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Beautiful REAL Christmas Tree every year!

Tony Callaghan 29/11/2022

Beautiful REAL Christmas Tree every year!

We all love a real Christmas tree – the smell just brings that Christmas feel right into the home!

However, buying a real Christmas tree now requires sustainability issues to be considered. Cutting down trees is bad for the climate – we need trees to be in the ground growing and locking up carbon. Collecting, shredding, and then composting them at the end of the season also takes time and energy for transport, shredding machines, and compost delivery.

If we avoid a cut tree,  a more sustainable step would be to have a rooted tree in a container.  At the end of the season, one option is to re-plant them in the garden soil.  Planting out and then uprooting the tree each year is bad news for the tree's health – even careful digging up will destroy much of the unseen soil-root fungal microbiology, making it much harder to survive. 

Keeping the Christmas tree in a container (tub) year after year seems the obvious answer as it:

  • Allows the easy lift in and out of the house
  • Requires no disturbance of the roots
  • Is easy to water and feed

But it comes with a few issues

  • The pot is often too small or becomes too small over the years
  • The soil/compost is "exhausted" and compacted and after 1 year
  • The soil/compost mix used does not have the correct balance of water retention versus drainage. (Drainage leaves aeration pores, and hence oxygen for the roots to ‘breathe’ (respire)).
  • Container mixes with a high organic (compost) rapidly dry out in summer causing stress.
  • Using heavy clay soil can water log in winter and then dry solid in summer.

How do you keep the tree successfully in containers for 5 years or more?

Here at SoilFixer, we have been working with biochar super compost to create superb Terra Preta (Amazonian Dark Earth) type soil mixes that have the ideal balance of properties to support healthy container trees.

Our tree in this photo has the original clayey topsoil around the roots and the rest of the container (about 70%) is our SF40 biochar multi-purpose compost mix.  This year will be the third year it has been bought into the house.

In year one, we purchased it from the garden centre and took it straight into the house. After Christmas, we put it outside in the original tub with its clayey soil mix. It did not grow in height, but it did survive.

In year two we brought it in again. When we put it out, towards the end of Spring, it was easy to spot the tree was in trouble. It had been watered regularly, but the ends were going yellow and the top had died back (sorry no photo).

As the summer started to heat up, it was clear we needed to do something. It was replanted in a slightly bigger tub and backfilled with SF40 (Biochar Multi-Purpose Compost).  Within a few weeks, not only had the ends re-greened, it actually started to grow. It is now 30Cm higher, bushy and green.

Why use SF40 as a container mix for your container Christmas tree?

Some tips for looking after your Christmas tree when it is in the house:

  • Keep it away from radiators (too hot)
  • Water at the base for at least 1/week
  • Try to resist keeping inside for more than 2 weeks
  • Subject to lights/decorations – consider a daily spray with a water mist

Some tips for the container outside

Year one – before you put it out, buy a slightly bigger pot (30-40cm dia will keep it going for 3-5 years). Knock off loose soil/compost, place in a new tub, and backfill with SF40. Tamp down and water. Place it in a sheltered spot (not in the direct wind). You can move it in Spring.

The weight and size of the tub tends to restrict the container trees. A two-person lift will be able to handle a “6 footer, 1.8m”. Anything bigger and the weight and size will probably make it too award to move. Having said this – the tree nursery will routinely move +20ft container trees!

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