Go Green – Choose a Living Christmas Tree


If your holiday traditions include a Christmas tree, you may be confused about what’s the best, greenest alternative for a tree.  Artificial trees don’t kill a living tree, but they do use up resources, and many people just don’t like them. Yet cutting down a healthy tree for two weeks of Christmas fun seems wrong somehow.  The solution? A living Christmas tree.

A living Christmas tree is an honest-to-goodness pine, balsam fir or another evergreen, either in a pot or balled and burlapped, ready to plant. Balled and burlapped means that the root portion of the tree is bound up in a burlap sack with ropes in a ball shape, also called the root ball. 

Living trees range from small one to two foot balsams firs that can be purchased at many greenhouses and retail nurseries to large trees ranging in height from three to six feet or more intended to be planted outdoors after enjoyment as a Christmas tree.  You can find a variety of prices, sizes and types at nurseries and garden centers.

If you live in an urban environment, you may want to go for a small tree in a pot that you can then keep as a houseplant for the rest of the year or give to a suburban friend who can plant it in the garden. For those living in the suburbs or the country with room to add an evergreen tree to their property, a living Christmas tree makes a lovely alternative to cutting down a living tree.

Tips on Caring for a Living Christmas Tree

•    Dig the planting hole for the tree when you purchase it.  Lay a tarp on the ground and pile the soil onto the tarp, then either tuck the end of the tarp over or place a second tarp on top and weigh it down with rocks and bricks.  This way,  if the ground freezes even more over the Christmas season, you will be able to plant the tree without going for the pick axe.

•    Gradually introduce the tree to indoor air. When you get it home from the garden center, leave it in a cool – but not cold – environment, such as the garage or on a porch for a few days.  Then bring it inside.

•   Locate the tree in the coolest part of the house. Keeping the tree cool will keep it around longer.

•    Place the root ball inside a galvanize metal tub or another container.  You can decorate around the container if you wish – try a swath of fabric in a pretty holiday pattern clipped around the container. This can be used year after year, too, and laundered if it gets dirty!

•    Use rocks or bricks inside the container to stabilize the tree and keep it upright.

•    Water the tree by pouring a bit of water into the container, but not directly onto the burlap itself.  The tree will draw the water it needs.

•    Don’t use fertilizer while the tree is indoors – it will be fine without it.

•    Enjoy for a week but do not leave it inside longer.

•    Gradually reintroduce the tree back into the great outdoors to prevent shock.  When you’re finished enjoying it inside, place it back into the garage or porch for a day or two, then finish planting it outside.

As with all live or living Christmas trees, check your lights and wires and discard anything frayed or questionable to prevent fires.  

Did you know that there are now solar Christmas tree lights? It’s true! My friend, blogger Sally Painter, shares a bit about them on LovetoKnow (http://greenliving.lovetoknow.com/blogs/lifestyles/solar_powered_christmas_lights).  They run from a solar panel placed near a bright window, which charges the battery and powers the Christmas tree lights. While not as bright as the traditional plug and use kind of lights, if you really want a ‘green Christmas’, they sound like an excellent solution.

About the Author

Jeanne Grunert is a writer and marketing consultant who moved from New York City to a 17 acre organic farm in rural Virginia. She writes about gardening, health and raw foods for many publications, and her gardening book, Get Your Hands Dirty – A Beginner’s Guide to Gardening, is available from her website, www.sevenoaksconsulting.com

These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration.  The preceding information and/or products are for educational purposes only and are not meant to diagnose, prescribe, or treat illness. Please consult your doctor before making any changes or before starting ANY exercise or nutritional supplement program or before using this information or any product during pregnancy or if you have a serious medical condition.

Written by:  Jeanne Grunert
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