Live Christmas Trees: A New Tradition
Do you love visiting your local cut-your-own Christmas tree farm, searching for this year’s tree, only to feel badly about cutting it down, bringing it into your house, and recycling it in a few weeks’ time? It may be time to consider a live Christmas tree! Families can start a new tradition of planting their trees outside as a memento that will continue to grow with them year after year, after they’ve served as a holiday decoration. If you live in the city and don’t have extra space to plant your tree but would still love to try out this green idea, look for an organization that will accept your tree donation and plant it for you somewhere with more space.
Live Christmas trees provide a renewable option for celebrating the holidays. After serving as a Christmas tree, a live evergreen can be planted outside to landscape your yard. All it takes is a little planning.
Finding your tree
You should plan to buy your tree a week or two before you want to bring it inside. Similar to when you find your cut-your-own tree, enjoy the process of finding the tree that will first be your indoor Christmas tree and then continue to be a part of your landscape. Before making the purchase, ask yourself a few questions:
1. Will the tree fit in the room I want it in?
2. How heavy and large is the container I need to keep the tree in?
3. How heavy will it be when it’s time to carry the tree (with root ball) after it has been watered?
To help your tree make the transition from the cold of the nursery to the heat of your home, keep it in a staging area, such as an unheated garage, mudroom, or shed that stays above freezing temperature. Store and water it in the staging area for a week or two. Keep the container or root ball moist and do not allow it to freeze.
How to host your indoor Christmas tree
Once inside, look for a spot for your tree that is away from heat sources (furnace vents, fireplace, or wood stove). Ensure there is adequate space and plenty of light, since this is a living tree. Find a large, leak-proof pot or other container that will easily accommodate the root ball of your tree. To make sure your tree’s roots don’t sit in the water at the bottom of the container, place several rocks or a block of wood in the bottom of the pot. Stand the tree in the pot and cover the root ball with newspaper to prop the tree upright and keep its roots from drying out. You will need to water your tree while it’s inside, making sure to keep the root ball damp, but not wet.
Plan to keep your tree in the house for no more than seven to 10 days. The longer it is in the house, the greater the chance the tree will start to grow buds, which will not survive when you move the tree out in the cold. If the tree buds out, its chances of surviving decrease.
Decorate as usual! The only caveat with the live tree is that you should use LED Christmas lights, which throw off less heat than typical Christmas lights, to help preserve your tree.
But, it’s winter in New Hampshire!
The only trouble is that the holiday season doesn’t really coordinate with the actual growing season. When you bring a tree in from the cold and water it in late December, you’re interrupting its dormancy period. To prevent your tree from an early death post-present unwrapping, move the tree back to the staging area, keep it watered and above freezing for a few days and then, to keep your potted tree in its dormant state, you can store it in either your cellar or garage and plant in Spring after the harm of frost is gone.
Steps to plant after the harm of frost
The first thing you need to do is dig a hole in which to plant the tree. Place the tree in the hole, making sure the roots at the top of the root ball are even with the soil line. Backfill the hole with reserved soil, water it well, and spread two or three inches of mulch over the planting site to hold moisture and minimize temperature fluctuations.
Planting a live Christmas tree not only provides a habitat for birds and wildlife, it also replenishes the air with oxygen, increases soil stability, and generally makes your landscape more beautiful.
Enjoying your tree for years to come
Using a live evergreen as your Christmas tree does take a little more work and planning. However, if you follow the steps above, it can provide a Christmas present to your family for years to come. It’s a great way to help the environment, teach your children about the importance of trees in our world, and your children can return home for Christmas later in life and tell their own children about planting that Christmas tree in their yard when they were kids.