A living Christmas tree is a wonderful idea. However, a living tree can be kept indoors for only one week before breaking dormancy.
Once a tree breaks dormancy, it cannot be exposed to freezing temperatures and must be protected until spring.
Who wants to keep a 5- or 6-foot blue spruce in the house until May 15 - the average last frost date in our area?
So if enjoying your Christmas tree indoors for one week is long enough for you, purchase a live tree now. Water it well then leave it outside until four or five days before Christmas.
Bring it into the house and place it on a big plastic saucer away from direct sun and heater vents.
Decorate it with lightweight ornaments and cool lights to avoid damaging it. Check the root ball daily and keep it moist.
Normally, I would suggest digging the hole now, but with 10 inches of snow on the ground as I write this, that may not be possible.
After it is in the house for a week, put the tree back outside. If possible, plant it immediately, add a layer of mulch, and water it. Otherwise, place it out of the wind and direct sun.
Cover the pot with a mound of snow or mulch to keep it from freezing, and make sure the soil doesn't dry out. As soon as you can, plant the tree.
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On a different note, but in the spirit of the holidays, how would you like to help a homeowner who lost trees in the Waterfall fire?
Maybe you don't have a place to plant a tree at your home, and normally would not buy a living tree.
Here is a creative way that you can help families affected by the fire. Buy a living tree, enjoy it in the house for one week or less, then donate it to a resident whose yard was burned.
Contact me at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, 887-2252 or email@example.com, and I will get the tree to a family affected by the fire. If you lost trees in the fire, and would like to receive a live tree, feel free to contact me as well. Share the spirit. Consider giving a live tree this holiday!
You can "Ask a Master Gardener" by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at www.unce.unr.edu.
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.