. Ohhhh, summer! We can hardly wait!  Your reverie abruptly ends when you flip the pack over and you're confronted with codes, numbers, graphs and charts that can intimidate any gardener. Talk about a buzz kill! 

If you take a little time to understand "the back of the pack," your dream of harvesting that 1,000 pound pumpkin can come true.  This one-page Penn State publication will get you on your way!

- Kathleen Connally

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Timely Tips for Winter 2016

Photo courtesy Kristy

  • Seed catalog time! Be sure to look for disease and pest resistance when purchasing vegetable and flower seeds.
  • Know your plant hardiness zone.  Planting dates depend on the first and last average frost dates of your hardiness zone.  Bucks County is split into two zones. Search by zip code:
  • Plan your vegetable garden, rotating crops to discourage pests.
  • Start seeds of slow growers, such as parsley, thyme and rosemary.
  • When sowing seeds indoors, be sure to use sterile soil mediums to prevent diseases. As soon as seeds sprout, provide ample light to encourage stocky growth.
  • Make an inventory of the plants in your home landscape. Note their location and past performance. Plan changes on paper now.
  • Observe your garden’s "skeleton" and decide where to put new paths and structures like arbors.
  • Check for frost heaving on perennials and cover with extra mulch as necessary.
  • Now is the time to learn to identify trees by their winter twigs and buds!
  • Monitor trees & shrubs for winter damage.  Limbs damaged by ice or snow should be pruned off promptly to prevent bark from tearing.
  • Clean the dust from large and smooth-leaved houseplants like dracaena, philodendron and ficus on a regular basis. This allows the leaves to gather more light and results in better growth.
  • Monitor indoor plants for winter pests.  Fluffy, white mealy bugs are easily killed by touching them with a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol.  Insecticidal soap sprays can be safely applied to most houseplants for the control of many insect pests.
  • Check stored summer bulbs and remove moldy, rotten, dried or shriveled bulbs.
  • Swap seeds and plant information with your gardening friends.
  • In February, if soil conditions allow, take a chance sowing peas, spinach and radish. If the weather obliges you’ll be rewarded with extra early harvests.
  • Prune forsythia, pussy willow, quince, etc. for forcing indoors.
  • On mild days, remove winter weeds like wild garlic and chickweed.

Kathleen Connally

Master Gardener Coordinator, Bucks County


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Christmas Tree-Cycling!

Photo © Ann Oro

Your Christmas tree is biodegradable and recyclable, so don't put it out with the trash ... reuse it in your garden!  Here are ten ideas after you've removed all the baubles, tinsel and hooks:

1) Place your Christmas tree, in its stand, near an existing bird feeder to provide protective cover for our feathered friends. Or make the tree into a naturalistic feeding station, hanging feeders, suet, fresh orange slices, peanut butter pine cones or strung popcorn from the branches. The birds will come for the food and stay for the shelter. 

2) Use evergreen boughs to insulate planting beds where perennial flowers, strawberries, parsley, carrots, pansies, etc., are trying to survive the winter.  The limbs can also act as a sunscreen and windscreen for broadleaf evergreens like boxwood, hollies, and rhododendrons. Be sure to remove limbs in the spring after the danger of severe weather has passed.

3) In spring when the Christmas tree limbs have lost their needles, use the bare stems to stake peas and vining vegetables, or perennials like delphiniums and peonies that need a little extra support.

4) Use the Christmas tree trunk (stripped of its limbs) as edging in a garden bed.

5) Use a chipper to shred the branches into mulch or a natural path material.  If you don't have a chipper, ask a local garden center or municipality to shred it for you and take the mulch home.

6) Start a new compost pile with a layer of thin Christmas tree branches. The branches allow airflow at the bottom and will break down over time as you continue adding kitchen scraps and other compostables.

7) Saw the trunk into small logs to burn in your outdoor fire pit. (Don't burn them in the fireplace because evergreens cause creosote buildup.)

8) Strip the branches of their needles and store them in a brown paper bag, which helps keep their aroma, and use the needles to make aromatic sachets or potpourri to enjoy the rest of the year.

9) Transition into spring by creating window boxes using Christmas tree branches cut to size. Add birch twigs, boxwood, preserved moss and sugar pine cones to fill in and add texture.

10) Create an eco-friendly alternative to rock salt by using Christmas tree boughs on your walkway. During a January thaw, let the boughs freeze into the ice for good traction and a pleasant scent... but leave your boots at the door so you don't bring sap into the house.

For more ideas, visit the National Christmas Tree Association at

Kathleen Connally
Master Gardener Coordinator
Penn State Extension
Bucks County, PA