Saturday, November 22, 2003

Keep your tree looking good

After you get home with a tree, how do you keep it looking fresh?

Live tree

• Make certain the root ball is solid with no signs of crumbling. Be sure the root ball is the correct size. For example, a 5- to 6-foot tree should have an 18- to 22-inch root ball. The root ball should be protected with a natural material, such as loose wood chips or straw. Buy some mulch and put it around the root ball until you bring the tree in the house.

• As soon as you buy a tree, locate and dig a hole where you want to plant it. The ground might be frozen after New Year's Day.

• Store soil in the garage in a wheel barrow or other container.

• Introduce the tree gradually to warm temperatures inside a house by storing it a garage or shed.

• If there is plastic over the burlap, remove it and water the tree. Allow excess water to run off the root ball, then rewrap it with plastic to protect your floors before moving the tree inside.

• Don't leave the tree inside too long - two to three weeks is maximum to assure the tree remains dormant.

• When it's time for the tree to go outside, reintroduce it to the cold with a layover in the garage.

• Dig a hole that is wider and slightly deeper than the circumference of the root ball. Mix Canadian sphagnum peat moss with soil in the bottom of the hole. Position the tree in the hole (a job for two).

• Once the tree is in place, water thoroughly. Cut the twine that holds the burlap around the root ball but leave the burlap intact, it will rot with time. Pack peat moss and soil tightly around the root ball. Water thoroughly once again.

Cut tree

• Until ready to decorate, store the tree in a cool place away from sun and wind.

• Trim the trunk end on the diagonal 1 inch above the original cut. This opens the pores and helps the tree absorb water.

• Plunge stump into a bucket of fresh warm water. Keep the tree in water until you move it inside.

• Before decorating, mist the needles and branches with water.

• Buy a 1-gallon water stand. Fill it with a mixture of 7-Up and water. (The sugar in the 7-Up prolongs the tree's life.) Check water level the first 12 hours, then every 24 hours after that.

• In the house, place the tree away from fireplaces, heaters, TVs and sunny windows.

Recycling cut trees

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, 93 percent of consumers report that they recycle their Christmas trees.

Communities offer a variety of recycling programs. To find out what's offered in your area, visit the National Christmas Tree Association Web site and type in your ZIP code after Dec. 15, or call your municipal offices.

Shredded trees can be composted. They also make great mulch.

In rural areas, some leave old Christmas trees outside for birds and animals to use as cover in the winter.

Tim Morehouse, Richard Feist

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