Several years ago, we bought a live root ball Christmas tree. (These are real trees with the root balls still attached so that you can plant them after Christmas). It was an experience that was both surprisingly taxing and awesomely wonderful. In fact, after dealing with our live leviathan evergreen that year, I swore I’d never buy a live root ball tree again. But you know what they say about saying never. And besides, what nature lover can stay away from a holiday practice that lets you enjoy the benefits of a live Christmas tree (they smell great and look charming), support local tree farmers, AND lets you save the tree? Viewed from that perspective it sounds like the real question should be: What doesn’t everyone buy a live root ball tree every year? Well, great as they are, buying them every year is unrealistic for most of us. If you’re debating a live root ball tree for this year (or want to consider something new for next year), read through my tips. Then you can decide if it’s worth it.
1. Make sure you have somewhere to plant it after. Sounds obvious, right? But you need a big yard or someone else who will let you plant the tree on their property after the holidays.
2. Measure the space in your house where you want to put the tree. Don’t just eyeball it. Get out the tape measure! Trees always look smaller at the farm than in your house. (And, if your husband and kids are like mine, they will gravitate toward the biggest, tallest tree imaginable. There are only two ways to combat this sort of holiday romanticism: cut a hole in your ceiling after you get home and realize your tree is too tall – or – while you are still at the farm, use hard numbers to convince them the “smaller” tree is the right buy). Remember to include the root ball in your measurement of the tree. Live root ball trees will not have as much tree as a regular Christmas tree because the root ball at its base will likely be a good 1 1/2 ft. tall.
3. Make sure you bring someone strong to the Christmas tree farm with you. This is not a joke. Unless you are a competitive body builder, you will need someone who can lift something that is between 100-200 lbs.
4. At home, make sure you’ve got a dolly and a huge metal tub. You’ll use your strongman to put the tree in the tub and then use the dolly to move the tree where it needs to go.
5. If it’s been super cold out, acclimate your tree in the garage first. I’ll admit, we skipped this step this year. But that’s because it’s been unseasonably warm where we live. Usually though, the best practice is to gradually introduce a tree that’s been living outside to the inside by keeping it in your garage for a few days before finally bringing it into the house.
6. Haul that monster in the house. The strongman and dolly make a reappearance here. You will need them! That sucker is heavy and hard to maneuver!
7. Wrap a skirt around it and throw on some lights and ornaments. Voila! “Instant” live root ball Christmas tree!
8. After the holidays, reacclimate it to the outside. This step is basically step #5 in reverse. If it’s really cold out, stick it in your garage for a few days to get it used to the new temperature. No living thing would welcome going from a nice, cozy sixty-eight degrees to a sub-zero one. This tree is no different.
9. Dig the hole. If you think your ground will freeze before this step, consider digging the hole before the holidays.
10. Plant it! Get your dolly, strongman, a shovel and a camera. This is the moment you’ve been working toward! Don’t water it, just pack soil around the root ball as tightly as possible.
11. Enjoy for years to come. Our last live root ball tree is still with us, alive and well. Although we haven’t yet, you could also decorate your outdoor Christmas tree in years to come with edible garlands for the animals. Who knows? Maybe that will be our Christmas project for next year… 😀
Do you celebrate Christmas? If so, do you have your tree yet? Have you ever bought a live root ball tree? Think you might next year? Let us know in the comments!