Tree of the Month – Christmas Trees

evergreenAmong the pleasures we enjoy in December is choosing a Christmas tree. The choices are many: the firs (Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir), pines (Scotch, Eastern White), red cedars, and spruce (Colorado Blue, Norway, Concolor). Throughout the United States there are more than 35 different evergreen species grown for the holidays. They are available either cut, in containers, or balled and burlapped.

If you choose to purchase a cut tree, try to prevent the trunk from being exposed to the air for more than three to six hours; it should be put into a container with water as soon as possible. Next, trim off the lowest branches which might interfere with the tree’s staying upright in a stand, and then remove ragged branch tips or unattractive branches. Saw off an inch of the trunk so the tree can absorb water freely, and fasten it to its stand, which should contain plenty of water. The water, especially at first, should be replenished often.

Artificial Christmas trees are often made of PVC, a dangerous chemical, are not biodegradable, and do not have the wonderful fragrance of a real tree. However, they may be used for many years and are maintenance free.

A live tree, while somewhat more labor intensive to care for, may also be planted in your yard after its holiday use, and enjoyed for years to come. You must do some planning before you take the tree home but it is well worth while.

  1. Determine what spot on your property affords the correct exposure (full sun) and room. Check a good source or the internet to determine how much space your particular species of tree will require when mature.
  2. Dig the hole NOW before the ground freezes. Digging a frozen hole is no fun. Make the hole approximately 2 times the width of what you expect the container or root ball will be. This is important; and do not dig the hole any deeper than the height of the container or root ball. Fill the hole with leaves or mulch as insulation, and cover the hole and the pile of soil with a tarp and more leaves or mulch to avoid freezing. Throw away whatever sod was dug up as you do not want it included in the backfill.

Your live tree should be indoors as briefly as possible; place it at first (in a waterproof tub or container) in a garage or porch to allow it to acclimate to warmer temperatures. You can water it lightly and frequently, or place ice cubes over the root ball to keep the moisture levels up. Spraying the tree with an antidessicant such as Wiltproof will help control moisture loss through the needles.

When the tree is ready for planting, roll it into the hole and orient it so that its best side faces your house or the street. If the hole is too deep, add soil into the bottom and compact it until it is the right depth. Remove as much of the burlap around the root ball as possible; if it is in a container, remove the container. If it is in a wire basket, cut off as much of the basket as you can. Then, begin to backfill with the soil you set aside. Water it thoroughly and slowly as you fill the hole; this will push out air pockets and saturate the sides of the hole as well as the back fill.

It is not necessary to stake or guy the tree. Cover the area – to the drip-line- with 2-3” of double-shredded, hardwood bark mulch, keeping the mulch 2” away from the trunk. Water your Christmas tree every day for a week, twice the second week, and then once a week until the ground freezes and your hose becomes useless.

By Ann Farnham, LLA
December 2014

Best Wishes For The Holidays From Your Ewing Environmental Commission!

Recycling Your Old Holiday Lights a Bright Idea

christmaslightsHave you just dragged out the Christmas lights again only to find that you have strands that are only working intermittently or not working at all? (sigh)  Are your lights old and outdated?  Or have you been bitten by the little green bug and decided to purchase energy efficient LED lights this year?  Whatever the reason, you may find yourself in the market for new lights this season.  So, once you’ve greened up your holiday display with more energy efficient lighting, what should you do with the old lights?  Whatever you do, don’t throw them away.  Recycle them.  Unfortunately, having googled this extensively, we haven’t found a lot of options.  But there are two holiday light recycling programs that we’ve identified for repurposing your old lights.   They both give you discount coupons towards the purchase of even more energy efficient LED light sets.

