This article originally appeared in the Las Cruces Bulletin on Nov. 27, 2015
What a beautiful time of year, with these cold, crisp nights and warm, sunny days. It is the end of the year – 34 more days, and it will be 2016. Now is the time where many evergreen trees are available, either for Christmas, or just to plant out in the yard.
First, let us consider potted live trees. You can choose from several varieties such as Eldarica, (Afghan, Mondale), Aleppo, Italian Stone, Austrian Black Pine and Piñon. These are some of the most commonly available trees that will actually survive in the southern New Mexico climate. These plants are listed in approximate rate of growth and size – Eldarica is the largest and fastest, and Piñon being the slowest.
If you choose one of these to plant outside after the holidays, please keep in mind the mature width and height of each. Too often I see some of the Afghan pines planted or already growing up into telephone lines or creeping up and over neighbors’ yards. Keep in mind, the larger the tree, the larger the root system will be. These roots can upheave foundations, sidewalks and rock walls or into leach lines or sewer systems.
When keeping these indoors, it is advised not to leave them in for more than two weeks. The longer they are inside, the more they acclimate to the warmer temperatures. Try to use the coldest room in the home or close the heating vent to that room. Do not place tree near a fireplace or heating stove. It is important to keep the soil moist, but not saturated. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using ice instead of water. This action will slowly saturate the root ball without making a mess.
The weather has been very mild this year, but after the holidays it is still best to let your tree slowly acclimate to the outside colder temperatures before planting it in its’ final location. Generally, two weeks or more in a patio or porch with an overhang would be a good location before planting it out in the yard. This action will help the needles “harden off” before being subjected to the freezing temps. Be sure to use compost and root stimulator. Do not fertilize it until you see new growth appear in the spring.
Second, we have cut trees. Whether you go out and cut your own or buy one locally, it is important to make sure you put a fresh cut on it right before you place it in water. You should notice your tree take up a considerable amount of water the first time you fill up your basin. It is a good idea to have your tree hosed off to help remove dust, mud or the occasional insect that may hitch a ride and make its way into your home.
Cut trees that are commercially available are usually grown on farms specifically for the Christmas season, so don’t feel guilty when purchasing one of the trees. The varieties available are typically Frasier fir, Noble fir, and Douglas fir, among others. The Frasier seems to stay greener a little longer than The Noble, but the Noble has branches that can hold heavier and larger ornaments. The Douglas fir tends to be very dense and can dry out rather quickly if in a warm environment. As mentioned earlier, it is best to close the heating vent in the room that the cut tree is displayed in. This will help keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
Again, when choosing a cut tree, please remember to insist on a fresh cut and store your tree in water immediately. Mini lights are generally ok to use on cut trees; however, it is recommended never to leave the lights on the tree while you are away from home. LED lights are preferred – although they are more expensive, they will pay for themselves over the long haul by conserving electricity.
After the holidays, your cut tree, as well as any other clean yard waste, can be mulched and turned into compost by the city. Please remove any wire or nails before taking material to the recycling center. For more information, visit www.las-cruces.org and click on the links for recycling.