Garden Q & A Column: Decorating with Live Christmas Trees

Q. My housemates and I want to purchase a live Christmas tree to bring indoors and decorate. What type of tree should we buy? How do we care for the tree and can we plant it outside after the holidays?

John C, Somerville, MA

A. Yes, you can plant your Christmas tree outside after the holidays. Live evergreen trees that will survive in zones 4-6 are Dwarf Alberta Spruces, Blue Spruce, Yews, and Arborvitaes. Pick a healthy tree that matures to a size appropriate for your yard. The root-ball should be firm and rounded. Before the ground freezes, dig a hole for the tree as deep as its root-ball and twice as wide and fill it with straw or leaves. Bag up the soil and bring it inside so it doesn’t freeze. (If the ground is already frozen, I recommend you wait until next year to use a live Christmas tree)

To transition the tree from the outdoors to a warmer environment, put it in a garage or unheated porch for a couple of days. Then, display the tree indoors in a room as cool as possible. Keep the root-ball evenly moist but not soggy, by placing the tree in a container with sand or gravel at the bottom for good drainage. Water as needed. Turn the tree’s decorative lights on only when you are in the room.

After the holidays, put the tree in the garage or porch again for a few days before you move it outdoors to plant. Then remove any materials that were used to bind the roots and plant the tree in the prepared hole. As you back fill the hole, pack down the soil and put six inches of mulch around the tree, but not up against the trunk. In the spring, fertilize the tree with Holly Tone and water well the first year.

Garden Q & A Column: Gardening Tips for New Gardeners

Q. I have never done gardening before and would like to give it a try. Do you have any tips for me?  Stuart, Concord, MA

A. Here are some tips for beginning gardeners to follow:

  • Decide the amount of time and money you’d like to spend on your gardening project. It’s best to begin with a small garden as there will be a lot to do.
  • Learn about the areas where you will be gardening before you purchase any plants and plant them. Is it sunny or shady? Windy or protected? You should put the right plant in the right place.
  • Check out the soil to see if it is sandy, clay-like, rocky or loose. No matter the condition of the soil, dig in some organic compost to enrich it.
  • Buy some basic gardening tools; a trowel, spade, shovel, rake, hand pruner, a garden hose and nozzle.
  • Learn about plants, particularly the ones you like, by reading gardening books, reviewing garden labels at a garden center, asking knowledgeable gardeners, joining a local garden club.
  • Follow the basic plant care listed on plant tags. Water, fertilize and prune regularly.
  • Learn to identify pest, disease and environmental stressor symptoms before they become problems. This gives you time to respond and take care of them.
  • Keep a journal and record what has worked and not worked in the garden. Refer to it when planning for next year’s gardening.

To view this Q & A via the Somerville Journal,

Go To: