Tree Care

Care of Fresh Cut Trees in the Home

Tree freshness is always a concern. A visit to a choose-and-cut farm and cutting your own tree is one way to assure freshness. Pre-cut trees on retail lots require a closer inspection. The foliage of a pre-cut tree should be flexible when the needle is bent and when the tree is shook very few needles should drop. As soon as you get your tree home, make a fresh straight ¼ inch cut across the base of the trunk and place it in a bucket of water. Use a tree stand that will hold a gallon or more of water. A fresh tree may take up three or more quarts of water a day for the first few days after it is placed in water. Do not place the tree near a source of heat and never let the water level in the bowl drop below the base of the tree. Make sure light cords are in good working order and are turned off when you go to bed or leave the house.

Care of Fresh Trees on a Retail Lot

Fresh, real, Virginia grown Christmas trees can be found on many retail lots across the Commonwealth. Some of these lots are run by tree growers themselves and others are garden centers, nurseries, service groups and general retail sites. Growers and retailers share the common goal of making Christmas come alive. Fresh, real Christmas trees connect grown-ups with cherished traditions of Christmas past and create joy for children that lives into Christmas future.

A cut, fresh Christmas tree has the same appearance and feel as it did before it was cut. The foliage is supple, the tree has a natural dark green color and the needles hold tight to the branches.

A fresh tree has the capacity to take up water. When a Christmas tree is cut, over half of its weight is water. With proper care, you can maintain the freshness of the trees displayed on your lot.

But, without proper care, a tree begins to dry and lose the ability to take up water. Without water, the branches and needles gradually become stiff and brittle. The color begins to bleach out to a pale green or yellow-green and eventually, the needles began to fall.

Handling Christmas Trees on the Retail Lot

Introduction

Quality Christmas trees can be made available to consumers only if proper handling procedures are followed during harvest, shipping, storage and display.

The retail lot is a critical point in this process where trees are often maintained in less than optimal conditions. However, by observing a few simple guidelines, the retailer can provide customers with fresher, more desirable trees.

Care and Handling Procedures

Heat, wind and sunlight are the greatest enemies to maintaining freshness of cut Christmas trees. At temperatures above 70 degrees F, unbaled trees on retail lots can lose up to half their moisture in as little as 24 hours. Any technique which increases the humidity of the air surrounding the trees will slow the rate of moisture loss, thereby maintaining freshness. Trees are best stored by keeping them upright in a cool shady place, out of high traffic areas.

Shading can also prevent “stringburn”, in which needles adjacent to the baling string turn brown. A baled tree in direct sunlight can develop string burn in less than 30 minutes. If permanent shade is not available, a tarp or shade cloth can be used to protect trees from sunlight and wind. However, any shade should be suspended above the trees and down the sides with at least a 2-foot air space above and outside the trees to avoid over-heating.

Misting trees at night to provide moisture can be beneficial. Retailers in warm climates sometimes store baled trees with their trunks in a pool of water, formed by lining wooden or dirt troughs with plastic or tarp. Trunks can also be placed in moist sawdust as a method to maintain moisture content of the trees. Piles of baled trees should not be soaked with water as mold and defoliation can occur, particularly in warm temperatures. For trees to adequately take up water, a fresh cut on the tree’s base may be necessary prior to storage or display.

Trees should be handled carefully while being unloaded from trucks, placed in and out of storage, and delivered to customers. Walking on baled trees breaks limbs and crushes foliage. In freezing conditions, extra caution is needed as trees can become quite brittle.

Displayed trees should be sold on a “first in, first out” basis. Coding on tree tags is one easy way to keep track of how long each tree has been on display.


Care of Fresh Cut Trees in the Home

Tree freshness is always a concern. A visit to a choose-and-cut farm and cutting your own tree is one way to assure freshness. Pre-cut trees on retail lots require a closer inspection. The foliage of a pre-cut tree should be flexible when the needle is bent and when the tree is shook very few needles should drop. As soon as you get your tree home, make a fresh straight ¼ inch cut across the base of the trunk and place it in a bucket of water. Use a tree stand that will hold a gallon or more of water. A fresh tree may take up three or more quarts of water a day for the first few days after it is placed in water. Do not place the tree near a source of heat and never let the water level in the bowl drop below the base of the tree. Make sure light cords are in good working order and are turned off when you go to bed or leave the house.


Care for Living Trees

In many parts of the country, people celebrate Christmas with a living tree. The roots are kept in a “ball” of earth. The ball can be wrapped in burlap or set into a biodegradable container or pot. The tree may be added to the landscape after the holidays.

To use a living Christmas tree successfully, please observe the following points:

The adaptability of the species should be considered. Many species are shipped outside of their natural area and may not be adaptable to other areas.

Check with a reliable nursery or extension forester.

The tree should be stored in an unheated, sheltered area such as a garage or porch, out of the wind and sun. Do not expose the tree to freezing temperatures at any time.

The tree will need adequate water. The root ball or soil should be kept slightly damp but not flooded. Wrap the root ball of a balled tree in plastic or place in a tub while it is in the house.

Live trees may be decorated, but with care. If lights are used, they must not give off any heat.

Do not remove the tree directly from a warm house out into freezing temperatures. Instead, move to a sheltered area first for several days.

If the ground is unfrozen, the tree may be replanted. The spot to be dug may be mulched to prevent freezing. Plant as soon as possible.

Do not remove the burlap and strapping (unless it is plastic). This keeps the root ball solid and secure. In the instance of a plastic cover, cut the cord and roll down the plastic at least half way prior to planting.

Tap the tree container of a potted tree and remove prior to planting. Do not attempt to remove soil from the root system. Earth removed from the original hole should be backfilled around the root ball. Mulch heavily over the top of the planted root ball to prevent it from freezing. Water only as needed: a flooded tree may not survive.

Stake the trees to prevent wind tipping or damage during the first growing season.
Enjoy!

If you live in a climate that is not amenable to winter planting, why not celebrate “Christmas in July” by planting a seedling? It’s great fun for all ages!.