Before you head out the door to pick out the perfect cut Christmas tree, consider celebrating the season with a live tree you can later plant in your yard.

Choosing to decorate with a live tree benefits the environment because you provide a habitat for birds and wildlife. You also help improve air quality, increase soil stability and, in general, make your landscape look better.

A live tree also gives your children some fond holiday memories, especially later when they are grown and begin to establish their own family traditions.

The International Society of Arboriculture, or ISA, provides these tips for giving your live Christmas tree the best opportunity to thrive before and after the holidays:

f Think before you dig. Most species used for Christmas trees – pine, spruce and fir – grow to be more than 50 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Make sure you have enough space allotted for a full- grown tree.

f Dig before it freezes. Then fill the hole with straw and cover it with boards until planting time. The soil itself should be removed from the hole and stored in an area – garage, for example – where it will not freeze.

f Choose a moist soil ball. Trees with frozen soil balls are more prone to die than those housed in moist, unfrozen soil.

f Garage your tree. Let your tree gradually adjust to temperature changes. Spending a day or two in the garage before being brought indoors reduces tree stress associated with rapid and drastic climate changes.

f Limit indoor exposure. Five to seven days inside is enough for any live Christmas tree – the less time spent in your home, the better the tree’s chance of survival.

f Garage your tree again. When family celebrations end, repeat this brief storage period before planting the tree in its pre-dug hole.

f Plant and water. Remove any burlap from the soil ball, place the tree in its designated spot, and fill the remaining hole with soil removed from the hole earlier. Water the tree thoroughly to sustain it through the winter.

The arboriculture society is a nonprofit organization that supports tree care research around the world. For more information, visit online at (KRT)

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