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Really live trees are ho-ho-heavy!

Thursday - 12/2/2010, 9:47am  ET

REALLY Live Trees are Ho-Ho-Heavy!

Time to issue my annual warnings to those of you planning on buying a truly live Christmas tree one with its roots all wrapped in burlap that you'll plant outdoors after the holidays.

One, dig the hole on the next nice day, otherwise you could be stuck with frozen soil and have to imitate a Warner Brothers cartoon character (BOING!).

Two, these things are HEAVY typically weighing a couple hundred pounds, so have lots of help on hand when you need to move it around.

Three, they can't stay in a warm house for more than a day or two and then have a good chance of surviving winter outdoors. But they ARE a great idea, so consider decorating it outdoors, on a porch or patio. Use heat-free LED lights and the tree will stay nice and dormant. Make sure to water the root ball if we don't get rain, and the sooner it goes into the ground, the better.

When you plant:

  • Remove and discard all the wrappings.
  • Pick a place where it can grow larger without becoming a problem. DON'T plant too close to the house.
  • Don't plant it too deep, Make sure you see the root flare above ground.
  • Fill the hole only with the soil you removed.
  • Don't allow any mulch to touch the tree itself and keep all mulch at 2 inches deep or less.

Keep that Cut Tree FRESH

Going tree shopping this weekend? Trees that are fresh cut right in front of you at a Christmas tree farm are always going to stay fresh indoors the longest and it's a really fun family outing. (Click here for a list of Christmas tree farm sites from last week's Plots.)

If you buy a pre-cut tree, be sure to cut an extra inch or two off the bottom when you get it home. (I always buy a tree that's a few feet too tall and harvest the lower branches for fresh-cut greens.)

Either way, sit the freshly cut trunk in a big container of water for 24 hours before you put the tree into its stand. That fresh cut will allow the tree to become really saturated with needle-holding moisture.

Keep it away from heat sources indoors, use cool to the touch LED lights, and keep the water reservoir filled, especially for the first week inside and your tree should keep its needles on the branches and off of your floor.

Removing a Problem Tree

Mary in Leesburg writes: "We have a Bradford Pear in our front yard that the developer planted and that my husband wants to get rid of because of the disgusting shoots that pop up all over our yard. Do we need a bobcat to remove it completely? And can we be successful in getting all of it out, including the roots?"

I agree with your husband, Mar Bradford pears are real nuisances, from their invasive roots all the way up to their weak branches. But they're cheap for growers to raise and sell, which is why you see so many of them around.

If you have easy access to a bobcat or backhoe, go for it. Otherwise, wait for mild weather and dig it out with some shoveling help. (Sounds like Cold Case of Beer Reward Time to me!) Get as much of the root system out as you can, but don't break your collective necks. No matter what, you'll probably have to dig out some surprise stragglers that appear in the Spring as well.

What Can You Do with Cedar Sawdust?

Liz in Stafford writes: "Could you tell me if there is a way I can use cedar sawdust around my plants or garden? We had several cedar trees milled and I collected the saw dust thinking it could be used as a mulch or possibly to repel deer. Any suggestions?"

Unfortunately my biggest suggestion is not to use it in any such way, Liz. Sawdust won't repel any mammal, much less deer. It would sicken and weaken your plants if you mixed sawdust into the soil. And sawdust makes a pretty poor mulch.

But highly aromatic cedar wood has a long and impressive history of repelling insects indoors. I suggest you fill cloth bags with the cedar dust and use them to repel clothes moths in closets and grain moths and other nuisance insects in kitchen cabinets. Much more effective than mothballs and a million times safer!

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