Growing Living Christmas Trees and Eco-Friendly Christmas Gifts

This short series of reports includes news on using growing living Christmas trees then replanting them after the holidays and ideas for eco-friendly Christmas gifts.

| December/January 1997

News briefs on Christmas Trees, the live story. A "how-to" of celebrating using growing living Christmas trees then replanting them, and some high-tech solar and environmentally sound Christmas gifts. 

Whether making a powerful statement about the world's clean air problem and deforestation, or instilling a belief in "Waste not want not" in your children's minds, using growing living Christmas trees then replanting your Christmas tree is a great redefinition of the way we celebrate the holidays.

When looking for a good tree to unearth a few factors are key. Look for a spruce that is between two and three feet tall. Trees of that type typically have a root ball easy to dig out, light enough to carry, and capable of being transplanted. Spruce is better than a fir because it is less susceptible to root damage. The tree should also be kept cool, at a temperature of 38 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures will encourage the tree to grow further, according to Scott McEwan, Christmas tree specialist with the Canadian Department of Lands and Resources.

The tree's roots should then be wrapped along with some of the soil and planted in a large galvanized washtub. Periodic watering will be required, of course, while the tree is stored. A cool basement or shed is best for this. Return it to the basement two days after Christmas, where it will stay until the ground thaws, and the risk of heavy frost has passed. Then, we have a replanting ceremony. If you live in an apartment and don't have a basement, you can still enjoy a live tree and plant it in a pre-dug hole right after the holidays, mulching it well, in your own yard or a friend's, or if you live in an area where there is plenty of snow, you can bury the root ball in snow, keeping it watered, and wait until Spring for planting. The advantages to live trees are not limited to increasing good karma; there is no fear of fire since the tree will not dry out or drop its needles like a cut one.

Finding a Christmas tree grower who deals in live trees can be a challenge and should be your last resort. If your land doesn't yield a good candidate, just ask around. Only one in three growers in my area deal in live trees. The extra work involved since roots must be pruned every three to four years to keep the soil ball intact, keeps most growers out of the live tree business, and nursery prices are usually quite prohibitive.

Many countries already have implemented tree recycling programs, where trees are collected curbside and ground up to be used as mulch in city parks. This is a step in the right direction. In 1997 Halifax, Nova Scotia, chipped 9,000 trees which amounted to 230 tons of material.

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