In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
December, 2003
Regional Report

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No snow in sight, but Christmas trees have arrived anyway!

Christmas Trees

I was scouring a local nursery for just the right size container this weekend when I realized that the intense aroma wafting about came from a shipment of Christmas trees that workers were unloading and setting up. There's nothing like that fresh pine scent to encourage a holiday mood!

Living Trees
These container trees are grown outdoors and suddenly being thrust into your home's less-than-ideal growing conditions will be a shock. If manageable, soak the entire container in a larger bucket or wheelbarrow of water to ensure the entire rootball is well moistened. When indoors, maintain consistently moist soil. A simple trick is to put ice cubes on the soil and let them melt, which prevents sloshing and dripping from a watering can. Place the tree in a sunny location, but keep it away from heating units and fireplaces to prevent needles from drying out.

When the season is over and it's time to move the tree back outside, that's another shock to its system. The tree started acclimating to the warmer indoors and now it's thrust back into the cold. Place the container in a sheltered location out of strong winds, such as beneath eaves of the house. Maintain soil moisture and protect the tree if frost is predicted. Wait to plant until late winter/early spring after danger of frost is past.

Cut Trees
With cut trees, it's essential that they can uptake water to maintain fresh needles that won't dry and drop too quickly. Saw off about 2 inches of the trunk just before putting it in the tree stand. A fresh cut helps the tree uptake water. Tree lots will do this for you, but make sure you are headed straight home because the cut will start to seal fairly rapidly. Trees can absorb a lot of water so check the stand daily and add water (or ice cubes) as needed. Place cut trees out of direct sun and keep away from heating units and fireplaces.

When it's time to dispose of a cut tree, check with your town or city for recycling drop-off points. Many park and recreation departments make mulch out of the trees. Or you could make mulch yourself. I once scattered pine branches on garden paths, and for a long time they released that wonderful pine scent everytime I stepped on them.

Happy Holidays!


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