The best way to care for your festive tree

Choosing a tree
Choosing a tree
Dahlias - one of the boldest plants you can grow .

GARDENING: Brian Kidd is planning for summer with dahlias

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Are you planning to get a natural Christmas tree this time? Have a good look around and if you don’t want a very large one, buy one which is alive, looks healthy and has been in its pot for a long time.

This means it can be used for several years, saving you a lot of money.

How do you know it’s been in the pot for a long time? Look at the tree, it looks vibrant and the foliage is a good colour.

There are no bare branches and none of the needles have dropped off. But the real giveaway is that the compost on top of the pot is very firm and there may be moss and a few weeds growing. These are signs that it has been in the pot – and looked after – for at least a year.

Put a fancy band around the pot, put a shallow tray underneath, keep it in the light and water it. Then water every week because it will be quite warm indoors.

After Christmas, dig a hole in the garden, put in a pot just a little bit larger than the one the tree is in and put your potted tree into that.

Then water regularly with a little plant food in liquid form once a month and it will thrive all ready for next year. Expect it to grow about six inches in one year.

When it comes to Christmas next year, give the pot a few twists to extricate the roots and bring it back indoors again.

When buying a tree with a root and without a pot, buy a large bag of potting compost, take it home, soak the roots in a bucket of water overnight and put it in a pot with the compost.

With a bit of luck, it will survive and you will be able to use the same idea the following year.

For trees without roots that have been without water for some time, the best idea is to cut off about 3-4in of the base and leave the tree in a bucket of water for an hour. This will reduce the needle drop.

You may have some S600 tree spray in the cupboard. This product is difficult to find now, but used as a spray over the needles this too reduces drop.

The final idea is to buy an artificial tree. Before you collapse in shock, yes that’s what we use at home because it’s possible to buy one ‘tailor-made’.

Height is important, as we don’t want a bent top because the fairy will wilt.

But more important is the spread at the base. We like the type of tree with a limited spread because it’s easier to draw the curtains!

Going back to the trees which will need watering, please unplug the lights, don’t just turn them off.

This eliminates any risk of an electric shock, plus the whole house being left in the dark when the lights are tripped.

Whatever you choose, enjoy your tree and have a brilliant Christmas.

And keep some mistletoe berries, as we will have a go at growing these in the new year.