If you prefer a cut Christmas tree to an artificial tree, here are a few suggestions for keeping you, your family and your home safe, and the holiday season enjoyable.
Start by buying the freshest tree possible. There are Christmas tree farms all around the area where you can cut your own or buy a tree that a staff member cuts right before your eyes. When you get the tree home, leave it outside in a cool, shaded, protected space like an unheated garage until you are ready to trim it. If the forecast is for mild weather, cut a half inch off the base of the trunk and put the tree in a bucket of water. You will probably have to cut off several of the lower branches to place it in the bucket, but that’s OK because you’ll have to do that to fit the tree into the stand.
Cutting a section off the base of the tree allows water into the circulation vessels in the trunk. As soon as a cut conifer is exposed to air, especially cold air, the sap solidifies, becomes resin and plugs water’s access to the circulation vessels. Cutting that sealed end and immediately placing it in water prevents that from happening. You may have to remove another section before you put the tree into its stand, too.
Be sure your tree stand has room for plenty of water and check the level every day. Penn State researchers recommend a quart of water for every inch of trunk diameter. Don’t let the water run out. Also check the foliage daily by running your fingers across the needles to see if they are dry and brittle. Keeping the tree moist goes a long way toward preventing fires, as well as extending the time you can enjoy your tree. When your tree dries out and doesn’t accept water anymore, that’s the time to remove it.
Some put aspirin and other additives in the tree water; others spray the tree with an anti-desiccant like Wilt-Pruf. Researchers at Penn State found that none of these extends tree life enough to warrant the extra cost. However, none of the additives, which also include commercial floral and tree preservatives, molasses, sugar, soft drinks and honey, costs so much that the expense of adding them will take a chunk our of your holiday budget. None of them do any harm that we know of. So, if they give you peace of mind, go ahead and use an additive.
Be sure the tree isn’t near any heat sources like fireplaces, heaters, heat vents or direct sunlight. Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process.
I present these thoughts in the spirit of the holidays and with the hope that you and yours enjoy a wonderful holiday season and a happy and prosperous New Year.