Category Archives: Winter Maintenance Tasks

How to Pick the Best Holiday Tree

best holiday tree

The holiday season comes but once a year, and although picking out a real or living tree to last through all the tidings of comfort and joy may require a little more time and effort, you will find that the scent alone to be well worth it.

Here are some tips to help you select the best holiday tree.

Measure Your Space

Before you visit a local tree lot, take to the forest or purchase a living tree, be sure to measure the room in which you plan to put your tree. Measure the height of your ceiling, adding an extra 12 to 18 inches for the tree stand at the bottom, as well as a tree topper. Another good idea is to measure the room’s width.

Choose a Species

If your tried and true holiday tree species still works, great. If you want to try a different species there are a variety of trees available; 16 to be exact. Popular varieties include (but are not limited to) Balsam Firs, Douglas Firs, Noble Firs, Fraser Firs, Colorado Blue Spruce, Arizona Cypress, and White Pine. You can find information on each variety here. Remember: Not all species may be available in your area.

Check for Freshness

If you were lucky to get a tree permit – the forest service makes a total of 600 permits available annually – you know how fresh the tree is. Many pre-cut trees, on the other hand, may have been cut weeks earlier. Always check a tree for freshness by running a branch through your enclosed hand. The needles shouldn’t come off easily. You can also bend a branch backwards to see if it snaps back. If it doesn’t, the tree may be too dry and you may want to consider a different tree, or come back when the vendor’s next shipment comes in.

Don’t Neglect the Trunk

Once you’ve found the one, be sure to ask the vendor to make a fresh, second cut as well as trim the bottom branches. At home, immediately put it in water. If you don’t plan on putting it up right away, store your tree in a cool place (i.e., the garage), ensuring it is in water. When setting up the tree, make sure to place it away from any heat sources, such as vents and fireplaces.

The Stand Matters

It is highly recommended that you use a reservoir-type tree stand to keep trees fresh. Stands should hold a gallon of water. Amazon’s best selling tree stands include the center pin stand; the two-piece stand; the four-bold stand; and the “clamp” stand.

Caring for a Real Tree

Replenish water daily. Plain water is fine, and contrary to popular belief, temperature doesn’t matter and will not affect water intake. It’s perfectly normal for water absorption to vary from one day to the next. Ensure your tree stays fresh all season long by topping off the stand’s reservoir daily.

Responsibly Dispose Of

After the holidays, don’t throw your real tree away in the trash or set it on the curb. These trees are biodegradable, which means they can be easily recycled for mulch and other purposes. The city of Phoenix will collect trees at no cost to you and turn them into mulch. Residents can also drop off their trees to be recycled at the “I Recycle Phoenix” festival from 8am to 1pm Saturday, January 6, 2018.

If you have a live tree with the root ball still attached – often covered by a piece of burlap – it can be replanted outside after the holidays. Keep in mind that a live tree can only be used indoors for 1 to 2 weeks max. When planting in your Phoenix landscape, move the tree back outside for a week or two so that it can re-enter dormancy. Once this time has elapsed, remove the burlap and any other coverings on the root ball, place the tree in the pre-dug hole and backfill. Cover with mulch and water.

Preventing Frost Damage

Preventing Frost Damage

As temperatures begin to drop in the Phoenix Metropolitan area, and the nights become longer, it pays to be attentive to the forecast. You invested in your landscape plants, shrubs, and trees; now invest in ensuring they remain free from frost damage. Severe frost damage can easily be mitigated by covering plants on freezing nights.

According to the University of Arizona, “the average first frost date varies from November 21st in Buckeye to December 12th in Central Phoenix, and the average last frost date ranges from February 7th in central Phoenix to April 3rd in Mesa.” This variation is said to be because of the differences in elevation and area population.

How Cold Weather Affects Your Plants

During the day, your plants as well as your soil absorbs and stores heat from the sun, but as the day turns into night…they quickly begin to lose all of their stored heat. The colder the temperature, the quicker the loss. If there are clouds, your plants may be insulated from the cold as clouds absorb the heat, reflecting it back to the earth.

Calm, clear nights pose the greatest danger of frost, due to the fact that there is no wind to mix the ascending warm air with the descending cold air. There are also no clouds present to radiate heat back to the soil, leaving your plants, shrubs and trees vulnerable – if not properly protected.

Preventing Frost Damage

On a night when a freeze is predicted, cover your plants – especially those more sensitive to cold weather like Peruvian Apple Cactus, Red Fairy Duster, some Aloe species, and Yellow Bells – with professional grade frost cloth, before sundown. The advantage of professional grade frost cloth is that it can be left on for longer periods of time.

This alleviates your need to drape the plants nightly. However, if professional grade frost cloth is not available, you can use other materials such as; sheets, blankets, burlap, etc. Simply match the weight of the material to the size and sturdiness of the plant, or build a frame around the plants, draping the material over it.

Never use plastic. Plastic can freeze to the plants on the coldest of nights. When draping, the material should cover the plant from top to bottom. Avoid tying the material at the bottom as this can suffocate your plants. If at all possible, bring potted plants inside your house or garage, since they are much more susceptible to damage.

If not using professional grade frost cloth (the longer you wait, the more likely it is to sell out), remove all coverings once the sun is up and temperature is above freezing, replacing it nightly. For more information on preventing frost damage, including what to look for, please contact Elite Landscaping & Sprinkler Repair at (602) 390-4645.