Thursday, November 26, 2009

Choosing That Christmas Tree

Yes dear gardener, it’s that time of year. Time to decide what kind of “real” tree to get for Christmas.  There are a couple of options when looking at fresh trees.

You can to go to the forest to cut your Christmas tree at several U. S. Forest Service locations provided you have a permit.  A permit costs $10 per tree, with a limit of 5 trees.  The USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region website has information on where and when to get a permit, cutting dates and times, tips on caring for your tree including a recipe for a fireproofing mixture, and other details.

Perhaps you would rather not make a day of it and instead want to stop by that tree lot on the way home from work. Here are a few simple steps that will ensure you get the freshest tree at the lot and keep it that way. When buying a fresh tree, check that the needles bend rather than break with gentle pressure; shake it carefully to look for needle loss; and check the cut end: it should be sticky with sap. If these conditions exist, buy your tree and take it home.

Here's a video about how to care for your cut tree after you get it home.

How about a tree that you can plant in the garden after the holiday?  Yes, you can plant trees in December.

Many nurseries offer live, potted Christmas trees including pinyon, ponderosa, limber, Austrian, bristlecone and Scotch pines.

These potted trees are usually sold when they are two to six feet tall. Be sure to consider the mature size of the tree, where it will be planted after Christmas, and the weight of the tree in the pot before purchasing.

The two most important factors for successfully growing a live potted tree are to not allow the rootball to dry out and avoid keeping the tree indoors too long. Seven days indoors is a maximum time recommended, but five days is better. 

Pre-dig the planting hole, as the ground can be frozen in late December and early January. Store the soil backfill in the garage or outdoors in a black plastic bag so it is less likely to freeze. Here’s a tree planting guide to ensure proper planting techniques.

You can keep the potted tree in the garage for a few days before bringing it indoors, but frequently check the rootball to ensure that it stays moist but not soggy. After Christmas, the tree can again be placed in the garage for a few days before planting outdoors. While indoors, decorate the tree with small lights, which generate less heat, and place it away from sources of heat like fireplaces, heat vents and television sets.

Enjoy your holiday and check out this story for ways to use the cut trees after the holidays.