LEWIS & CLARK EXPEDITION 200 YEARS AGO TODAY 12/08/1804

The Missouri River is now freezing over with over one inch of ice. The temperature early in the morning is -12 F. Clark and 15 men travel seven miles to hunt and bag eight bison and a deer. York and 2 others have severe cases of frostbite because of the low temperatures. Two other men are injured when they fall packing out the bison.

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CHOOSING A CHRISTMAS TREE

Choosing the family Christmas tree can be a season highlight or headache. Everyone has an opinion and generally, bigger and fuller is seen as better.

Types of Trees

The first decision is what type of tree to go for. There are basically four choices:
1. Artificial - They their advantages, but they're not real.
2. Pre-Cut trees
3. Cut Your Own trees
4. Live, Potted or Balled & Burlaped trees

Pre-Cut Trees The obvious advantage of a pre-cut tree is convenience. There are always hundreds to choose from. Greenscape Gardens will make a clean cut on the trunk for you and lly wrap the tree in plastic mesh, making it easier to get into the house and to set up in the stand.

The down side to pre-cut trees is that they are cut a couple of weeks before they appear at the garden center.

Finally, the draw back to both pre-cut and cut your own trees is that they are dead and so they are slowing drying out and dropping needles on the floor. And the drier they get, the more of a fire hazard they are.

Cutting Your Own Christmas tree means your tree will be fresh. It should retain its needles longer than a pre-cut tree and will probably even add more evergreen scent to your home. Most tree farm specialize in tree varieties that grow well in their area and can be sheared into the classic Christmas tree conical shape. This means you might not have a vast choice of tree types, but your tree should be healthy and well cared for.

The looming drawback to cut your own trees is that you have to cut your own tree. Bring a sharp saw. Once its cut, you generally have to drag it back to your car, so keep that in mind when looking for the largest, fullest tree.

Live Trees The final Christmas tree choice is a live tree. Greenscape Gardens has container grown and B&B trees available for Christmas trees.

Live trees will, of course, be the freshest choice. If your tree is potted and small enough to move, you can re-use it for several years. But if your objective is to use the tree for the holidays and then plant it in your landscape, there are several more factors to consider, like mature height and width and when are you going to get it into the ground.

Freshness - A fresh tree will look healthy and green, with few browning needles. The needles will feel pliable and when broken and squeezed, they will exude pitch. A simple test for freshness is rubbing your hand along a branch to see if needles fall off.

Shape - Most evergreens don’t grow into perfect conical Christmas trees. Growers shear the trees each year to maintain a nice shape and to encourage the branches to fill out. A full tree is beautiful on its own, but if you have a lot of ornaments, a tree with shorter branches might be a better fit. Ornaments get lost in lush trees, like the firs.

Also keep in mind the sturdiness of the branches. Many pines make tempting choices because of their long needles, but the branches will bend under the weight of even smaller ornaments.

An increasingly popular option for Christmas trees is purchasing a live tree, to be planted on your property after the holidays. With a live tree, you have to consider more than what type of tree appeals to you.

Points to Consider

• What type of tree do you want planted on your property? A dwarf evergreen may be a better choice for a small yard or maybe a yew, juniper, arborvitae or even a holly.
• Mature Size Along with color and texture you'll need to consider the tree’s growth rate and what its height and width will be at maturity. Fir is excellent as a cut tree, but it might not find ideal growing conditions in your yard. Pines make very good Christmas trees, but they will get very tall and as they grow, the distance from ground to the first branches increases.
• What grows well in St. Louis? White pine are popularly grown. Norway Spruce and Blue Spruce are also used as live Christmas trees.
• Survival Rate. Don't select the largest tree. Smaller trees may be in better proportion to the size of the root ball and stand a better chance of survival. Whatever variety you choose, only consider trees that have been recently dug or were container-grown and that look healthy. Many times the bargain trees are leftovers from the growing season. They may be in a stressed condition and might not recover.
• Remember, most digging stops when the ground freezes, so you may have to pre-order a tree in the fall. Container grown trees circumvent this problem.

Caring for a Live Tree

• Store the tree in a cool area, protected from winds, freezing temperatures and direct sunlight.
• Check often to be sure the root ball does not dry out.
• Once inside, keep the tree away from sources of heat such as radiators, vents or fireplaces. It will still do best in cool temperatures around 60 to 65 degrees F.
• It's best to keep the tree indoors for as brief a time as possible, not more than two weeks.