Home Depot
Home Depot runs an “Eco Options Christmas Light Trade In” program through all Home Depot stores every year but it is only available during the Christmas holiday season.   It starts in November and concludes in early December.  Bring your old incandescent Christmas light strings to the Home Depot for recycling and you’ll receive $3 -$5 discount coupon toward the purchase of ENERGY STAR qualified LED Christmas lights for each strand.  (some restrictions apply)
The other program is run by and you can participate in it anytime throughout the year.   It was responsible for the recycling of 10,000 pounds of holiday lights during the 2009/2010 holiday season.  It’s easy to participate and all you have to do is send them your old Christmas lights for recycling and they’ll send you a discount coupon.

How does the program work? 
Simply pack up your old lights and send them to them via the least expensive method possible.  They ask that you:

  • Don’t include any packing material or anything other than the lights themselves or send the lights in outer packaging such as retail boxes or include any apparatus used to wind up or store the lights.
  • Use cardboard boxes or other packaging that can easily be recycled.
  • Compact your light sets into the smallest space possible in the smallest box possible without any extra packing or plastic bags.

They are located in Wisconsin so there is no way to do this locally.  They recommend that you coordinate with your friends, neighbors, co-works, social groups, church groups, or other organizations when possible to collect lights and send in one bulk shipment.  This will reduce shipping costs for everyone as well as reducing environmental impact of shipping.

Send to:
Holiday LEDS Recycling
13400 Watertown Plank Rd. Suite 34
Elm Grove, WI 53122

What Happens to the Lights?
Once they are received they are removed them from the package and the box is recycled. The lights are processed and any material that cannot be recycled such as loose bulbs is discarded. Once substantial number of sets has been collected they are taken to a third party recycling facility which puts them through a commercial shredder. The resultant little pieces are then further processed and sorted into the various components that make up the lights (PVC, glass, copper.) The materials are separated and transported to a region center for further processing. In some cases, the PVC cannot be recycled.

Pet Safety Essential During Holiday Season

By Jennifer Keyes-Maloney

 xmasbulldogsThe holiday season is a chance to make new memories with my family – and that family includes my furry friends as well (spoiler alert – I have two bulldogs, Maggie and Augie, who I love. We just lost our cat of 19 years, Scrappy).  But, I don’t want one of those memories to include a trip to the vet – particularly where it is preventable.  And since one of my bullies is a puppy, I’m having to retrain not just Augie (the pup) but also the human members of the house or the Do’s and Don’t’s during the holiday.  Here are a couple of tips gleaned from the ASPCA, Petfinder and PetMD.

  • Secure the Tree.
    Make sure you securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet (this was particularly true in the case of a climber like my cat Scrappy). This will also prevent the tree water—which may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset—from spilling. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea should he imbibe.
  • Tinsel-less Town.
    Kitties love this sparkly, light-catching “toy” that’s easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery. It’s best to brighten your boughs with something other than tinsel.
  • Forget the Mistletoe & Holly.
    Holly and Poinsettas, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.  Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. And many varieties of lilies, can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. Opt for a pet-safe bouquet or make sure the location of these holiday favorites is out of your pet’s reach.
  • Keep a Lid on It.
    By now you know not to feed your pets chocolate (which contains theobromine and caffeine) and anything sweetened with xylitol. But during the holiday season, there is a lot of activity in the kitchen and several new, tasty smells flowing from the garbage can. Ensure your garbage can is covered because goodies found in the trash can present a significant risk for gastritis for pets and can also be a choking hazard for dogs and cats.
  • Leave the Leftovers.
    Fatty, spicy and off limits foods (i.e. raisins, grapes, chocolate, macademia nuts, onions, garlic), as well as bones, are dangerous and should not be fed to your furry friends.
  • Wiring Oh Wiring.
    Wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments are an attractive nuisance to your furry friend. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus, while shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth.
  • Careful with Cocktails.
    Finally, if your celebration includes adult holiday beverages, be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.

A Thought for Festivities

Entertaining? Give your pet their own quiet space to retreat to—complete with fresh water and a place to snuggle.

Help save NJ’s Native Plant Species and Wildlife!

Urge your State Legislator to Support the “DOT Native Plants Bill”

The Ewing Green Team encourages you to contact your local representatives in the State Legislature to urge them to support this important native plants legislation.

