Tips For Selecting and Taking Care of a Live/Living Christmas Tree

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Choosing the Perfect Tree

Each holiday season, many shoppers are confronted with a choice: Celebrate with a fresh, real tree; or choose an artificial, plastic or aluminum tree.  It’s important to realize that the best choice has always been the traditional and natural choice. In other words, real Christmas Trees benefits the environment by absorbing carbon dioxide and other gases and emitting fresh oxygen. Not to mention, the farms that grow Christmas Trees stabilize the soil, protect water supplies, and provide refuge for wildlife.  Meanwhile, artificial trees are a petroleum-based product manufactured primarily in Chinese factories.  The average family uses an artificial tree for six to nine years as a result it will remain in a landfill for centuries after disposal. By the same token live Christmas tree’s are biodegradable.

Whether looking for a pre-cut (fresh) tree, choose and cut experience or a living Christmas tree for your holiday season.  With this in mind, you will find a wide variety of tree types that offer something for everyone. When selecting your  Christmas tree remember these tips. 

Tips for:

Pre-cut (fresh) trees

  • Measure your space to begin with
  • Determine which tree by learning about the different species
  • What type of decorations you will be using
  • Ask questions about the trees at the lot
  • Do a branch/needle test for freshness
  • Look for other indicators of dryness or deterioration
  • How will I recycle my tree?

Choose-and-cut farm experience

  • Go to the farm prepared for a day in the country
  • equipment to bring
  • pricing
  • tree size
  • needles
  • cutting your tree down
  • transportation

Earth-friendly living

  • Requires more planning at home
  • Somewhere to keep it cool
  • Pre-dug hole in landscaping
  • Handling the tree and root ball
  • Container to keep tree healthy
  • Living Christmas tree are available from nurseries and garden centers

Therefore, what’s the difference between a fresh Christmas tree and a living tree? Roots, of course!

These Christmas tree species can be found at nearly every choose-and-cut farm or tree lot.

Fraser Fir: 

Continue to increase in popularity given these points. Fraser fir has blue-green needles with silvery undersides.  The branches are stiff and hold up well to ornaments. They have good form and needle retention is excellent. In fact the trees have a pleasant scent and excellent shipping characteristics.

Scotch Pine:

Is the tree species that has long defined the favorite for traditionalists indeed. Scotch pines are dense trees with dark-green needles.  Stiff branches hold up well to ornaments and needle retention is excellent. Needles don’t even fall when they are dry with this in mind. Scotch pine has an excellent survival rate, is easy to replant, has great keep ability  and will remain fresh through the holiday season. Indeed an economical choice.

Douglas Fir:

Is a dense tree with soft light green needles. You’ll need to stick with lighter weight ornaments. Because, branches are not as stiff and radiate in all directions from the branch. Needles will have a sweet fragrance if crushed.  Indeed, great choice for budget-conscious consumers.

Blue Spruce:

Remains a popular Christmas tree because of its bright blue color. Branches are stiff and hold ornaments well. Needles are sharp so be sure to wear gloves and long sleeves when handling. Some people choose the Blue Spruce to keep pets away from the tree.

White Pine:

The largest pine in U.S., has soft, flexible needles and is bluish green in color. Require light weight ornaments. White pine have good needle retention but little aroma.  For consumers that have a high ceiling and want a larger tree, white pine can be an economical choice.

Balsam Fir:

Long been a preferred species for many consumers because of its strong Christmas tree scent. This tree  has dark green needles and excellent form.

Concolor Fir:

These small, narrow needles approx. 1′ -1 1/2″ in length and occur in rows.  Meanwhile, they have good foliage, color, and needle retention and a pleasing shape and aroma.

Noble Fir:

These needles turn upward, exposing the lower branches.  Known for its beauty, the noble fir has a long keep ability.  It’s stiff branches make it a good tree for heavy ornaments, as well as excellent greenery for wreaths and garland.

Leyland Cypress:

The most popular Christmas tree in the southeast.  Is dark green and gray in color and has very little aroma.  Because it’s not in the pine or fir family, it does not produce sap. So, those with an allergy to sap can still enjoy a live tree.

Virginia Pine:

The branches are stout and woody and respond very well to trimming.  The tree is small to medium in size and its foliage becomes extremely dense. This pine continues to be one of the more popular Christmas tree in the south.

Up and coming varieties of Christmas trees

Michigan growers continue to add species to their mix. For more information on other lesser-known trees, see “Christmas trees for connoisseurs: Try an exotic species this year http://www.msue.anr.msu.edu/news/christmas_trees_for_connoisseurs).”

Korean Fir:

Korean fir is native to Asia, as noted by the name. Grows well in our climate and soil.  It has dark green needles with striking silvery undersides.  The form and unique texture add to this species appeal.

