Christmas tree buyers guide | PostIndependent.com
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Christmas tree buyers guide

Guest commentaryBill Ekstrom

The holiday season is here, and many of us will be selecting a Christmas tree. Whether the tree is fresh-cut or live, the following tips may help:When buying a cut tree, look at it carefully to see how fresh it is. The tree should have a healthy, green appearance without dead or browning needles. Try lifting the tree by its butt end and dropping it a few inches to the ground. The outer green needles should stay on the tree. They should appear fresh and flexible and, when the tree is stroked, should not come off in your hand. Watch for spray-painted trees that have dried out.Next, ask the tree supplier to cut one or two inches off the butt of the trunk. Through this fresh cut, the tree will absorb moisture more readily, making it last longer. Once the tree is home, it’s important to set it in water as soon as possible so the cut area doesn’t seal over. Also, always keep the water level above the cut area. The tree will absorb quite a bit of water the first week or so after purchase.Despite various sugar-in-water recipes said to prolong a cut Christmas tree’s life, little research supports their effectiveness. Keeping the tree trunk in tap water still appears to yield the best results.The tree might stay fresh longer by using a spray-mist bottle to spray water onto the needles. This will help preserve moisture in the needles. Do this after unplugging the lights and after they have cooled. Avoid placing the tree next to a heat duct, fireplace or radiator. Also avoid placing it near a south window, as the heat from the sun could burn that side of the tree.When buying a living tree, consider a local nursery or garden center – you will be supporting a local business. The trees are fresh (usually not spray-painted to look dark green) and, if they’re in the house only a short while and are kept relatively cool, they can be planted after the holiday to produce a good addition to the landscape. Container-grown evergreen trees often have a better chance of survival than balled and burlapped trees. It is important to dig the hole for the tree before the ground freezes to plant the tree easily after the holidays. Fill this hole with leaves or mulch so not to freeze, then cover with a board. Store the excavated soil in a spot where it won’t freeze. If you can’t dig the hole before the ground freezes, overwinter the tree in a cool space that receives light. The temperature where the tree is stored should be above freezing but below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Water the tree as needed.After buying the evergreen tree, acclimate it to the house by placing it in a protected place for a week, such as in an unheated garage or shed. The tree will dry out quickly, so keep its roots moist and its branches misted. Indoors, keep the tree away from heat. The cooler the temperature and shorter the tree’s time indoors, the better. Don’t let the room get warmer than 68 degrees Fahrenheit or keep the tree inside the house longer than a week. After the holidays, harden-off the tree by returning it to its protected place for a week; then plant it if weather permits. Fill the hole with soil you have stored, then water. Mulch around the tree, and water it during the winter and spring as needed. For more information, contact the Grand Junction Colorado State University cooperative extension office at (970) 241-3346. Happy holidays!Bill Ekstrom is an agent of agriculture, 4-H youth, and natural resources for the CSU cooperative extension in Rio Blanco County.Bill Ekstrom is an agent of agriculture, 4-H youth, and natural resources for the CSU cooperative extension in Rio Blanco County.


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