S-2004 /A-3305

columbineIf enacted, this bill will require the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the NJ Turnpike Authority (which includes the Garden State Parkway), and the South Jersey Transportation Authority to use ONLY NATIVE PLANTS for landscaping, land management, reforestation, or habitat restoration on the 2,800 miles highways they manage in New Jersey.

Please contact your state senator and assembly representative to insure that they know how important native plants and the wildlife that they support are to our environment.  Passage of this legislation will help preserve water quality, provide food and habitat for NJ wildlife and preserve New Jersey’s natural beauty and local character for future generations.

This bill was written for Save Barnegat Bay by Senator Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen David Wolfe and Greg McGuckin. Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. and Senator Kip Bateman are co-sponsors.

To Contact Your Representatives:

Ewing is in District 15, (Hunterdon and Mercer) which includes East Amwell, Ewing, Hopewell Borough (Mercer), Hopewell Township (Mercer), Lambertville, Lawrence (Mercer), Pennington, Trenton, West Amwell, and West Windsor

Legislators for District  15

Senate – Shirley Turner – Email at
Assembly – Reed Gusciora – Email at
Assembly – Bonnie Watson Coleman – Email at

Ewing Environmental Commission’s Tree of the Month – Osage Orange

The Ewing Green Team is delighted to bring the Ewing Environmental Commission’s Tree of the Month Series to you.  Our publication of this series begins with the November 2014 entry, the Osage Orange, aka Hedge Apple, Monkey Ball, Bois d’arc.

osageorangefruitIn the fall, walking along roadsides, old home sites, or the edges of fields, one often comes across a strange looking, greenish-yellow, round and rough-surfaced fruit on the ground; it is from the Osage Orange tree, Maclura pomifera. We have chosen this unusual, very tough, native American tree to be the November Tree of the Month.

The Osage Orange tree was once found primarily in the Red River drainage areas of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, in blackland prairies and post oak savannas and was originally used by the Osage and Comanche Indians to make bows and war clubs. It was naturalized extensively throughout the country from the Rocky Mountains to the East, North of Florida to Ontario, by the efforts of early American settlers as well as the native Americans who would travel hundreds of miles to gather the wood for their bows and clubs. The wood was unequalled for prickly hedgerows, windbreaks, posts, fences, furniture, tool handles, and railroad ties in addition to archery bows.

It has been planted in greater numbers than any other native, American tree, and recently has been used for strip-mine reclamation as it is so site-tolerant. It is hardy from USDA Zones 4-9 (Ewing is USDA Zone 6b).

The fruit, which ranges in size from 4” to 6” in diameter, is actually a group of fruits, each with a seed, all covered within a rough, round, yellow-green rind. The “orange”, which has no relation to citrus oranges, is filled with white, bitter, milky juice which can be irritating to the skin; it is not poisonous, but has a chemical-like flavor and unpleasant texture. It is not readily eaten by animals, but squirrels do eat the seeds. The Osage Orange fruit is very messy on the ground, and beware of standing beneath a fruitful, female tree in an autumn wind when the fruit is ripe!

This tree ranges in size from 20’ to 40’ although it can reach 60’. It is fast growing, has a short trunk, and develops a rounded canopy. The trunk is deeply furrowed, an ashy brown to orangey brown, and has scaly ridges and deep fissures. The leaves are alternately arranged, smooth-edged, bright green above and lighter and fuzzy below; they are 2”-5” long and half as wide. Sharp, 1” thorns develop in the axils of the leaves. The fall color is bright yellow-green.

Osage Orange is dioecious, meaning that male flowers are borne on one tree and female flowers on another. It is wind pollinated. The inconspicuous male and female flowering usually occurs in June when the leaves are fully developed.

The wood, has many uses as it is exceptionally rot resistant, very hard, heavy, immune to termites, flexible and strong. It is said to have the highest BTU content of any commercial U.S. wood and it burns long and hot (never use it without a screen, however, as it pops sparks for long distances). Fence wood used to be installed green, as the dry, seasoned wood was too hard (said to be 2.5 times harder than white oak) to accept nails and staples. The wood is straight grained; several dyes can be extracted from it.

This is obviously not a residential or street tree, but is picturesque in natural settings and parks, and is a valuable habitat for pheasants, quail, and other birds. Male tree varieties are favored and available as they do not bear the messy “oranges”. Osage Orange is tolerant of almost all soils and conditions and is not favored by pests and diseases. It thrives, however, in moist soil and full sun and prefers no competition from other trees.

During the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt, with the W.P.A. project “Great Plains Shelter Belt”, had many miles of Osage Orange trees planted as wind breaks to modify the weather and erosion. Until barbed wire was invented in the 1870s, prickly, dense, Osage Orange hedgerows, tightly pruned, were used to keep pasture animals contained. Remains of these can be seen today around Ewing.

Meriwether Lewis, of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition to the west in the early 1800s, sent slips of Osage Orange to Thomas Jefferson. The scientific name, Maclura, is named after William Maclure (1763-1840), a Scottish geologist who was president of the American Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia for twenty-two years.

By Ann Farnham, LLA

“Leaf Cycling” Is the Eco-Friendly Way to Maintain Your Yard

Leaf Your Leaves in Your Yard!

raking autumn leaves Every fall there’s a certain amount of cringing going on during my trips around town when I see  bags or piles of leaves out at the curb – all of that wonderful organic material that could be used to recharge your yards just tossed away!  So this is a prime opportunity to discuss the best way to handle your leaf cleanup at the end of the gardening season. I can’t urge you strongly enough not to give your leaves away!  It is a huge waste of natural materials that could benefit your yard! There are a number of really simple environmentally friendly ways to handle your leaf drop that don’t starve your yard and also decrease your impact on municipal services to save $$$.

So what to do with those leaves?

The first method is the lazy man’s way (my favorite) and involves very little raking and effort on your part. Simply run your lawn mower over the leaves where they lie and chop them up into small pieces.  (Yes, I know that using gas mowers are considered an unsustainable gardening practice, but consider the greater good.)  The chopped leaves can stay on your lawn and decompose there. This is an excellent way to help build up the soil. This works best with a mulching mower which is meant to chop materials (you do grass cycle, don’t you?) into fairly small pieces. Do this as needed until the end of the season and the leaves will break down over the winter providing your soil with valuable nutrients. You won’t have to rake a single leaf, and your lawn will thank you for it with improved performance next year.  Check out the video below to see how easy it is.

Another method not quite so effortless is taking those chopped up leaves and mulching your garden beds with them. This will protect your plants from the vagaries of the winter weather and also provide your beds with valuable nutrients when the leaves break down.

If you run out of time (or energy) you can forgo the chopping with the mower and leave the leaves in the beds where they fall and pile on more.  This will accomplish two necessary tasks.  (1) Removing your leaves from any hard surfaces on your property where they can become slick and messy. And (2) removing those leaves from your lawn where they can smother the turf grass.  This also will provide for a neater end of the year appearance.  Research does show that most garden plants in the colder hardiness zones appreciate a nice cover of leaves to protect them, however there are a few that do not so you need to be aware of your specific plant needs.  If you mulch with unchopped leaves, you are also faced with the issue of cleanup in the spring because most leaves will not have decomposed by that time.  If you trees have fine leaves you can probably leave them be in the spring and the appearance will not suffer unduly.  However, many of us are blessed with fine old trees like oaks, maples and sycamores, etc. that have large leaves and for a groomed appearance in your beds in spring you are going to have to remove them.  [I find myself hard at work every spring removing leaves, chopping, and then returning them back into the beds as mulch.  I never said that gardening doesn’t have its chores.]

