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MSU Extension Service

Home Grown is an educational, entertaining, question-answer column seen weekly in "News from the Genesee MSUE Office," a weekly newsletter for Genesee County Master Gardeners. Special thanks to the Genesee, Oakland and Livingston county MSU Extension offices for providing this service.

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This week's HomeGrown

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I have left up my Christmas tree a bit later than usual. When I began taking off the ornaments, I noticed that the buds on the ends of the branches are showing green. The tree is growing and I would love to find a way of planting this tree in my yard. How can I do this?

Sadly, you cant. What has happened in the last several weeks is that the tree has come out of dormancy. Its been warm and lovely inside. You have been and excellent tree caretaker. You kept it watered, the water was clean and the bottom of the trunk never sealed over. So the tree kept sucking water and basking in the springtime warmth of your home. Now you have buds. Unfortunately, you haven't got one of the most important parts, which are the roots. Your evergreen can never grow roots. It doesn't have the genetic programming to produce them, no matter what you try. If you had only used a cut Coleus plant as a Christmas tree, you could have it grow roots and pot it up. If you still feel the aching loss of your almost yard tree, wait until spring and hippy-hop out to one of the local nurseries. Buy a small evergreen in its memory and plant it and never forget your brave Christmas tree.

We bought an older home last year. We are re-doing it in the spring. This house was built in about 1900. In the last couple of weeks, we have heard some scrabbling in the walls and high-pitched squeaks in the middle of the night. I know they are bats. We had one flying around the house last fall. I am terrified to sleep because I know they are trying to get out of the wall. We know there are holes or gaps in the roof area. Should we seal them? I need to get some sleep.

Fixing the roof holes at this time of the year will accomplish nothing other than risking your life on a ladder. Nobody is trying to get into the attic. They are already there. The bat good news is that they have no hands, claws or fangs for ripping or chewing into your living space. They are but pathetic opportunists, looking for holes to squeeze through. Buy yourself an industrial-sized roll of duct tape. Stroll about the house looking for cracks or holes. In a house of such venerable age, there are sure to be a few. Slap a piece out duct tape over the spot. Holes or cracks only need to be about as big as the tip of your little finger. Bats can compress their little bodies through tiny holes so close anything you find. Any holes on exterior walls or in upstairs rooms should be of particular interest. They are not getting through the duct tape, even if they bonk their heads into the tape multiple times. Since you are redecorating and repairing soon, the duct tape is only temporary. Your bats are hibernating in the attic. The warm weather has roused them from their mid-winters naps. If the weather gets cold again, the squeak-o-rama should stop. In the spring, check around the brick chimney, if you have one. Over time, houses settle in one direction and chimneys settle in the other direction. Cracks can develop on the under-hang portion of the roof. If you have gable end vents, make sure the screening is in perfect condition. If there are roof vents, do the same. Check the fascia board that is the vertical board where the gutters would be attached. Often, the boards pop loose or warp at he ends, leaving a gap. If you are repairing bat holes in the roof area, get those done before the first week of June or wait until late August. Babies are born in early June and cannot fly until August. Even if you hate bats, having multiple babies dying and rotting in the attic can be disgusting. And a last warning: no Dracula books or vampire movies before bedtime.

Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture
Agent 517/546-3950


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