Planting Your Tree Outside

• To plant your tree after Christmas you will need to dig the hole earlier, before the ground freezes. The depth of the hole should be the measurement from the bottom of the root ball to the soil level. The width should be 50% bigger than the width of the root ball.
• Place the soil you remove in a container or tarp and store until you need it to cover the planted tree. It's a good idea to keep the hole mulched and covered so it doesn't fill in or freeze. You might want to mark its location, too.
• Add compost or other soil amendments within the hole, if the soil in the area is not fertile and well-drained.
• Plant the tree two inches higher than its original height grown at the nursery or in the container.
• Once the tree is placed in the hole, remove any plastic wrapping.
• Try to loosen the outside roots and direct them outward.
• Refill the hole with the soil you saved and gently heel it in.
• Water the soil thoroughly after planting and every month or so if temperatures remain mild and precipitation is light and especially if there is a thaw.
• Once the ground around the tree has frozen, apply about 3-6 inches of mulch.

Taking Care of a Live Christmas Tree

Caring for a Live Tree
• Store the tree in a cool area, protected from winds, freezing temperatures and direct sunlight.
• Check often to be sure the root ball does not dry out.
• Once inside, keep the tree away from sources of heat such as radiators, vents or fireplaces. It will still do best in cool temperatures around 60 to 65 degrees F.
• It's best to keep the tree indoors for as brief a time as possible, not more than two weeks.

Keep the Tree as Fresh as You Can.

• The most important thing you can do is keep the tree watered. Cool temperatures will also help cut back on needle loss. If you are not brining your tree in right away, let it sit in a bucket of water outdoors or in a cool place inside.
• Try to keep it away from direct sunlight, winds and sources of heat like heaters, stoves or appliances.
• If your tree has been sitting for more than a day, make a fresh cut at the bottom at least 1 inch above the original cut. A smooth, clean cut will help the tree absorb water more readily. Then fill the reservoir with lukewarm water.
• Your tree begins losing water as soon as it is cut. In a heated room, a tree can absorb up to a quart of water a day, so check and fill the reservoir often. Once a tree is allowed to lose 20 percent of its moisture content, it will not be able to recover.
• While any tree will burn if it comes in direct contact with flames, Christmas trees become a fire hazard when their moisture content falls below 50 percent, able to ignite from contact with hot lights.

Follow some common sense rules to insure your safety during the holiday season.
• Keep the tree away from open flames and other sources of heat. Even some appliances, like your TV, can heat up sufficiently to be hazard.
• Keep tinsel away from the light sockets.
• Only purchase light sets that are approved by Underwriters' Laboratories and that are wired in parallel. Always check your lights before you put them on the tree. Replace tree lights with loose connections or exposed, brittle or cracked wires. Never leave the lights on unattended.
• Do not overload electrical circuits. If a fuse blows when you turn on your lights, it means that the line is overloaded or something is defective. Do not try to correct by replacing with a larger fuse. A typical string of lights with 36 bulbs adds 250 watts to the circuit. A 15-amp fuse handles a total of 1,500 watts.

Peace of Mind

To prevent staining, don't allow fallen needles, pitch or water from the reservoir to remain on carpets or upholstery.
Don't forget to recycle your cut tree. You could have it collected and hopefully turned into mulch. Or you could use it yourself as a temporary bird refuge and feeder in the yard. You could also cut the branches off and use them to cover and protect perennials in your garden.

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GREENSCAPE GARDENS JOKE OF THE DAY


Two rednecks, Bubba and Earl, were driving down the road drinking a couple of bottles of Bud.

The passenger, Bubba,said, "Lookey thar up ahead, Earl, it's a po-lice roadblock! We're gonna get busted fer drinkin' these here beers!!"

"Don't worry, Bubba," Earl said. "We'll just pull over and finish drinkin' these beers, peel off the label and stick it on our foreheads, and throw the bottles under the seat."

"What fer?" asked Bubba.

"Just let me do the talkin', OK?" said Earl.

Well, they finished their beers, threw the empty bottles under the seat, and each put a label on their forehead.When they reached the roadblock, the sheriff said, "You boys been drinkin'?"

"No sir," Earl said. "We're on the patch."