Growing Green: Christmas trees
Thinking about purchasing and planting a live Christmas tree this holiday season? Considering that you want to create a family adventure you will all remember and add a significant item to your landscape that will last for years, it is not too early to start planning now.
First, review your property and decide where you want to plant your tree. Think carefully about the size of the mature tree (height and width), the rate of growth, color, texture, and adequate drainage and sunlight.
If your site is too small, you may want to consider some type of dwarf evergreen. Sometime before the ground freezes, you will need to dig a hole where you plan to plant your tree. Save the ground from the hole in a location where it will not freeze. For safety reasons, you may want to cordon off the hole you dug until the tree is planted.
Next, find a respected nursery or Christmas tree farm. We are fortunate in the Lehigh Valley to have many fine places to buy Christmas trees. One of them may even allow you to tag a tree now for pickup in mid-December.
When searching for your tree, choose one that is healthy with no dry or brown spots. Make sure the branches are flexible and have buds which predict next season’s growth.
Avoid leftover orphan trees from last season or bargains with obvious problems. This is a tree you will want to have in your yard for many years, so select carefully and don’t worry about saving a dollar or two now.
A live tree will be quite heavy, so you may need help getting it home or, if possible, have it delivered.
Immediately after getting the tree home, place the root-ball in a plastic garbage bag and water it. Do not over-water; the root-ball should be moist, but not wet until planting. Store the tree outdoors in a cool area protected from the wind and sun.
Move the tree into the house a day or two before Christmas. Place the tree away from heat sources and vents in a cool room. The plastic bag should remain on the root-ball to contain soil and moisture as you put the tree in a tub in an upright position.
Keep the tree indoors for no more than one week. If you keep your house warm and dry, shorten the time indoors.
After Christmas, move the tree outdoors. Place it in the prepared hole on firm soil. Make sure the root flare is just above the existing soil line.
If your tree was purchased in a container, remove the container and loosen the roots to stimulate the growth. Before backfilling with your saved soil, remove any burlap, twine, wires or clips.
Water the tree well after planting and keep it watered through the winter and the first summer. Watch for winter thaws and summer dry times to water your tree.
An attentive first year’s care and watering will prepare your tree to be a long, wonderful, memory-laden part of your landscape.
“Growing Green” is contributed by Lehigh County Extension Office Staff and Master Gardeners. Information: Lehigh County Extension Office, 610-391-9840; Northampton County Extension Office, 610-746-1970.