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WICHE: Live or live cut for the holidays?

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Each of your options can afford some special issues to understand -- especially about replanting a live tree.

By Jeneen Wiche

Picking out the perfect Christmas tree was something that I used to take very serious: All the cleaning and moving of furniture and packing of boxes and light-stringing and unstringing required a tree worth the effort. I have scaled back in recent years but still see the fun in finding a tree that fits your space and holds precious ornaments with style.

So which type of tree reflects your holiday? Do you get a fresh-cut, artificial, balled-and-burlapped? Or do you just go out-of-town and let someone else do the decorating?

 All are certainly acceptable, but there are different rules that apply to each. Obviously the artificial ilk has few restrictions, but there are some things to remember if you get a fresh cut or balled burlapped tree for planting after the holidays.

When choosing a fresh-cut tree use your sense of smell and touch: Fresh trees will be more fragrant, and the needles will be flexible yet firm. Certainly take into account the type of tree because the needles of a white pine will be softer than that of a Fraser fir.

Also check the freshness by bouncing the butt of the trunk on the ground a couple of times to see how many needles actually fall from the tree. A few green and brown needles are normal.

If you are not quite ready to bring the tree in once you have purchased it then just get it in water and store it outside in the shade. The sooner you can get the trunk recut and in water the better…and in order to get your tree to drink you must have the stump end recut. The original cut sealed over long ago so no water will be absorbed unless a fresh cut is made. Get the folks at the garden center to recut the end just before you leave and pop it into a pale of water as soon as you get home. Ideally our trees will drink about a quart of water a day when fresh.

The majority of fresh-cut trees that are purchased in Kentuckiana come from tree farms out of North Carolina and these growers are anticipating a bumper crop out of the state for 2012. so we should see some quality trees at our local garden centers. Local you-cut operations are an option for live-cut trees, too. Check with your county extension office for local growers.

Live-cut trees are a renewable resource and one that you can reuse and recycle in the garden once you are finished. If you have beds of iris or daylilies, for example, cut the branches from the used tree and place them over the crowns of the plants to prevent them from heaving out of the ground due to freezing and thawing. Remove the branches in early spring before new growth begins.

Purchasing a balled and burlapped tree for the holidays is a popular tradition for many families, but those trees take some special care. A live evergreen is not well-suited to the indoor environment during the holidays. Our homes are typically dry and warm, and if a live evergreen (intended to live outside) is in this environment too long, it will break dormancy; the tree should stay in the house for about one week, tops. Keep your house as cool as you can and make sure that the root ball stays moist.

The logistics of having a live b and b tree can be tricky. Root balls easily can weigh 75 to 100 pounds, so moving the tree in and out of the house is no easy task. Keep the size as small as possible, preferably no taller than 6 feet. A smaller tree can be moved around more easily without damaging the root ball. You want to make sure that the root ball remains intact and doesn’t loosen or crumble under the weight of the tree.

Because planting will take place shortly after Christmas be prepared for the weather. Based on how our weather has been, the ground likely will not be freezing, but it could be soggy wet, which could cause problems digging.

Consider digging your hole now and covering it with plastic, so it is ready to go and you can get the tree into the ground right after Christmas.

 

Check out gardening columnist Jeneen Wiche’s work at www.SwallowRailFarm.com. You can find her columns also at www.SentinelNews.com/agriculture. She answers questions once a month in SentinelNewsPlus. To submit a question, send an E-mail to jwiche@shelbybb.netand type “Sentinel-News” in the subject field.