Tis the season when lots of people drag a real tree into their house and decorate it. Some people buy live trees that are balled in burlap instead of a cut tree. A live tree is a great idea, but many people make serious mistakes when it comes to handling a live tree, and they end up losing their money.
The information in this article also pertains to any live tree you are planting, be it now during the winter, or during the summer.
1. Before you even take the tree in the house, dig a hole for the tree where you expect to plant it after the holidays. This will help you plant it more quickly and easily after Christmas. If you live in a cold climate, put the soil in a wheelbarrow and park it in the garage. You’ll need loose soil to backfill the hole, and the ground might be frozen after the holidays.
2. Keep your live tree in the house for as short a time as is possible. When choosing a balled in burlap tree for Christmas, consider putting your tree up only 1–2 weeks before Christmas. 7–10 days is even better.
3. Keep the ball plenty moist while in the house, but not in a tub full of water. You don’t want the ball to dry out completely, but by the same token it shouldn’t be soggy all the time either. Just moist. You can wet it thoroughly, but then don’t water again until the water is almost gone. Check it daily.
4. After Christmas move the tree outdoors as soon as possible and plant it immediately. If you were not able to dig the hole earlier, the ground is frozen, and the tree cannot be planted, leave it outside and pack bags of leaves or bales of straw around the ball. Find a way to heel it in in such a way that the amount of sun and wind the root ball receives is minimal.
5. Try and plant the tree immediately if you can. You do not want to store the tree on top of the ground during the winter if you can avoid it. Putting it in your garage is not a good idea either; it is likely to dry out in there. The absolute best place for the ball is in the ground, even if the ground has frozen after you dug the hole. Just set the tree in the hole and backfill with loose soil. Make sure there are no air pockets around the…