"Choosing your Christmas Tree" by Joan G. Hauser December 2009
This year, before you go to the tree lot to purchase your tree, make sure you know what size and shape will best suit your home. Choose accordingly. (Do not personalize and sympathetically choose the most pathetic. I have done this and it was a huge mistake!)
Concentrate on the freshness of the tree. There are several ways to check it out. Bend a needle to see how resilient it is. Bump the base of the tree hard on the ground. If needles fall, you may want to look elsewhere. (Some species, such as spruce, will drop needles even when fresh.) Touch the bottom of the stump to see if it feels sappy and moist. Douglas fir, Basalm fir, Austrian pine, Scotch pine, and White pine are the species that will best hold their needles for four or more weeks.
Let’s assume you’ve chosen a perfectly sized fresh tree. Now you want to make sure it will last through the holidays. Begin by cutting a section of about one inch off the end of the tree trunk.
There’s another green way to purchase a Christmas tree. Why not choose a live one for seasonal pleasure that will last and last? Begin by selecting the right tree at the right height for both indoors and outdoors. Check the root ball and make sure it is firm around the tree trunk and that the soil is not broken. Hardy species able to withstand the warm dry air in your home--such as Colorado Blue Spruce, Black Hills spruce, Norway spruce, Douglas fir, and Fraser fir are recommended.
Plan to keep your trees indoors for the shortest possible time so as not to dry out the needles too much. Inside, wrap the root ball in plastic to keep it moist and to prevent damage to your floor. Then put it in a tub or other container to help prop it up and protect the root ball. You can always paint the tub in Christmas colors ahead of time to add to your holiday decor.
Afterwards, when it’s time to retire your Christmas decorations, place the tree in a garage or unheated room, allowing it to remain there for a week to ten days so it can become acclimated to outdoor temperatures. Then place it in its tub in a protected place, such as the sheltered corner of a porch, where it will avoid sun or drying wind.
Your “new” tree may be planted in late March in a prepared hole. Water the planted tree well, fill in the soil and water again. Mulch it heavily until all danger of frost is past. You can dig the hole ahead of time or keep the soil from freezing to make later digging easier by covering the area with a heavy mulch of straw or leaves. When you place soil in the hole after planting, make sure its temperature is above freezing.
Next year, give the birds a treat by decorating your “new” tree for then. Spread the holiday spirit by hanging various kinds of bird food from its branches. You’ll enjoy looking at the many birds you attract and they’ll appreciate the treats in the midst of winter.