A Present for Your Landscape

During the Christmas season, trees are one of the first things on our shopping list. This year, we have an open sunny spot in our yard that needs a tree or shrub. With our thinking caps on, one of us comes up with the idea, “Let’s get a tree that we can plant in the yard after Christmas, a gift to our landscape, a real live tree that is wrapped in burlap!” You can buy them at the local nurseries. I think, at this point, I should say, that muscles are needed to take on this kind of project. A 3’ tree with an 18” ball can weigh 175 pounds, and a 5’ tree with a 24 “ ball could weigh 325 pounds, depending on the soil and moisture content of the ball, so select a tree that you can handle.

Preparation is important when taking on this kind of project. Buy a nicely shaped tree, take it home, and dig a hole twice the size of the tree ball before the ground freezes. Keep the soil you have just removed from the hole in a wheelbarrow in your garage to prevent it from freezing. This soil will be used to back fill around the tree when you plant it.

Keep the tree moist, but not wet, while inside for the holidays. Do not let the tree ball dry out. After the holidays, move the tree outside to a patio or garage to readjust it to the outdoor temperature for several days, then plant it.

If you did not prepare a hole for your tree before the holidays, and the ground is frozen, put the tree in a sheltered place, heel it in with soil, or place bales of straw or bags of leaves around the ball to minimize the roots’ exposure to sun and wind. Don’t leave the tree in the garage or house—it may dry out. If necessary, heel it in until the time for planting arrives.

Ok! Let’s plant that beauty.

Place your tree in the hole, and remove all of the ropes from the ball. If the burlap is nylon or synthetic, remove it; if it is wrapped in a cotton burlap, just make several openings in the burlap on all sides. If it is in a wire basket, leave that on, as the plant roots will find their way to the soil in time. Water the tree very heavy before you back fill with soil; this will help remove any air bubbles around the root ball.

Remember, do not plant the tree any deeper than the top of the soil ball or the tree roots will suffocate. No fertilizer is needed at this time, but you can use a compost mixture in the spring.

Stake your tree if it is a windy location, but remember to remove the stake in the spring. Your final job is to mulch your beauty with 2-3 inches of a pine bark mulch, and water again. Periodic watering is important when the ground thaws, so that the tree does not dry out. Norway spruce and white pine are common Christmas trees, and good candidates for post-holiday plantings that thrive in Frederick County. But these guys get large, so make sure you have plenty of room to spread out when you plant them. Talk to the nursery expert if space is limited; they might be able to suggest something that does not grow fast or get very large.

So Merry Christmas to us and to our landscape, and a Happy New Year to our new tree!

Nature Note for 12/3/2017