Monday, November 30, 2009
Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Mondays in Steamboat Today.
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Before trekking into the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest to cut your own Christmas tree, be sure to pick up a permit from the U.S. Forest Service office on Weiss Drive, off U.S. Highway 40 in southern Steamboat Springs. You are allowed to cut a tree as long as you are 100 feet from any road or trail, and 200 feet from any campground, picnic area, trailhead or scenic pullout. Trees must be less than 20 feet in height and less than 6 inches in diameter. Note that the Fish Creek Falls Recreation Area, Steamboat Ski Area, Freeman Recreation Area, Sherman Youth Camp and timber sale areas are closed to Christmas tree cutting.
It just doesn’t seem like Christmas unless you have a lighted, decorated Christmas tree to admire through the holiday. Families in the Steamboat area tend to purchase already-cut trees or make a family excursion into national forest areas to find a perfect specimen.
When choosing a Christmas tree, find out where the tree was grown. Those that were grown in moist parts of the country may not do well in our dry indoor climate.
Frasier fir is an excellent choice for a Christmas tree with its green and silver needles. It tends to be one of the longest lasting trees and is very aromatic. Other good choices for indoor trees include white pine, Michigan concolored fir, balsam fir, grand fir, noble fir, and the Michigan Douglas fir, also sometimes called a Scotch pine.
Know that many Christmas trees are harvested as early as August so they can be delivered to retailers by Thanksgiving. Once a tree is cut, it begins to dry out and lose needles. Ask the seller when the tree was cut, or consider getting a permit from the U.S. Forest Service to cut your own.
Whichever option you choose, be sure to select a tree with a fresh, green color and needles that are attached securely to the branches.
Some pre-cut trees are sprayed with a blue-green dye that is harmless, but be sure the dye isn’t hiding dry, brown needles. Bounce the end of the tree on the ground to see if green needles fall off. If so, look a little further for a fresher tree.
Here in Routt County, the U.S. Forest Service office on Weiss Drive offers $10 tree-cutting permits, with a limit of five per household. A sheet of guidelines is available from their office.
Once you bring your tree home, cut an inch off the butt end of the trunk and place the tree in water immediately. Be sure to keep it well watered, as fresh-cut trees will use a gallon of water the first day and as much as a quart per day thereafter. Dried-out trees can be a fire hazard.
Check your water daily, as the trunk of the tree will seal if the tree stand is dry and the tree will be unable to take in more water.
After the holiday, consider placing your used Christmas tree in the yard as a haven for birds and small animals.
Chop it for firewood or mulch. Or check the paper to find out where city crews will chip old trees for mulch in the spring.
Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the CSU Extension Routt. Questions? Call 879-0825.