How to Grow: Christmas Trees

Learn how to select live holiday trees and how to plant a live one in your yard after the holidays

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There’s something special about stomping through the snow on a cold winter morning to pick out a holiday tree. Although I grew up with the classic plastic tree, as an adult I love the feel and smell of a good balsam tree.

Here’s how to select the best tree. First, decide on the type of evergreen. Balsam has a great fragrance. Blue spruce has stiff needles, but can drop needles in a warm room. Scotch pine has stiff branches and needles that stay on the tree even when dry. White pine has soft, long needles and weak branches that can support only small ornaments.

When picking out a pre-cut tree, tap the tree on the ground a few times and run your hand along the branch to see if the needles come off. Measure your tree accurately. It’s amazing how trees seem to grow once brought inside the house. Re-cut the base of the tree and place it in cool water. If the water dries out you’ll have to re-cut the base.

Another option is to buy a live evergreen tree that will be planted in the ground in January. Dig your hole now where you’ll want to plant the tree. Place the soil on a tarp in a garage or warm place where it won’t freeze. Keep your tree in a cool garage or shed and keep it well watered. Bring it indoors for only about one week. Any longer and it will break dormancy and may get winter injured when planted outdoors. After the holidays, transition the tree back into the garage for a few weeks and then plant it in the ground. Protect the tree with a burlap windscreen.

And now for this week’s tip, check houseplants for fungus gnats. These small black insects fly up around your houseplants from the soil. Repot the plants, cover the potting soil with a thin layer of sand or drench the soil with Gnatrol, a form of Bacillus thuringiensis to kill the larvae.

From The Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio.

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