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Caring For A Live Christmas Tree

leftover turkey sandwichNow that Thanksgiving is done and the leftover turkey is being served up for sandwiches, many people are thinking Christmas trees. And although the subject of a live Christmas tree has nothing to do with heating or air conditioning, we thought it would be good to bring a little festive information your way for this holiday weekend.

There has been a growing trend in recent years with more and more people opting to go with a live Christmas tree. We’re not talking about the fresh-cut trees found on tree lots or in home improvement centers, a live Christmas tree will still have its roots; people decorate and showcase them in their homes and then plant the trees in the yard after the holidays.

The allure of a live Christmas tree, sometimes called a “balled and burlapped” or “container-grown” tree, is that, when properly tended to, it can add to the landscape and live for decades, providing generations of holiday cheer. However, it’s important to understand exactly how much work goes into caring for a live Christmas tree, and establishing it in your landscape, before deciding to purchase one.

Consider these three steps in the process: selecting a tree; tending to the tree inside the home; and planting and tending the tree outside.

How to Select a Live Christmas Tree

Selecting a live Christmas tree is your first step.It’s best to buy your live Christmas tree early in the season so you have a choice of the healthiest trees. Seasonal retail lots, which typically have only offered fresh-cut trees, are beginning to offer live options. There are also special tree farms offering the same. In addition, many garden centers and nurseries sell live trees during the season.

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How to make your pick? Be sure the needles are healthy and green; avoid trees that are shedding or have yellowing, brown needles. Also check that the root ball is burlapped (or wrapped in synthetic material) and firm, and remember to treat the root system with extra care after purchase. Just remember to keep the roots moist.

Caring For a Live Christmas Tree

Before you bring your live Christmas tree inside, allow it to gradually adjust to warmer temperatures by moving it to an unheated but sheltered area like a garage for a few days first. A waterproof tub with 2 inches of gravel and putting the tree on top of that to keep the roots moist, but not soaked, is a good idea. Place it in a cool area with plenty of natural light and away from drafts. Make sure the root ball is moist at all times.

When decorating, go light on the lights or follow the suggestion of the National Christmas Tree Association and select versions that produce low heat, to prevent needles from drying out. And keep your tree on display indoors for no longer than 10 days. Housing the tree inside longer may awaken the buds from dormancy and may make them vulnerable once you plant the tree outside.

Planting a Live Christmas Tree Outdoors

live Christmas tree ready to plantAfter Christmas, move your tree to an unheated, sheltered location to allow it to acclimate to outside conditions. Choose a spot in your garden that is large enough to accommodate the tree’s growth; has plenty of sunlight and is well-drained. To plant the tree, prepare a hole that’s as deep as the roots and five times wider, Clemson University says.

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It’s not usually a problem in the Myrtle Beach area, but to avoid the challenge of frozen ground, dig your hole early while the ground is still warm, and either bring the dirt indoors, perhaps keeping it in a bucket in your basement or attic until planting time to prevent it from freezing, or deeply mulching the planting site to keep the ground there warm (making it easier to dig).

Caution: Be sure to allow room for your tree to grow. Don’t plant it where it will become crowded, or too close to your house.

Then, remove the burlap around the root ball and any containers or wires. Gradually fill the hole with loose soil from the hole itself, and then water the tree evenly. You can find detailed tree planting instructions here.

Buying a live Christmas tree can be a lot of work — and there’s no guarantee that it will survive once you plant it outside. But many people are drawn to the idea of a live Christmas tree, and the lifelong living memory of wonderful family times they can provide! Best of luck to you in caring for your live Christmas tree!

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