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Keep your Christmas tree looking green

Whether cut or potted, these tips will help your evergreen stay fresh

Someone who shopped at The Plant Foundry snagged a tree named after Grogu, the "baby Yoda" from "The Mandalorian." Keeping it as green as its (shorter) namesake requires watering and proper placement.

Someone who shopped at The Plant Foundry snagged a tree named after Grogu, the "baby Yoda" from "The Mandalorian." Keeping it as green as its (shorter) namesake requires watering and proper placement. Kathy Morrison

How do you help your Christmas tree stay healthy, merry and green?

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, the answer is water.

Make sure your real tree has its trunk in a sturdy stand that can hold plenty of clean water. Check the water every day and replenish as necessary so the tree is standing in at least 2 inches of water.

Firs and other popular Christmas trees need about 1 quart of water per inch of trunk diameter, says the association.

And keep the water clean; added preservatives and home remedies such as aspirin, bleach, corn syrup or sugar have little impact on extending the tree’s freshness.

Daily watering is important, say the experts. If the trunk dries out, resin forms that can block the uptake of more water – and the tree dries out much sooner.

Keeping the stand’s basin full should help the tree – which likely was harvested before Thanksgiving – hold its needles through Dec. 25. Holiday evergreens stay fresh looking and hold their needles about four to six weeks after harvest, says the association.

Position your real tree away from windows or heater vents; both light and heat prompt the tree to need more moisture. It will last longer in a cool corner.

What about potted living Christmas trees? They have to have a spot next to a sunny window and as much light as possible. Because these trees really don’t like being in your living room and want outside ASAP.

Give the tree as much light as possible, but keep it away from heat. It doesn’t want a spot next to the heater, either.

Although a potted tree is appealing (it’s reusable!), evergreens aren’t meant to grow indoors; there’s not enough light. Once your celebrating is done, get your tree or other potted evergreens outdoors as soon as possible to limit their stress. Otherwise, they’ll start dropping needles en masse – just like a cut tree without water.

While it’s indoors, make sure the living tree stays watered. Keep the soil moist, not soggy. Check the soil moisture daily and remember that 1 quart per inch of trunk diameter guideline.

When transferring outdoors, move the plant back into full sun gradually. Let it acclimate on a semi-shaded patio for a few days as the tree re-adjusts to outside temperatures and light. The shock of cold temperatures and full sun may be too much – and your living Christmas tree won’t be around for next year.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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