Curbside Collection of Live Christmas Trees (2017-2018)

Non-Yard Waste customers must contact Durham One Call at (919) 560-1200 to request a curbside collection of their live Christmas tree. All service requests must be received no later than the end of business on February 1. Once received, service requests will be scheduled for the next available Saturday collection on either January 13, January 27 or February 3.

Yard Waste customers should place their live trees at the curb on their scheduled collection day. Tree locations will be noted by the weekly collection crews and added to the next available Saturday collection day on either January 13, January 27 or February 3. A tree collection will not count toward free brush collections for yard waste customers.

Requirements for live Christmas tree disposal are as follows: trees taller than six feet must be cut in half; all decorations including tinsel, lights, garland, ornaments, nails, stands, and hardware must be removed. Trees should not be placed in bags.

In addition to free curbside collections, residents may drop off their live Christmas trees at the City’s Waste Disposal and Recycling Center for no charge from January 2 until February 3. Trees delivered after February 3 will be subject to the usual yard waste disposal fees.

County residents (outside of Durham city limits), please see: Durham County Solid Waste

The Sound of Silence

by Andrea Laine, EMGV Durham County

A silence has come over my garden that I do not recognize. It is the absence of squirrels.

By most standards, I live in a generally quiet neighborhood. It is beyond city limits and there are natural wooded areas – oak-hickory forest – all around us and between most of the houses. Aside from the sounds typical of many neighborhoods such as lawn mowers and blowers, children playing and dogs barking, the familiar, yet irregular, back beat has long been the activity of squirrels amongst the dried leaf litter on the forest floor.

Where have all the squirrels gone? Whoooo might know? The owl, that’s who!

Digital Painting of  Barred Owl perching
Digital painting of a barred owl. Credit: Big Stock Photo.

I saw it in flight a couple of times and assumed it was a hawk. The third time I spotted it (or it spotted me), it was stationary, perched on a tree branch where the forest meets my lawn. And I felt its steely stare as I walked from the garage to the house. It was then that I noted two eyes facing me and the distinctive owl-shaped head. It was a breathtaking sight as I had never seen one outside of captivity. My curiosity was piqued; I had to learn more about this bird of prey which I believe to be a barred owl (Strix varia).

A barred owl is relatively large with a wingspan of 40 to 50 inches and body length of 17 to 24 inches.

They favor mature forest with a relatively open understory, which describes my yard perfectly. They nest in cavities of large deciduous trees and will sometimes adopt old nests of hawks, crows, and squirrels.

The barred owl hunts by day or night but is most active at night. It seeks prey by watching from a perch or flying low through the forest. Like all owls, their eyesight and hearing are very good. In addition to squirrels, the barred owl hunts mice, voles and shrews, rabbits, opossums and other small mammals. The barred owl also eats various birds, frogs, salamanders, snakes, lizards, and some insects.  The array of its diet illustrates the adaptability of the species to live on whatever food source is available.

“My” owl was mottled brown and white. It was so well camouflaged against tree bark and leaf litter that twice I have not noticed it until it takes flight.

The barred owl is common across eastern North America and more common in eastern North Carolina than the mountains or foothills including Durham County. It is a non-migratory bird and its range is one to six square miles. I read that it has a distinctive hoot that often identifies its presence. But so far I have only seen, not heard, the owl. The sound of silence endures.





Learn With Us, week of May 7

Gardening in Durham for Beginners & Transplants
Thu 5/11 6:30pm – 8pm
Sarah P. Duke Gardens, 420 Anderson Street, Durham, NC

Presented by Gene Carlone, Durham County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.
Understanding Durham’s soil and climate will help you succeed in your garden whether you are a Durham native or a transplant, an experienced gardener or just beginning. Join Gene as he explains the strategies and techniques that are time-tested in Durham and help you take advantage of our year-round growing season.
Free / Registration required.
Contact: 919-668-1707 or e-mail

Master Gardeners – Plant Detectives?

by Ann Barnes, EMGV

Did you know that Master Gardener Volunteers have office hours? If you have a question, you can email, call, or stop by the Cooperative Extension building at 721 Foster St. (See the sidebar of this blog page for contact information)

A shift in the office can be unpredictable. Sometimes all is quiet. Often, multiple callers are experiencing similar problems and volunteers are able to quickly provide answers. Occasionally, though, working in the Master Gardener office can be a bit like stepping into the plant version of a gritty detective novel.

