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How to buy and treat your tree

      A fresh-cut Christmas tree is not necessarily a safe Christmas tree. An evergreen tree loses water from its needles as soon as it is cut. It will lose more water after you tie it to the roof of your car and drive 50 miles per hour. If you don’t care for that tree properly after you arrive home, it can rapidly become a fire hazard by the time you bring it indoors and decorate it.
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Grief makes monsters in this funny, savage film

     In the seven months since Mildred Hayes’ (Frances McDormand: Hail, Caesar!) daughter was murdered, no progress has been made in the case. Furious, Mildred decides to shame the corrupt, small-town police department into action. She uses her meager savings to rent three dilapidated billboards on the lonely road to her home. 
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Turn on the lights. Bring in the tree. Rejoice in pageantry. 
     “There’s a big beautiful tree all lit up in the Smiths’ window.” That was the news my husband brought in with newspapers and coffee this morning. After seeing the neighbors’ tree in the late predawn, he was about to haul in ours, now soaking up water as the Bay Gardener directs in this week’s column.
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Watering to keep your plants happy 

     More houseplants are killed by improper watering than by any other practice. Here are three faults to avoid in growing indoor plants year-round or over winter.
 
Fault 1: Too little water
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Into gifts that can change lives

     I hope that you are among the fortunate who counted and credited your blessings in the company of family and friends all anticipating digging into the Thanksgiving feast.
     I hope your dinner was rich with food and fellowship and wine, the latter if you’re so inclined.
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Hurry! Frost is expected Friday night

     Some houseplants have to be repotted every six months, while others can stay put for two or three years. Frequency of repotting also depends on container size, quality of care, productivity of the rooting medium and frequency of nutrient applications. 
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No matter your gear, you’ve got to be over the fish if you’re going to catch

     After five consecutive skunks over the last 10 days, I shared my grief with friend and neighbor Frank Tuma, a charter boat captain.
     “Yeah, I’ve heard that the middle Bay is empty of rockfish,” he said. “But I’ve found a nice bunch that I’ve been working over the last few trips. Going to take a couple of friends out tomorrow. Want to come?” 
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Prevention is the surest cure

     Several Bay Weekly readers have contacted me lately concerning smelly fluid oozing from the trunks of older trees. One noticed it after seeing a large cluster of flies covering about a square foot of bark at the base of an oak tree.
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Mulch now, and let the flowers form

     If you sheared your azaleas any time after August 15, expect very few flowers on those plants next spring. Flower bud initiation, which begins at the tips of the new growth, happens in late August into early September. Shearing the plants too near that time will not allow sufficient new growth for flower buds to develop. As daylight hours shorten, plants are shutting down to prepare for the cold winter months.
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Mulch, mowers and weed wackers can be murder on trees

     I was recently called to diagnose the cause of death of some large dogwood trees. While visiting the site I also noticed that several maple trees and an ash tree were exhibiting dieback of branches. Closer examination of the stems near the ground indicated the bark had been destroyed.
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