The Care & Feeding of Christmas Trees

The Christmas tree is often the focal point of holiday decorating, and can be the source of many a happy holiday tradition, such as decorating parties or ornament collecting. But every tree trimmer’s nightmare is the tree that immediately loses all its needles and becomes drier than the Nevada desert in a mere matter of days.

Don’t let this happen to your tree. We’ve got tips for selecting and maintaining a beautiful tree throughout the holiday season.

Selecting the Perfect Christmas Tree
It’s not hard to select a good tree. It’s like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree – once you adorn them with lights and ornaments, nearly all trees look beautiful. But just in case you want a tree that’s more perfect than any of the others, here are a few tips to keep in mind

* Before you leave to choose a tree, check the height of the ceiling in the room where it will be displayed. Things have a way of looking smaller outdoors. Select a tree that is at least one foot shorter than your ceiling height.

* Shake or bounce the tree to check that the needles are firmly attached. Few needles will fall off a fresh tree. The older the tree, the more needle loss you will have. Don’t be fanatical about this, there will always be some needles that fall out. Think of it as the difference between normal hair loss versus going bald.

* If you run your fingers over the branch along the needles, they should adhere to the branch, and bend but not break.

* Check that the bottom of the tree has a trunk at least 6-8 inches long for proper placement in a tree stand.

* Make sure the trunk is straight, so the tree can properly stand.

* Inspect along the trunk, and between the branches for insects.

Caring for the Tree at Home

* If you don’t plan on decorating the tree right away, cut about an inch off the base and stand the tree in a bucket of water, in a shady outdoor spot.

* When you bring the tree indoors, cut 1/2 to one inch off of the base of the trunk, and place in a tree stand that holds at least one gallon of water.

* Never place the tree near a fireplace, heater vents or other sources of heat.

* Always keep the tree supplied with water. Christmas Trees can be thirsty, even going through a quart or more of water a day. Check the water level in the tree stand at least twice a day. Take care to never let the water level fall below the base of the tree as it can seal over and prevent the tree from being able to absorb water later. If this happens, you can take the tree down and cut about an inch off the bottom, which will once again allow for water uptake.

Fire Safety

* A fresh tree supplied with water presents little fire hazard. As long as the tree takes up water, it will be relatively fire resistant. Do not allow the water level in the tree stand to fall below the base of the tree (see tips above).

* Fire Marshall-approved treatments can be sprayed on trees to reduce flammability. These contain borax or other flame-retardants. Check with the salesperson when you purchase your tree, or with the fire department or County Agent for specific fire-retardant treatments.

* Use only UL-approved lights and nonflammable decorations.

* Turn off lights when leaving the house or going to bed.

Bugs in the System

* Be aware of insects that can enter the home on the Christmas tree and emerge in the warm house.

* Inspect the tree before bringing it inside. Shake and bounce the to dislodge insects that may be hiding.

* If you find insects, you can spray the tree with an indoor-outdoor aerosol insecticide containing pyrethrins before bringing the tree inside. These are common insecticides available at grocery stores. This same spray can be used if you discover insects after the tree is in the house. It is important to observe all directions, restrictions and precautions on pesticide labels, and to keep pesticides out of reach of children and animals.

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