Caring for Your Tree
If properly cared for, your Christmas tree will stay fresh for at least several weeks (some customers report Concolor Fir Trees retaining their color and needles until after Easter, but we do not encourage such procrastination!) Here are the three basic rules:
- If you are putting your tree in its stand when you get home, simply water it immediately. It does not appear that adding sugar, aspirin or anything else to the water makes any difference.
- If you are not putting up your tree immediately, store it in a cool, shaded location. When you are ready to put the tree in its stand, first cut approximately ½ inch from the bottom of the trunk. Then water the tree.
- In either case never, ever, allow the level of the water in your tree stand to drop below the bottom of the cut trunk. If it does, the sap at the trunk end clots, sealing the tree and making it unable to drink water, regardless of how much water is in the stand.
The care of a balled and burlapped tree is much different from that of a cut tree. If you wish to purchase a Christmas Tree to be planted later, the most important rule is to plan ahead. Success will depend on maintaining the tree at a cool, uniform temperature with adequate moisture, and then planting the tree correctly in an appropriate location.
- Choose the right site. Firs and spruce trees demand well-drained soil. Pines will survive a more clay-like environment. Think about the site in terms of the matured size of the tree, not its dimensions in the next year or two. The three species White Spruce, Blue Spruce, and Concolor Fir are slow growing but will reach heights of 90, 100 and 120 feet respectively. White Pine and Norway Spruce are fast growing up to 100 and 150 feet respectively. Beware. Many live trees have to be removed after a few years because they have become an obstacle to houses, drives, power lines, or killed by salt spray from winter roads.
- Dig the right hole at the right time. Preferably before the ground freezes (!), dig the hole one foot larger than the size of tree ball you are planning to buy. Here, in approximate terms, is what to plan for:
- 2-3' tree has a root ball 18" in diameter and weighs 50 pounds.
- 3-4' tree has a ball 18-20" and weighs 70 pounds.
- 4-5' tree has a ball 20" and weighs 80 pounds.
- 5-6' tree has a ball 24" and weighs 175 pounds
- Bringing the tree home. Place in a cool garage or porch 7-10 days to begin the process of helping the tree adjust to warmer temperatures. Dampen the ball only if it begins looking dry. Spraying the tree with a commercial anti-desiccant (e.g. Wilt-Proof) can help the tree retain moisture in the difficult months ahead.
- Move the tree indoors. Wrap the soil ball in a plastic garbage bag to hold moisture and prevent floor damage. Then set in a large tub or container at the coolest location available for holiday display. Provide moderate amounts of water, never allowing the soil to become either dry or muddy.
- After the holiday. Unless its location is very cool, we recommend leaving the tree indoors no more 5-7 days. Then take the tree back to the garage, or unheated porch etc. to help it adjust to outside temperatures. This is extremely important and may take up to two weeks. Remove any plastic covering.
- Plant the tree. Remove the leaves, straw etc. from your pre-dug hole. Remove any wire or string from the ball. Burlap should be cut or rolled back but need not be entirely removed. Place the tree in the hole no more than one inch deeper than it stood in the field; many trees die from being planted too deeply. Using the soil stored in step 1 above, fill dirt firmly around the ball in the hole. Pack down the dirt as you fill the hole. Water if conditions are extremely dry. Mulch around the base of the tree to a depth of 3-4 inches and stake as needed to hold the tree upright against winds.
- The First Year. The tree should be watered regularly and deeply, especially during any dry periods. When watering, the soil should be soaked around the base of the tree. However your tree should not be standing in a puddle of water for any long period of time. That is a sign of a poorly drained, clay soil where the tree will probably not survive. No liquid or granular fertilizer should be applied until after the tree's second year of growth. If you wish to fertilize in the first year, use only slow release tablets put several inches into the surrounding ground after the tree has been planted.