Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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November 26, 2012

Lori Bowling, Boyd County Extension: Picking the perfect Christmas tree: 11/27/12

ASHLAND — For many families it is an annual event, choosing the perfect Christmas tree for the holiday season.

Many are choosing to purchase a live tree as opposed to a cut tree.  

The live trees are ones that can be planted in the landscape around the home where they can be enjoyed for years to come.  If your family is thinking of purchasing a live tree this year here are a few pointers to remember since you will be bringing a temperate tree indoors for a period of time.

‰Living trees are marketed as balled and burlapped or potted plants so you should be aware that these will cost more than cut trees. Also be aware that nurseries are usually not too likely to guarantee your purchase since the tree is not going to planted during the normal planting season.

‰You need to consider where you plan to place the tree in the landscape as most species of Christmas trees reach a full grown height of 40-60 feet.

‰Pick out your tree early and choose a nicely shaped plant. Remember that the tree should remain inside for no longer than 7-10 days.

‰You should go ahead and dig the hole for planting  and store the tree in this location until time to bring it into the home for the holiday season. It is important to keep the roots moist.  Digging the hole ahead of time will help to avoid any problems if we should have inclement weather when the time comes to plant the tree out.

‰Once you bring the tree indoors, the main concern is to insure that it doesn’t dry out. Avoid placing your tree near a heat source or other drafty place.  It is best to keep the tree on the cool side.  Place the tree in a large tub or cover the root ball in plastic to avoid water being spilled out onto the floor.  When you do water your tree be sure to water slowly so that it can soak into the ball and not run off, one way to do this may be to place ice around the top of the soil so it can slowly melt and soak into the soil.  Be sure not to keep the rootball too wet as this may damage the root system.

‰Once the holiday is over, the tree should be planted immediately in your pre-dug hole.  Water it well after filling in the hole with the soil.  You will also need to water periodically through the winter if we do not have significant rain or snow events, the general rule of thumb is 1 inch of rainfall or water per week.

If you choose to go with a fresh cut tree, as with a live tree, you should determine where you will place the tree inside the home so that you don’t select one that may not fit the area.  You will want to check the tree for freshness by taking hold of a branch about 6 inches from the tip and pull your hand towards the tip allowing the branch to slip through your fingers.  

If the tree is fresh there will be very few needles to come off in your hand.  Another way to check for freshness is to lift the tree off the ground and tap it abruptly on its stump end.

 The green needles on the outside should not fall off in large numbers, a small amount is normal.  The needles on the inside of the tree may shed due to natural needle drop that occurs each year.  The most important thing to remember, as with a live tree, is that real trees need water. When you get the tree home and before taking it inside, you should make a fresh cut across the trunk 1/4” up from the original cut.

The reason for this is that when the tree was first cut is developed a seal of sap over the cut area which keeps moisture in the tree.  You need to break the moisture seal to allow for the tree to start taking up water that will be needed to keep it fresh through the holiday season.

If you are not ready to bring the tree in when you purchase it, it is best to keep it standing in a bucket of water and protected from wind and the sun.  Again, once you bring it in be sure to keep plenty of water in your tree stand.  Christmas trees can absorb a gallon of water in the first 24 hours it is up and after that around 2 pints to a gallon of water a day.

If the water is allowed to run out of the stand, a new sap seal will form on the cut surface and a new cut will need to be made. As with the live trees you will need to keep cut trees away from heat sources such as fireplaces, furnace vents and television sets.

Be sure to check your light cords and connections before you put them on the tree to make sure they are in good working condition.  

Don’t forget to unplug the lights when you go to bed or leave home whether you have a live tree or artificial one.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season!

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