Caring for Christmas Trees

This article was originally published in The Journal on December 12, 2016.

Every year there is inevitable discussion about when it becomes appropriate to decorate for Christmas and when it is time to put décor away. As far as I am concerned, anytime is the right time if you are decorating your own home. I personally start getting decorations out about the second week of December and they’re typically stored away by Martin Luther King Jr. Day. That happens to be about 5 weeks of holiday cheer, which happens to be how long most cut and properly cared for Christmas trees will sustain their needles.

There is something special about a live tree at Christmas. Most are pleasantly fragrant, each is unique, and a wide variety of choices are available to suit your preferences. When selecting a tree for your home there are some helpful tips that you can keep in mind for a smooth transition:

  1. Measure-Think about where you want to put the tree before you bring one home. Measure the space and then take a tape measure with you and verify that the tree you choose will fit.
  1. Fresher is Better- A fresh tree should have rich color and flexible needles. Very few needles should fall from the tree when shaken. Once the tree is cut it begins to produce resin (a.k.a. “sap”) to seal the wound created by the cut. While this helps seal in moisture for a temporary time period, it must be removed in order to draw up additional water through the trunk. It is always a good idea to remove at least one inch of the trunk before placing your tree in water at home.
  1. Keep Your Tree Watered- Your tree stand should be able to hold at least 1 gallon of water. A fresh tree can draw up 2 quarts or more of water on the first day in the tree stand. Check the water level regularly (daily is ideal). The water line should always meet the cut trunk and never sit below the trunk. Water additives to preserve the tree are not necessary and have not been proven to increase needle retention. Plain tap water is sufficient. A dry tree is a fire hazard and also a mess to remove from your home. Remember that lights on the tree create heat, which could increase the risk of a fire. Damaged cords and overloaded outlets are also concerns. Mini lights and LED lights produce less heat than traditional bulbs, but it is still a good idea to turn lights off at night or when no one is home to reduce the risk of fire.
  1. Consider Recycling: After the tree has fulfilled its purpose, consider recycling the remaining material. These trees make great composed mulch and also can enhance wildlife habitats.
Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft., Bugwood.org

Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft., Bugwood.org

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