The 2003 Gardening Season &
 the Evil Side of Burn Barrels

Andy Crossland
Adams County Master Gardener

There are so many new and wonderful things happening in the gardening arena, that one can hardly wait for the season to begin. The catalogues are starting to arrive. I look forward to this event every year. You look at the pictures and the descriptions and imagine the perfect garden at your house. Ah no weeds no drought, no watering restrictions…!

Mean while back in reality. Wasn't the Christmas Eve snow wonderful? Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, the storm had many good effects for you and your garden. I especially like the way the snow causes silence. A silent period in your garden leads to reflection. This time of hush allows you soul to grow as you envision what you will do differently for your winter interest garden for next year. You can still add objects in the garden this year that will create strange and beautiful silhouettes when you see them in the bare garden. I also like the way the snow looks when sculpted by the wind around some of the plant stems and manmade objects that are in the garden.

Another benefit of the Christmas Eve snow was the increase in the water table that led our governor to cancel the drought watch. This lifts the water use restrictions. This doesn't mean that it is time to go back to our old wasteful ways of watering. Mulch, drip irrigation, and xeroscape are words that we must remember and employ in our gardens or we run the risk of being out of water. You house won't be worth much on the resale market with out a water source. And where would you move? Population, affluence, and pollution are everywhere. There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Conservation is our only hope.

Speaking of nowhere to hide, have you ever been out side enjoying a beautiful day when out of nowhere a strange, acrid smell assaults your senses. A lot of people still hang their clothes outside. How would you like your clothes to smell like this? The smell comes from the smoldering trash fire. The burn barrel out behind the house is the source of the smell. The internet reports that more dioxins are released from trash being burnt in the burn barrels in the State of Pennsylvania, than from all of the industries in the State of Pennsylvania. There is no longer a need to burn trash at home. Trash services are available in every township that I know of in the state. This practice was bad enough in the old days.

Today our trash contains a lot of plastic. Burning plastic releases dioxins. Dioxins cause cancer in people. We regulate the release of dioxins in to the atmosphere and ground water by industry. Do the names Love Canal and the Hudson River dredging project ring any bells? This stuff is dangerous. Why do people still burn trash? Some say that they have always done it this way and their parents did too. Some don't know the dangers. Some don't care. To which group do you belong?

We can start on a local level. Stop burning. Tell your neighbors what you have heard. Look it up on the Internet. Educate yourself and others about the dangers. Don't wait until you're at the cancer ward with a loved one or friend to read about it. Do it now, and then take the appropriate actions. Talk to the county commissioners about the problem. I have, and in the year since have seen no action. They can ignore one, but they can't ignore all of us together. Let them know how you feel. They work for you. Have them save us from ourselves since we can't or won't stop burning trash. Boy, this has turned into a sour commentary. Lets move on to some nicer thoughts.

Christmas gifts of plants have long since arrived in all their glory. They looked great but are now starting to fade. Pitch them or keep them. I say keep them. The Christmas cactus that I got for Jeanne three years ago, has bloomed with greater glory every year, and finally got the holidays of Christmas and Thanksgiving straightened out. We had a display unrivaled by any manmade trinkets. There were 150 to 200 beautiful blossoms that were white edged in pink with small yellow stamens that were hidden from the casual view. They were tipped with dark pink ends.

The are so many cultivars of Christmas cactus, amaryllis, and poinsettias available. For information on how to care for these plants so that they will rebloom next year check out our web site located at Go to the Master Gardener section and browse the articles. If you are not on the net, you can go to your local library and use their computer to log on to the web. You can also call the local Penn State extension office and ask for the Master Gardeners hort help line.

I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to bid a fond farewell to Les Morton. He was a good friend to our Master Gardener organization. His wife was out first Master Gardener coordinator. Les was a good man, Chief of the Fairfield VFD for 25 years and was involved in many other civic activities. However he was never too busy to help us with some project or the other. He help put on our TV show, build light stands for the Jr. program, and many other projects. I liked him a lot and got to spend way too little time getting to know him. Those who knew and loved him will sorely miss him. Those who weren't that lucky will also enjoy the benefits of his efforts for years to come. To Carol and her family go our sincerest sympathy and prayers.

We come from the Earth, we return to the Earth, in between we garden. You meet the nicest people in the garden. See you in the garden.

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