Canaan Fir:

Canaan fir does combine many of the characteristics of balsam fir with better needle retention of Fraser fir.  It is sometimes described as a hybrid between balsam fir and Fraser fir, but is actually a specific seed source from balsam fir. From the Canaan Valley of West Virginia.

Caring for your Christmas Tree

So you got your Christmas tree, brought it home and now you need to decide how you care for it until after the holidays?. Don’t worry it is simple. A Christmas Tree is nothing but a giant cut flower, so taking care of it is pretty much the same process. Your main job is to keep the tree as moist as possible as long as it is in your home. By correctly treating the tree before it comes indoors, while it is indoors, and through the holiday you can keep the tree moist and beautiful by simply doing basic maintenance.

Pre-cut trees and choose and cut farm

Treating Tree

  1. Prepare a large bucket full of warm water.
  2. Cut 1/2 inch or more of the base of the tree off.  Sap and dirt can accumulate on the bottom and block pores that take up water.
  3. Set the tree into the bucket of water.
  4. Let it sit for a few hours, or a few days. This is very important! Don’t let the base dry out or you will have to cut the base again.

Putting the tree into the stand

  1. First make sure there is a big enough reservoir for the tree. Stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Never let the tee dry out while it is indoors – just check the water in the stand once or twice daily.
  2. Use Rooster’s Organic Compost tea for nutrients. Plants need Nitrogen, Phosphate, and Potash to stay healthy.
  3. Misting our Christmas tree can help to keep moisture in the needles and branches. Be careful could damage decorations, presents, and flooring beneath the tree. If you are misting, keep it very light and try to do it frequently rather than getting the tree dripping wet.
  4. Avoid heating or air ducts around the base of the tree, as they will only dry out tree faster.  Actually try a colder area, but that might not be practical.
  5. Try to use low heat emitting lights on your tree, they are safer and less damage in drying the tree out.
  6. Always turn off the tree lights when leaving the house or when going to bed.
  7. Monitor the tree for freshness. If the tree is very dry, remove it from the house.

Removal/Recycling of the tree

The best way to avoid a mess removing your tree. Use plastic tree bag.  After the holidays, pull bag up around the tree. Carry  it outside. Remove stand and recycle the tree. There are many options for recycling as I have listed below.

  1. Soil erosion barriers: Some communities use Christmas trees to make effective sand and soil erosion barriers
  2. Fish feeders: Sunk into private fish ponds, trees make an excellent refuge and feeding area for fish.
  3. Bird feeders: Try laying it on its side near a bird feeder, for protection and cover.
  4. Mulch: A Christmas tree is biodegradable; its branches may be remove, chipped, and used as mulch in the garden. Cut off the branches and use them to mulch over perennial beds. Wind protection for newly planted scrubs.
  5. Compost: Cut up and use in your compost pile.
  6. Drop it off : Tree recycling center and mulching programs are a fast growing trend in communities.
  7. Non-Profit pickup: Some Boy Scout Troops offer a pickup service for a small donation.

Earth Living /Rooted Trees

Planning, what size and how to plant

Choosing a living tree and getting it to survive in the winter, however, offers the consumer a number of challenges. Warm indoor temperatures can break the tree’s dormancy, sending signals to tender buds that it is time to grow.  January planting will expose those newly buds to killing winter temperatures. Here are some tips for living Christmas trees.

  1. Plan ahead for planting.  Dig hole before the ground freezes and cover it up with mulch, compost, leaves, or straw. Dig the hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide.
  2. Keep the tree inside only for a short period of time – two weeks maximum.  You may need to purchase the tree and store it in a cold garage or shed, just until you’re ready to bring it in.
  3. You may need to choose a shorter tree with a smaller root ball for handling. Keep in mind that the pot or root ball will give the tree added height in your living room.
  4. Root ball must stay moist. May utilize as much water as a fresh-cut tree.
  5. Use Rooster’s Organic Compost tea to fertilize.
  6. Allow tree to acclimate to outdoor temperatures gradually by placing it in an unheated garage or shed for several days before planting.
  7. Water tree at planting time. Helps eliminate air pockets underneath the root ball.
  8. Cover the top of the soil with a 3-inch layer of mulch or compost. Mulch will insulate and protect the roots.
  9. Continue watering several times throughout the winter.

Green plastic, no matter  you shape it will not replace the natural, fragrant beauty of a true fir or blue spruce Christmas tree.

Trees for the troops

Imagine a smiling group of U.S. troops gathered around a Christmas Tree that was grown on an American farm and shipped to arrive fresh and green somewhere on the other side of the world. Imagine a spouse and children sharing joyous memories of Christmas through the gift of free tree. You can support Trees for troops through your tax-deductible donation or by becoming a sponsor of the Christmas Spirit Foundation.