Community Agriculture Alliance: Holiday tree care
The holidays are upon us, and for many, that comes with the age-old tradition of putting up a tree. One of my favorite traditions is taking my family to a forested area and scouring the hillsides for the perfect tree, always excited to have that fresh-cut scent once again filling our home.
If you crave adventure, you might consider going out and cutting your own tree, too. The U.S. Forest Service sells permits for about $10. Bureau of Land Management sells permits for $10 per tree, and each household may get as many as three permits. Check with your local USFS or BLM office for details and for permit purchase.
Also, remember that private property is just that: private. Don’t enter private land unless you have explicit permission to do so.
Cutting the tree is easiest as a two-person project. The “tree feller” (not “fell,” tree cutting is equal-opportunity) usually lies on the ground while the helper holds the bottom limbs up. While the cut is being made, the helper should tug on the side of the tree opposite the cut to ensure that the saw kerf remains open, keeping the saw from binding.
Hunting for a perfect tree isn’t for everyone, however. If you’re going to buy a live tree from a local vendor, you have a lot of options to choose from with size, species and price all being considerations. These trees, typically grown on family tree plantations, are part of a sustainable, green industry.
When you go to a tree retailer, make sure to choose a fresh tree. A fresh tree will have a healthy green appearance with few browning needles. Needles should be flexible and not fall off if you run a branch through your hand. Raise the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it on the butt end. Very few green needles should drop off the tree. It is normal for a few inner brown needles to drop off.
Before any live tree comes inside, cut 1 1/2 inches off the bottom of the tree and immediately plunge it into a bucket of water. Otherwise, sap will seal the bottom of the tree and keep water from entering. Have your tree stand ready and work quickly so you can get it back in water right away.
Trees take about 1 quart of water for every inch of diameter of the trunk, so be prepared to water the tree several times each day. Remember that if it goes dry, the sap can reseal the trunk. Also, to help keep the tree fresh, keep it away from heat sources and out of direct sunlight.
When the holidays are over, recycle your tree. The resulting mulch will be a great addition to your yard in the spring.
Finally, don’t forget that you can have a real, growing tree in your home, as well. Buying a potted tree and planting it in the spring can help keep the holiday spirit alive in your yard for years to come. For a better chance of success, let trees acclimate to the change from indoor/outdoor temperatures by placing them in the garage for a few days before and after the holiday. Also, remember that potted trees should be kept well-watered and shouldn’t be in the home more than a week.
This year, enjoy your holidays with a live tree, and leave plastic to make the gifts that go under it.
Todd Hagenbuch is an extension agent for CSU Extension office.
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