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Over the Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Care of Your Living Christmas Tree

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

A living Christmas tree will need to be planted outdoors soon after Christmas day and hopefully was not brought indoors but just a few days before. These needle evergreens go dormant like other plants and need to be kept dormant. This is the reason for the short stay indoors. You can purchase your living tree at Garden Centers and Retail Nurseries. Commonly available are spruce, fir and pine. Living trees are either sold as balled and burlapped or in a large pot. It is easier to deal with a potted tree, but not impossible to deal with your favorite evergreen if it is balled and burlapped.

Burlapped plants should be set into a tub or large container with moist peat moss or sand around the ball to keep the roots and soil from drying out inside our homes. Potted live trees can stand alone without being placed into another container if you protect your carpet or wood floor. The soil in the pot will also need to be kept moist, but this is much easier than a burlapped tree.

Shortly after Christmas, move your living tree to the coolest part of the home or garage before you plant it outdoors unless the weather is mild like it has been. If you planned ahead you already know where the tree will be going. If you are making that decision on the fly, then remember just how large your evergreen tree will be once full grown. Most evergreen trees will be between 40 and 70 feet tall and between 12 and 18 feet across, so be sure to leave plenty of space.

The planting hole should be no deeper than the soil ball or the soil in the pot. The planting hole should be about 1 ½ to 2 times as wide to allow for straightening once in the hole. After the tree is in the hole cut away any twine and burlap as far down as practical and remove the pot prior to placing in the hole if that is how your tree came. Once the pot is removed, rough up the root ball with your hands any roots that are circling should be bent out so they will not continue to circle in the planting hole

Mix some good black dirt or compost with the soil you dug out of the hole as backfill material. Leave space for watering to settle the soil. If your garden hose is already put away, then about 3 five gallon buckets of water should do the trick. Continue to fill in the rest of the hole with soil once the water has filtered in. The last thing to do is to mulch the tree around the planting hole to slow the soil from freezing and to allow the roots to begin to grow and acclimate. Come early spring, go out and water again to be sure to keep the needles hydrated and then monitor for water throughout the summer.



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