It's Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping season, so it won't be long before you're out and about looking for the perfect Christmas tree. I've got some great tips for selecting a tree that will survive the holiday without drying out and carpeting your home with needles, but if you're up for something different this year, why not get a live, plantable tree?
Choose a tree that's balled and burlapped and at least 5 to 6 feet tall, and be sure it's suited to grow on Long Island, so that when the holidays are over it will thrive outdoors. Michael Gaines of CW Arborists recommends a white pine or Colorado blue spruce, both of which would serve the decorated-indoor-tree purpose as well as the growing-in-the-yard purpose. And be sure you ask for a locally grown tree at the nursery or garden center. It will have an easier time adjusting to its new home.
Gaines also offers these tips for caring for the tree before and after the holidays:
Prepare a planting hole now, before the ground freezes, that's as deep as the root ball and three to five times as wide. In the meantime, keep the tree outdoors until you're ready to decorate it and keep the soil moist, but be careful not to overwater (never let the tree sit in water).
After Christmas, place the tree in your garage or similar sheltered area so it can become acclimated to outdoor conditions before planting. When you're ready, plant the tree with trunk flare (where roots meet the main trunk) 2 to 3 inches above ground level, and spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the area, taking care to keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk.
Remember that evergreens don't go dormant over the winter, so your newly planted tree may need supplemental watering during winter dry spells.