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Gardening

Put these tools — not useless ­garden gadgets — under the ­Christmas tree

I hope you had a laugh over my column on useless garden gadgets two weeks back. This week I’m turning serious, suggesting useful tools the gardeners on your holiday shopping list will want and use.

Decking your halls, from trees to poinsettias

Buy a Fresh, Safe Christmas Tree     For the freshest Christmas trees, buy locally from a Christmas tree grower’s lot or cut your own. Otherwise, you could be buying an imported tree cut in late October or early November.     Fresh-cut Douglas fir, Scots pine and blue spruce are the most fire-safe Christmas tree species, ranked by the State Fire Marshal based on research conducted by the Bay Gardener in cooperation with the Maryland Christmas Tree Growers.

Good for laughs but not much else

Here’s my short list of useless gadgetry to avoid as you shop for the gardeners on your holiday list.

At Thanksgiving, this year’s garden continues giving

This year’s garden was one of my most productive in recent years, despite its late start as I recovered from a fall last November. With help from family members, including grandchildren, the garden was planted in mid-May.     Even so, we harvested nearly a bushel of onions, which were braided and hung in the garage until recently. This year’s turkey stuffing will contain those garden-grown onions. The Crocket snap bean crop was outstanding, as was the harvest from the yard-long Gita pole bean plants.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem

Think again if you think shade trees pretty much care for themselves.     In the forest, where trees care for themselves, fewer than one percent of seedlings grow to become marketable trees.

Now’s the season, so do it right

Mistakes made when planting shade trees grow up to haunt you. Mistake 1: Choosing the wrong tree for the wrong place.     Research the nature and habits of the species you want to plant. Do those qualities match the place you want to plant it and the job you want it to do? Mistake 2: Planting too close to buildings, driveways, sidewalks or driveways.

Straw-Bale Gardening Works

From pot to rooting medium to placement, these plants have ­special needs

Orchids are becoming one of the most popular potted plants. They have the advantage of long-lasting flowers and very attractive leaves. However, after they have flowered, they are often neglected and only watered on inspiration.     Orchids are epiphyte, meaning that they obtain most of their moisture from the air through root-like structures. In nature, they live in tropical forests, growing on trunks and branches of trees. The terrestrial forms of orchids, most commonly offered for sale, are sparsely branched with coarse roots.

Time to repot for life indoors

Fall is the time to repot houseplants. During the short daylight hours of late fall, winter and early spring, most houseplants don’t produce much top growth. This rule is especially true of plants that live outdoors during the summer.

Dry fall following wet summer makes a good show

This year will bring spectacular fall foliage coloration — provided it stays dry.     That’s what I told the Bay Weekly reader asking for my prediction.     More rain means that more of the leaves will remain green for a longer period of time, thus reducing the intensity of the red, orange and yellow. If we have a dry fall, a higher percentage of the leaves will turn color at the same time. But because of drier conditions, the foliage will not last long.