Imagine the scene:

A citizen contacts the office with a grainy iPhone photograph of a plant in decline. The volunteer on duty knows a list of questions to ask, then researches the problem in the office library and on research based websites. Often, our intrepid volunteers have seen the problem before and can provide advice the same day. If the mystery isn’t easily solved, our volunteer may ask the citizen to provide additional photos or even bring a sample into the office for diagnosis. Sometimes it is necessary to look at the plant with a hand lens to search for tiny pests or signs of disease. Leaves, stems, roots, and even soil can hold clues. It may not always be easy, but Master Gardeners are trained to know what questions to ask, where to look for answers, and who to contact when the clues don’t add up to an easy diagnosis.

Does this sound like something you’d love to learn to do? 

The Durham County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program conducts a 15-week training program once every two years. The next program will be conducted January-April 2017. Classes are once a week, on Thursdays, from 9:00-12:30 at the Durham County Extension Office, 721 Foster Street. In order to apply to the program you must:

1. Attend one information session (dates listed below).

2. Submit your application by Monday, November 7, 2016.

3. If you are selected, pay the $120 registration fee by December 31.

The fee covers training materials.

Info Sessions

To begin the process, attend one required information session conducted at the Durham County Extension office at 721 Foster Street.

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2-3pm
  • Thursday, September 29, 10-11am
  • Wednesday, October 5, 2-3pm
  • Thursday, October 13, 6-7pm
  • Saturday, October 15, 10-11am
  • Wednesday, October 26, 2-3pm

To find out more about the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program visit Or plan to attend an upcoming information session. Call 919-560-0525 to register for an information session.

Volunteer Spotlight -Public Events with Master Gardener Volunteers

by Ann Barnes

Durham Master Gardeners are looking for new volunteers! Our next training class begins in January 2017. in the next few months, this blog will spotlight some of the many ways our volunteers help our community. If you are interested in becoming an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer (EMGV) in Durham, please click the link below for more information:

Become A Master Gardener

The Public Events committee is responsible for marketing and coordinating activities where EMGVs are asked to provide research based assistance to the public directly. Volunteers can be found at many events and locations around Durham County, including at the Farmers’ Market, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, the Festival for the Eno, as well as at corporate, school, and neighborhood events. Last month, two of our volunteers spent some time at the “Birds, Butterflies, Bees, and Blooms” event which was sponsored by the  Wildlife Habitat Council and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photos from Birds, Butterflies, Bees, and Blooms

This wonderful event brought a diverse group of professionals together with one purpose in mind—to provide information about the
critical importance of pollinators and what steps we can take to increase their chances for survival now and in the future.  From beekeepers to wildlife experts,
conservation groups, and plant experts, all were ready to share their passion for restoring and preserving habitats for pollinators and birds.
-Deborah Pilkington, EMGV

Deborah Pilkington volunteered along with Tina Falker. Both volunteers answered questions and provided research based gardening information to attendees, with a focus on pollinators and pollinator-friendly plants. As Event Captain, Falker was also responsible for transporting educational materials prepared for this event by the Public Events Committee.

This was a lively, well-attended event and we talked to 32 people. Many were interested in adding pollinator-friendly plants to their living space… which ranged from an apartment balcony to a house in the “country”.  – Tina Falker, EMGV

Both volunteers signed up for this event because, as Pilkington says, “I love to volunteer at these events because I have a real passion for pollinators and birds, and the gardens that sustain them. I also learn a lot from the other experts at events like these”. Plus, Falker pointed out “It was held indoors!”, which is always appealing on a hot summer day.

I enjoy talking with people about gardening… what are their latest successes? Challenges? Will this humidity ever end, and will it ever be cool again? I especially like to help “transplants” avoid the mistakes that I’ve made. I also like to encourage people not to give up if they’ve had limited gardening success in the past… even experienced gardeners kill plants, so don’t give up! Ask questions, learn from your mistakes, and be realistic when it comes to planning a garden. One or two potted plants may be just right for now! – Tina Falker

EMGVs who enjoy volunteering for public events often say that they love talking about gardening and answering questions – and some of us do so wherever we go. If this sounds like a volunteer opportunity you would love, consider joining the Durham EMGVs!

Here’s that link again: