At this time every year, many are faced with a big decision. Do we want a live or artificial Christmas tree? There are many factors in play when making that decision. Some involve family traditions, others social concerns and still others involve environmental issues. I’m not qual
ified to offer advice on keeping family traditions or social concerns, but I am qualified to advise you on environmental issues.
There are some Grinches out there who would like us to believe that we’re upsetting the balance of nature if we have a real Christmas tree. They want us to believe that cutting a real tree is a waste of natural resources. Christmas trees are grown by tree farmers as a crop to be harvested, just as wheat, corn and other crops are planted to be harvested.
Christmas tree farmers must wait longer than other farmers to harvest their crop. They don’t plant in the spring and harvest in the fall. All the while Christmas trees are growing, they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and sequester it as they grow. They also return oxygen to the atmosphere – the oxygen we breathe.
Christmas tree farmers don’t just sit back and wait a decade or so for their trees to grow to a salable size. They must tend to their crops just as other farmers do. They need to control insects and diseases. They also have to prune them to maintain their desired shape. They may have to fertilize them as well. Then when it’s time to harvest the trees, they cut them, package them in nets and ship them to tree dealers.
If you opt for a fresh cut Christmas tree, cut about an inch off the base diagonally as soon as you get it home. Then place it in a bucket of water and leave it in the garage at least overnight. This will reduce the shock of going from the cold outdoors to the warm indoors.
When you set up the tree indoors, be sure that it’s kept watered throughout its stay. Keep candles and other open flames away from it. But most of all, enjoy it without feeling any guilt about the environmental impact. Remember, Christmas trees are renewable resources. Christmas tree growers are farmers who use sustainable techniques, usually planting three or more seedlings for each tree cut to assure that we have plenty of trees each Christmas.
Finally, recycle your tree after Christmas. Take it to one of the many recycling stations around the area to have it ground into mulch to either be used in municipal parks or returned to you for mulching your landscape.
For the ultimate in environmental consciousness, consider a live, potted tree. If you think this is a great idea, dig a hole for it now, before the ground is frozen and cover the backfill with a tarp to keep it from freezing. Cover the hole with a piece of plywood or other protection to keep people from falling in it. Keeping a live tree in the house for more than a week isn’t recommended. And, you should plant it as soon as you remove it from the house. It’s also a good idea to spray the tree with an anti-desiccant after planting.
Hey, I just recently wrote about this, but also warned about the live Christmas trees. As an arborists, I noticed that the majority of Italian stone pines and Canary Island pines that were in bad situations were formerly live Christmas trees. The trees are cut and innocent while small, but grow big and fast!