Getting a live, balled in burlap Christmas tree instead of a cut tree is a great idea, because a live tree will last forever in your yard. So, I’ll give you a few tips to make sure your live tree thrives for many years to come.
First, a live tree is like an outdoor dog. If you’ve ever had, or know someone who has a dog that stays outside, you know that if you bring that dog into the house, even on a cold winter day, first thing the dog wants is to go back outside. He’s used to it, and can’t take the heat of being inside a house when he’s wearing is fluffy winter coat.
This is the same with a tree. Long before that tree came into your life it has spent many a winter outside in the cold, and that’s what it prefers. With that in mind, keep your tree inside for as short a time as possible. After you buy the tree and bring it home leave it out in the weather until your ready to bring it inside. Don’t keep it in your garage. Even though unheated, your garage is too dry for a live tree.
The first thing you need to do is dig a hole in the yard where you are going to plant your tree after Christmas. The ground might be frozen after Christmas so dig the hole as soon as you get the tree. Be careful not to make the hole too deep. Once in the hole the top of the root ball should be at least one inch above grade. Planting a tree too deep will kill it.
Put the soil from the hole in a wheelbarrow and park the wheelbarrow in the garage to keep the soil from freezing. That way when you plant your tree, you’ll have loose soil to back fill around the root ball.
Once the tree is inside, keep the root ball watered, but not submersed in water. Water the tree by pouring water over top of the root ball, leaving an inch of water in the bottom of the container. It helps to keep the root ball covered with plastic to retain the moisture between waterings. Check the water level daily and water as needed. Do not let the root ball dry out.
Right after Christmas remove the tree from the house and into the hole immediately. Even if the ground is frozen, get the root ball of the tree into the hole and back fill it with the soil you removed from the hole when you dug it. If that soil is frozen and you can’t back fill the hole, still place the root ball in the hole and cover the root ball with leaves, straw, something until you can get the tree planted properly.
Do not fertilize the tree. Give it a chance to get acclimated to its new home. I rarely fertilize any plant in my landscape, and they do just fine without me meddling with their diet.
Mike McGroarty is the owner of McGroarty Enterprises and the author of several books. You can visit his website at Freeplants.com and read his blog at Mikesbackyardnursery.com.
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