First of all, get it out of the house soon. Ideally a week in a heated home would be maximum. But remember, nature didn’t put that stem there to be used as a handle. Never pick it up by the stem! The root ball is heavy and you can damage the tree that way.
Choose the planting site now. Recognize that this six foot tree will grow, so consider its size twenty years from now, both height and width. In other words don’t put it under a power line or right next to the front door.
If the ground is frozen I suggest waiting for warmer weather because it’s hard to pulverize frozen soil for backfill. If you can’t plant it right away store the tree in semi-shade out of the wind. Keep it vertical and the root ball moist. Covering the ball with leaves will help to retain moisture and insulate against a freeze-thaw cycle that can damage the roots.
You’ll want the root ball to sit on firm soil at the same depth it was growing in the field. Dig the hole a lot wider than the ball but not deeper.
A ball wrap of natural burlap will decompose so you don’t need to remove it. Open it and fold it under so that it won’t restrict root growth or act as a wick, drying the soil around the ball. If the wrap is plastic, though, remove the wrap after the tree is in place.
To encourage root growth, mix a little, about a cupful, of superphosphate, 0-46-0, into the hole as you backfill. Add water to settle the soil and eliminate voids. Don’t fertilize with nitrogen because you don’t want to encourage the growth of new needles now.
Finally, plan on giving that tree lots of TLC for the next three years. It’s been through a very traumatic experience, one you want it to forget.
Recycle your Christmas Tree! Christmas trees will be collected by the city of Asheville according to the regular brush collection schedule. Residents are asked to remove lights, tinsel, ornaments, and stands prior to placing the trees to the curb for collection.
Residents can also drop off Christmas trees for recycling at the Buncombe County Landfill located at 81 Panther Branch Road and at private yard waste facilities.
Article written by Glenn Palmer, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.