You can also add your leaves to your compost pile. No matter how small your yard there is always room for a small one tucked away in some out of the way place. The leaves will decompose more quickly if you chop them with your lawn mower as recommended above. Then gather them up (it’s amazing how a large pile of leaves reduces in size) and add them to the pile. If your pile is composed only of chopped leaves, you can make leaf mold for use at a later time. If you have green debris from your garden you can mix the two in layers and let it sit over the winter. Turn the pile when the weather permits and you will eventually have the Black Gold of the garden world – compost.

I tend to use a combination of all these methods.  When it is not too late (or cold) I happily run my lawn mower over piles of leaves that have fallen on the lawn and that I have removed from the beds.  Since raking afterwards is not 100% perfect, some is left on the lawn after I have either blown or raked the chopped product into the beds or put in the compost pile.  However, as the season winds down and I find myself beset with end of the year chores, one of the final acts of the season is that last pass with the lawnmower where I leave the leaves in place.  The yard is then as neat as I can get it before I retreat from the garden and await the first snow.

So I encourage you to avail yourselves of the multifold benefits of leaf hoarding.  Your yard will thank you for it.

by Joanne Mullowney, dedicated leaf hoarder.

Upcoming Events You Shouldn’t Miss!

Special Events Planned for Next Week

The last week of October is a busy week.  Check out these local events to help you on your path to a more sustainable life.  From plastic pollution to organic waste practices in our county, and bike advocacy in town, there is something for everyone.

BAG IT – Is Your Life Too Plastic?

Film and Discussion  BagIT

Date: Monday, October 27, 2014
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: The College of New Jersey Library Auditorium (Basement)
Parking:  See Parking Map.
Cost: Only 2 hours or so of your time

Join the Ewing Green Team for an award winning film and discussion about plastic pollution from single use plastic bags and our disposable lifestyles.  Moderated by Noemi de la Puente, founder and organizer of the grass roots organization, njthinkoutsidethebag.

This screening is part of an ongoing effort to educate Mercer County residents about how they can be part of the solution before they vote on November 4^th on a nonbinding referendum to support a 5¢ fee on single use plastic bags.

An Environmental Insights offering, a series of films, discussions and speakers brought to you by the  Ewing Green Team, designed to engage Ewing residents in a public conversation about critical environmental issues and to spark new ideas concerning sustainability.

If It Grows, It Goes…

All you need to know about organic waste recycling

Date: Tuesday, October 28, 2014  foodwaste-istock
Time: 7 – 9 pm
Location:  Dempster Fire Academy Auditorium, 350 Lawrence Station Road, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648
Cost: Free and open to the public
Pre-registration requested

Organic waste is a part of our everyday lives.  We can’t help but encounter it every time we eat, tend to our yards, or many other daily chores.

That’s why we’re breaking it down for you.  County Executive Brian Hughes will offer opening remarks and a panel of experts will explain what organic waste is, where it goes and what happens in the recycling process. Panelists will present local success stories and how you can bring this program to your town.

The Curbside Organics Program is already in place in Princeton and is currently under contract in Lawrence and Hopewell. Other municipalities in Mercer are looking to join in the near future.

Organic waste recycling is an easy way to make a HUGE impact through small actions.  Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about it, while networking with other like-minded individuals from throughout the region.

Hosted by Sustainable Jersey, sustainability organizations from Princeton, Lawrence, Hopewell, Ewing, West Windsor and The Mercer County Office of Economic Development and Sustainability.

For more info or to register, click here    |    Download the flier   | Driving directions

*Light refreshments will be served.  Doors open at 6:30 pm.*

Bike Ewing!

Join Our New Bike Advocacy Group

Date: Thursday, October 30, 2014  bikeewing
Time: 7 pm
Location: The College of New Jersey, Social Sciences Building Room 241
Parking:  See Parking Map.

The Ewing Green Team announces the launch of a NEW Ewing Bike Advocacy Group and invites you to join with us to promote a more bicycle and pedestrian friendly community.  The 2nd meeting will be held on Thursday, October 30th.

Monthly meetings, goal setting, and other startup activities are in the planning stages.

For more information call Mark at 609- 802- 6798.


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