Here come the ho-ho-holidays

Buy Local and Start with a REALLY Fresh Tree!

The secret to keeping a cut tree fresh and supple indoors
isn’t in any magic mixture you place in the water holder. It’s in the handling of the tree before those bolts get tightened.

And the way to virtually insure long-term freshness is to
visit a local Christmas tree farm and “cut your own”. I
use quotes there because I’m the only person who seems to
bring their own saw; everybody else just picks out ‘their
tree’ and the staff cuts it for them. Either way, you get
a tree that’s FRESH with a capital F; and you’re buying
local; supporting a local business; and helping keep that
land planted in trees instead of houses and Home Depots.
And it’s a great family day outdoors! Cookies! Hot
chocolate! Now that’s a real hoe-hoe-hoe day!

And this year, I scouted up some brand new farm listings
for our site! (New to me, anyway.) Take the time to check
all the sites below for your area, as some farms are only
listed at one site, and scouting around could save you
some considerable travel time. And if you find a different
tree farm listing site you like, send it to me and I’ll
add it.

href="http://www.marylandchristmastrees.org/ccdirectory.ht
ml">Here’s the farm listing from the Maryland
Christmas Tree Association.

And the one for a similar group in href="http://www.virginiachristmastrees.org/farms">Virgini
a.

NEW THIS YEAR: These ‘pick your own Christmas tree’ sites
aren’t the best organized, but they contain a LOT of
detail about the listed farms.
Our part of href="http://pickyourownchristmastree.org/MDxmasbalt.php">
Maryland:
href="http://pickyourownchristmastree.org/VAxmasnorthern.p
hp">Northern VA:
And finally, here’s the old reliable ‘ href="http://christmas-tree.com/real/">Christmas Tree Farm
Network‘ site. Just click on your state:

Pre-Cut Tree? Pre-Saturate it!

If pre-cut your tree must be, you can still keep it fresh
indoors a long time-if you pick well and have a bow saw
and a big bucket of water handy and waiting at home.
Feel up your potential tree choices before buying. You’re
looking for branches that bend easily and needles that are
supple and feel ‘lush’ to the touch. Don’t be shy!

And if any part of a tree seems dry or brittle, pass it
by-that tree is going to drop needles for a living.
When you get your nicely supple tree home, shake it well
to dislodge any already dead needles (these are common;
evergreens shed needles on a regular basis). Bang the
bottom of the trunk on a hard surface and shake the sides
vigorously.

Then cut an extra inch or two off the bottom of the tree
trunk and immediately place the newly-cut trunk in a big
container of fresh, plain water for at least a couple of
hours, preferably overnight. If the tree came from an area
where it hadn’t rained for awhile, it’ll drink up many
gallons of water. This ‘pre-saturation’ trick is the best
way to prevent a shower of sharp needles on your floor.

And if you’re one of those people who just has to put
something ‘magical’ in the water, try the new product
called “Vacation”, an all-natural ‘anti-transpirant’
designed to trap moisture inside of plants. You’ll find
more info on it href="http://www.naturalindustries.com/retail/index.php?
option=com_content&view=article&id=15&Itemid=5">here.

Indoor Tree Care 101:

  • Pre-saturate the tree as directed. If its pre-cut,
    be SURE to remove a few inches from the bottom of the
    stump (borrow a saw if you have to). But don’t strip any
    bark from the sides to make it fit into the holder-if you
    do, the tree won’t be able to take up water.

  • Choose the coolest possible indoor location for the
    tree-far away from fireplace, wood stove, radiators or hot
    air vents.

  • Keep the water reservoir filled at all times; if that
    holder dries out completely, the tree will no longer be
    able to take up water. Gadgets like “Santa’s Magic Water
    Spout” make this chore a lot easier. (The top of ‘Santa’s
    Magic Spout’ looks like a bell-shaped ornament, but it’s
    actually a funnel-like device that connects to a length of
    tubing that runs water down to your tree stand-without you
    having to bend over all the time.)

  • And if you’re still using old-fashioned incandescent
    lights, make the move to LEDs this season. They look
    great, don’t generate any heat, don’t burn out and use
    almost no electricity.

Small Space? Think Rosemary Christmas Tree!

I love having a big cut Christmas tree in the house, but I
also realize that many of our listeners just don’t have
the room for one-and many others out there have reached
the age where tree-wrestling has simply lost its allure
(if it ever had any). But that doesn’t mean you can’t
celebrate the season with a live indoor tree; just pick up
one of those cute-as-the-Dickens potted rosemary trees you
see at garden centers and upscale markets this time of
year. (My local Whole Foods store always has them.)

Now, these rosemary trees are pruned down from big shrubs
and are always root-bound, so to avoid having a browned-
out dead Charlie Brown tree on your table, I urge you to
transfer it to a pot that’s twice as large as soon as you
get it home. Fill in the extra space at the bottom and
sides of the new pot with a bagged ‘soil-free mix’
(sometimes called Professional Mix, sometimes just potting
soil).

Water the repotted tree well by letting it sit in a sink
filled with a couple inches of water for a solid hour.
Drain it in the drain board and then feel the weight of
the pot when you put the tree in place; it should be nice
and heavy when its fully watered. Repeat this watering
technique whenever the tree feels light. (Watering by
weight is much better than watering on a schedule.)
Now this IS a live rosemary shrub, and with a little luck,
you can turn it into a long-lived outdoor plant.

If you live in the city or close by, just plant your
rosemary outdoors in the garden after the holidays; choose
a sheltered location whose soil drains exceptionally well
and it should do fine. (But don’t leave it outdoors in its
pot; it will certainly die.)
If your location is a lot chillier than the city, your
soil is frozen or you have no outdoor space, put it in
your brightest, best-insulated window and follow the same
watering procedure. You just have to get it through the
winter; it CAN survive outdoors in its pot in spring,
summer and fall.

And if you just want to be done with it after the
holidays, be sure to harvest all that rosemary for a
couple of big spectacular dinners, or share your ‘winter
harvest’ with friends. The value of the cut rosemary
generally exceeds the price you paid for the tree!

Save Some Green by Making Your Own Greens!

Have some overgrown greenery on your landscape and less
green in your wallet than you’d like? Do a little bit of
early pruning and use the cuttings to make your own
holiday wreaths and swags for your home-and maybe to give
as gifts if the results are respectable.

Trim some less-than-perfect lower branches off of
evergreen trees and then prune those down to the best
parts; give unruly yew bushes a ho-ho-haircut; and snip
some long shoots of rosemary.

Go ahead and make wreaths if you have the frames and the
skill, but I prefer the simplicity of swags. Just arrange
your prunings in a straight line with the biggest pieces
on the bottom, then top it all off with a few sprigs of
holly, firethorn or other colorful berry-bearing branch
and a nice bow or ornament. Tie it all up discreetly with
some thin wire and you’ve got instant holiday cheer.

(Copyright 2010 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)


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