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How to plant that live Christmas tree in your yard

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Doug Oster | Tribune-Review
Dwayne Evans is owner and manager of Best Feeds Garden Center on Babcock Boulevard in Ross. Even these smaller live trees could work inside and then be planted into the landscape.
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Doug Oster | Tribune-Review
Dwayne Evans, owner and manager of Best Feeds Garden Center in Ross, recommends a live tree for the holidays. Balled and burlap trees are often used as live Christmas trees.
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Doug Oster | Tribune-Review
Dwayne Evans, owner and manager of Best Feeds Garden Center in Ross, recommends a live tree for the holidays.
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Doug Oster | Tribune-Review
Dwayne Evans of Best Feeds Garden Center in Ross recommends Wilt Stop will help prevent the tree from transpiring moisture.
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Doug Oster | Tribune-Review
This plastic plant caddy is the perfect size to water the tree once it’s indoors.
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Doug Oster | Tribune-Review
Dwayne Evans, owner and manager of Best Feeds Garden Center in Ross, recommends a live tree for the holidays.

There’s an unmistakable pine scent released when brushing against the evergreen trees lined up outside of Best Feeds Garden Center’s location in Ross. That aroma conjures up childhood memories of sleepless nights and presents under the tree the next morning.

Owner and manager Dwayne Evans is getting ready for the holiday season, and he recommends trying a live Christmas tree this season, which is added to the landscape after the holiday.

“People are starting to do it more than they have in the past five to 10 years,” he says of planting a live tree. “But it’s something people used to do a lot.”

It’s a way to enjoy the tree for years to come, instead of just a month or less.

The shopping process for a live Christmas tree takes a little more thought, because you’re envisioning what the tree will look like inside as well as a part of your landscape.

There are white pines, Norway spruce, firs, blue spruce and many others to choose from. There are even smaller live trees that could be tabletop decorations.

“When you’re buying a tree,” Evans says, “it’s almost costing you as much to buy the cut tree as the live tree.” So why not give it a try?

Prepare now

It’s not as difficult as you might think, he says. But preparation begins now because the planting hole must be dug before the ground freezes.

“Shop first and see how big the root ball is,” Evans says. The planting hole should be about a foot wider than the root ball. That’s not as critical as the depth though. The tree should show its root flare near the trunk when planted. When digging the hole, use the shovel handle to get the depth close.

“It’s pretty simple,” Evans adds with a smile. “The roots are in the dirt; the trunk and branches are out of the dirt.”

Save that soil in a spot that won’t freeze, like on a piece of plywood in the garage. It will be used to backfill the hole once the tree is in the ground after the holiday.

Indoor care

It’s the transitions in and out of the house that are important. Evans recommends getting the tree about a week before Christmas and staging it somewhere outside where it’s protected from rain and snow.

No one wants to drag a wet, messy tree through the house. A bright spot under cover, such as a patio, would work and then it should go into the garage a day or two ahead of the move indoors.

“Once you get it inside,” he adds, “you have to remember it’s a living plant, it needs a drink.”

Putting the root ball in a tub or large plant tray and adding water sparingly would help make the tree happy. It should not be placed near a furnace register or in front of a bright sunny window, as those places can dry the tree out.

In a week tops, it needs to be transitioned back outside for a day or two in the garage, then the patio and eventually into the ground.

Evans has a great trick for making sure the tree does not transpire too much water when put outdoors. He sprays the needles with Wilt Pruf or Wilt Stop.

“It’s like us putting Chapstick on,” he says. “It helps to retain the moisture in the plant.”

He’s even seen the product applied before bringing the tree inside.

Planting the tree

Double check the depth when the tree is in the hole and adjust accordingly. Slice the bottom and sides of burlap (it will rot away) and untie the fabric from around the trunk. Leave the metal cage on, as it will hold the soil in place and bend down the protruding metal tabs so a string trimmer or lawnmower won’t encounter them.

A layer of mulch is a good idea; it should look like a doughnut — not a volcano — and never touch the trunk of the tree.

“The upside of doing this,” Evans says, “is you’re buying something and not throwing it away. You’re also helping the environment by putting something outside that helps to clean our air.

“Or maybe you want to hide your neighbor,” he adds with a laugh.

Article by Doug Oster,
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