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Living Christmas trees keep the green going year-round

In keeping with an Old-World tradition, I'll place apples in decorative nets and hang them on our Christmas tree. Then on Christmas Eve, they'll be eaten to ensure good health and prosperity during the upcoming year.

No one is certain, by the way, when or where this tradition started. But because many Christmas traditions began in Germany during the 17th century, hanging apples on Christmas trees probably started there, too.

Incidentally, even the concept of decorating Christmas trees was started in Germany, and during 17th-century Germany, freshly cut evergreens were festively adorned at Christmas time with candy, candles and paper ornaments, as well as apples.

A living Christmas tree

A living Christmas tree is a transplantable, evergreen tree that's purchased with fabric-wrapped roots, or is purchased as a potted plant.

The healthiest trees have green, pliable branches and needles. There should be few brown needles, and needles shouldn't easily drop when the tree is shaken. It should also be free of insects, such as stink bugs and spiders.

Once home, help the tree "harden-off" (acclimate) to its temporary indoor environment by placing it where it's not as cold or windy as it is outside, but also not as dry and warm as heated homes during this time of year. Keeping the tree in an unheated garage or shed, then, for about a week to harden off, works well. Also, the tree will experience less transplant stress if the acclimation process is reversed prior to it being transplanted.

But also make certain to keep its roots moist at all times. Additionally, dig the planting hole when the soil isn't frozen. Keep the backfill soil from freezing, too.

Smaller trees are more likely to survive the acclimating and transplanting process. That's why I prefer potted trees, instead of large, root-wrapped trees, as living Christmas trees.

Smaller specimens are also less expensive and easier to carry than larger specimens With a smaller tree, then, I'll be less likely to strain my back, and if my experiment fails and the tree perishes, it won't strain my wallet a lot, either.

This week in the garden

This is the time of year when pines drop brown needles to make room for new growth. Their needles, however, should be removed from lawn areas as soon as possible.

Otherwise, they'll smother the grass. Plus, since pine needles are exceptionally acidic, if the lawn beneath the pines turns less green and more yellow, it may become necessary to spread lime over the off-color lawn to neutralize the acids leaching from the needles.

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