It’s the most wonderful time of the year, until you get the bill. With prices skyrocketing for this festive fir, it makes you wonder if it’s worth it. So what would happen if everyone planted their own Christmas tree?

How long would it take to grow a tree? What exactly is a root ball? And would reusing an artificial tree be better for the environment?

Desired for its unique colors and shape, the Fraser fir is popular with people who celebrate Christmas. In the United States, in 2019, people bought over 26 million Christmas trees. That’s a lot of green. So if you were to grow your own Christmas tree, would you be canceling Christmas for all those tree growers?

According to a 2018 Nielsen study, 95 million households in the United States celebrated Christmas with a tree. So growing your own tree might elevate your family traditions.
And it really doesn’t matter where you live.

In North America, this evergreen fir grows in all 50 states and throughout Canada. So how would you get started? Well, if you grow the sapling yourself, it takes an average of 7 years for it to reach 2 m (6.5 ft)

But if you’d like to get started right away, you could try replanting your Christmas tree. You’ll want to acclimatize the tree first. Just leave it in a cool place, like a garage, for a couple of days. This lets it go dormant.

But you might have some problems with this method. Without a root ball, the mass of main roots at the bottom of a plant, it might be difficult to replant your tree.

So if you don’t have a root ball, take pencil-thick cuttings from a fresh, young tree. Remove the needles from the bottom stems, and plant the cutting deeply, so these stubs are below ground. Keep your fingers crossed, and hope that the stubs grow into a makeshift root system.

Your chances are better if the Christmas tree has a root ball. When planting your tree, find a spot where you can dig a hole at least twice the size of the root ball. Give it a hole that’s five times bigger, if you can.

And try to dig in the middle of the day, when the soil won’t be frozen. Place your tree in the hole, and put the soil you removed back in. Then top it with several inches of mulch, and give your tree lots of water.

And remember to fertilize it in the spring. You might need to do this process a few times before it works, so don’t be discouraged if your first tree doesn’t make it past January.

And although the tradition might catch on, growing your tree may not destroy the Christmas tree industry. Every person won’t have a place, or the right climate, to grow and maintain a Christmas tree. Maybe city planners could organize spaces for people to plant thier trees, in honor of this new tradition.

We might rethink how humans and agriculture can live side by side in urban areas. Right now, over 100,000 people have full or part-time jobs because of this seasonal crop. But if we have trees that last for years, instead of a few weeks, there would be less demand for new trees each year.

And many tree farms would go out of business. But let’s face it, whether you’re growing, replanting, or recycling a tree, you’re taking on a lot of work. So, why not just buy an artificial tree?

Reusing an artificial tree would reduce the environmental impact of buying an artificial tree. For a while. But eventually, even this uh, thrifty alternative, made from PVC and steel, and shipped from China, will end up in a landfill.

And if more people plant their own trees, it could eliminate the artificial tree industry. You could be dreaming of a Green Christmas. Of course, the real future of the Christmas tree lies in the hands of science.

The Fraser fir tree doesn’t handle mold well, and it’s likely to get root rot. And there’s the threat of an invasive wingless insect, the Balsam woolly adelgid, which came to North America from Europe. This little critter infects the trees and destroys the firs’ ability to transport water and nutrients.

The rampant destruction these insects cause has put the Fraser Fir on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. To adapt this threat, scientists are creating hybrid plants, grafting the roots of Momi firs to the branches of Fraser firs.

But this genetic engineering isn’t cheap, or quick. If you’re looking to make a lower impact on the environment this year, look for a locally sourced treal tree, or reuse an artificial tree for at least five years.

If you do this, you’ll reduce greenhouse gas emissions by decreasing shipping distances. With more than 4,000 free local Christmas recycling programs throughout the United States, it’s not hard to safely dispose of a tree. Now that you’re practicing conservation on a small scale, it’s time to start thinking globally, about our most abundant resources.

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