Friday, 23 December 2011 2:42 PM
By Old Geezer
I am often asked about saving Christmas trees so they can be planted outside to grow for next year. This is not as easy as it might at first seem, even if somebody selected "one with plenty of roots".
The problems start when the trees are 'ripped' from the soil. Damaged roots are only part of the story. Conifers (which Christmas trees are a form of) really struggle if moved.
So what can be done? Using a big enough pot helps if you add some drainage in the bottom.
Broken pots, small stones or little bits of brick will do. Just an inch or so, don't go too mad.
The other thing you need is some well drained compost, John Innes potting type is ideal. Add about a quarter volume of fine peat if you've got it.
Carefully plant your tree on top of a bit of this compost. Add enough compost to just cover the roots and then shake your tree up and down. A couple of inches up and down will do and help to get the compost between the roots.
It is a good idea to add a discreet stake between the roots at the 'back' of the tree. Put this close to the trunk and use a simple figure of eight tie about two thirds of the height of the tree.
Now half fill the pot with compost and firm it down with your knuckles. Once this is even, top the pot up and firm this down the same way.
You should find the compost is now about half an inch below the rim, maybe a little more. This is fine.
Stand the whole thing in a bowl with a layer of gravel in the bottom and water. Water lightly and regularly. Ideally spray a mist of water over your tree every evening – Christmas trees hate the dry air of central heating.
Quick note though – do not spray your tree with water if you have electric fairy lights on it as that might not end well. Even if the lights are marked for outdoor use.
In this situation what you can do is check that there is always a little water in the gravel in the bowl. Then keep watering it lightly and carefully.
The other thing is to always make certain there is a little air gap between the water in the gravel and the bottom of the pot, water-logging is just as deadly as under-watering.
It is probably a good idea to keep your tree in its pot in a sheltered spot until spring time, maybe even plunging the pot in cinders or gravel.
If it survives then it will have new roots by spring!
Have a great Christmas.
All the best, Old Geezer.
Old Geezer (Paul Rix) is the author of 'Beyond the Potting Shed' a comprehensive guide to growing your own. Available from all good book shops or Amazon.