Q: We decided that this year we wanted a live tree. We can enjoy it inside, then let the grandkids help us plant it after Christmas. We can enjoy the tree and memories for years to come. Do you have any advice?
A: First, keep the tree watered while in the house. But just as important is don’t keep it in the house any more than a week – 10 days max. The longer you keep it warm, the more difficult it will be for the tree to readjust to winter outside. If the weather prevents you from planting it right away, take it outside and protect the root ball. Put it in a shady area and cover the roots with a heavy layer of leaves, straw or mulch to prevent drying and the freeze-thaw cycling.
As you have already found out, the rootball is quite heavy. Moving it is not a one person job. And it is important to recognize that Nature did not create that trunk to act as a handle. Lifting and supporting the weight of the rootball by the stem can cause serious and lasting damage to the tree. If necessary, try setting it on a heavy tarp and sliding it, then tipping and rolling the ball into the planting hole.
Choose the site carefully. Consider the mature size of the tree. A white pine, for example, is fast growing and will get to 50 feet of more in 25 years. Avoid a location under power lines, too close to the house, or where needles will collect in the gutters. Also, it is an evergreen tree, so think about year-round shade and how it may impact garden areas or shade the house or driveway in winter.
Dig the hole ahead of time in case the ground freezes again. Dig just deep enough that the root ball will be sitting at the original depth, but dig the hole twice as wide as the ball. As you backfill, mix in a little super phosphate, about two cups for a typical 6 or 8 foot tree. Settle the soil by watering as you go.
Keep the tree well watered – about once a month during the first growing season. If you selected a Fraser fir, plant in a partly shaded spot and be especially attentive as they do not survive well below 3000 feet elevation.
for additional information http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/selection-and-care-of-living-christmas-trees
Written by Glenn Palmer, originally published in the Asheville Citizen Times, 2010.