Buying a living tree for Christmas and planting it outdoor afterwards sounds like a good idea. But unless you know how to keep it alive it can be a waste of money and effort.

The best time to plant such evergreen trees is late summer, early fall and spring just before they break dormancy. Many of the roots are left behind when they are dug and they need to develop new roots as soon as possible in the new location. The foliage is constantly giving off moisture and it must be replaced quickly by the roots of the tree wilts and suffers serious injury.

If the tree is growing in a container, it may be less of a risk than if it is B&B (ball and burlap), but it still needs very careful handling.

The soil ball should be allowed to dry out at any time. This could reduce the tree's ability to survive adversity.

Don't take the tree indoors until the last minute, and keep it in the heated house for only a few days, four or five at the most. If it stays indoors too long, it may lose its resistance to freezing temperatures.

A hole for planting the tree outdoors can be prepared in advance. After planting, the tree should receive a two-to three-inch mulch of tree bark, sawdust or something similar to keep the ground from freezing deeply.

It should also be sheltered from winter winds and sun, which would extract moisture from the foliage faster than roots can absorb it.

If the ground is frozen and the tree cannot be planted at that time, it will need to be stored where it gets adequate light (for food production) with temperature ranging from 35 to 42 degrees.

This is called their chill requirement. In temperate and frigid zones the buds of most trees and shrubs cannot break dormancy and resume growth until they have experienced a number of hours (specific for each kind) of low temperature, 42 degrees on below.And for this reason, many kinds of northern woody plants won't grow in the deep south, or in a heated house during the winter. Q. Is sawdust OK to use in my vegetable garden or will it make the soil too acid? A. Sawdust is an excellent material to use; it reduces crusting of the soil, conserves moisture, keeps the soil cool during hot summer weather and helps provide some control of weeds. It does not make the soil more acid. A deficiency of nitrogen may develop if large amounts of sawdust are mixed with the soil, but applications can be made to take care of it. Q. Two beautiful maples contribute to the beauty of our backyard. Each tree has five or six roots that protrude above the ground level about half of their diameter (about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches). About three to four feet are exposed, they are a hazard when mowing, even when walking across the lawn. What is the best and easiest remedy, to cut out the offending sections or cover them by adding four or five inches of soil? A. A very careful study should be made by someone fully qualified to determine what can be done without jeopardizing the trees. Cutting off the roots may result in the tree being blow over during a heavy wind, while adding additional soil may reduce aeration to the point that feeder roots cannot get oxygen and are destroyed resulting in serious injury or death of the tree. Q. Are castor bean plants effective in keeping moles away? A. Moles feed almost entirely on worms and soil grubs. Get rid of them and the moles will go elsewhere to feed. There is no record of castor bean plants being effective. Q. Why do onions go to tops instead of making good bulbs? A. The onions are bolting, forming a seed head. Either a non-adapted variety was planted of the temperature fluctorated widely after the onions started to grow. Q. I have two minature roses growing outdoors that were given to me. I took them out of their pots and planted them. Do they need protection from the cold? A. They should survive the winter outdoors, in fact are rated as more hardy than hybird teas. You can also grow them under fluorescent, lights indoors, and they may bloom for you during the winter. Q. Our two spruce trees are losing needles, which turn brown and fall off. Could it be the weather? A. This time of year, the inner or older needles of most evergreen conifers -- including spruce, pine, arborvitae and juniper -- die and fall. These trees get a new set of needles in spring and drop their oldest ones in fall. No harm is done to the tree. Q. Which are the best hyacinth bulbs to use for forcing? A. Among the best are Pink Pearl, light pink; Lady Darby, very light pink; Amsterdam, red; City of Haarlem, yellow; Gypsy Queen, apricot; Bismarck, Blue Jacket, Delft's Blue and Perle Brilliant, blue; and Carnegie and Nevada, white. Q. When is the best time to trim lower branches from d young maple tress? A. The best time is early spring because wounds heal quicker then than at any other time of year. Q. Should I prune my roses this fall or wait until spring? A. Many roses specialists believe it's better prune in late winter or early spring after danger of freezing weather is over. It's best to remove dead branches as soon as you discover them. Tall rose canes that might be whipped around by winter winds should be shortened in the fall to keep them from loosening the plant's roots. Q. We planted a lot shrubs in our front yard this fall. Should they be mulched through the winter? A. All of them should be mulched and particularly the evergreens. The main cause of damage or death is desiccation due to the roots being in frozen soil and unable to replace moisture lost by transpiration. Mulch helps prevent freezing to a deep level. Q. I have a dracaena (corn plant) to repot. When is the best time to do it? A. The best time to repot foliage plants is just prior to the growing season so that new root growth will soon occupy the fresh soil.Usually that is in the spring. These plants make little or no growth during the winter months. For those that need repotting, a one-size-larger pot is best. If the plant has been in a five-inch pot, change it to a six-inch one. Q. We have a lot of snap bean seeds left over. Can they be used next year? A. If stored properly they should be good for several years at room temperatures. The best place to keep them is in a fruit jar with a screw-top lid which keeps moisture out. Q. Is it possible to grow vegetables indoors during the winter? If so, which are best? A. It's difficult but not impossible. The problem is lack of light. Even on a windowsill they may not get enough light because of cloudy weather and may be damaged by cold weather. Lettuce, small tomatoes and radishes are some of the best to try.