Whether you cut your tree in the woods or buy a pre-bagged fir from the hardware store, a fresh Christmas tree helps fill the house with the spirit of the holidays.
Getting the most out of your investment in a fresh tree is easy with a few tips from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.
Whether you’re headed to a big box store or a tree farm, it’s important to measure the ceiling height of the room where the tree will be displayed. Nothing’s worse than having to whack a few inches off a gorgeous tree just to get it into the house.
The tree should be at least a foot shorter than the ceiling height to account for the stand and tree topper.
It’s hard to tell exactly how long precut trees have been cut and how long they’ll last after purchase. To do a freshness test, hold a branch about 6 inches from the top of the tree. Allow the branch to slip through your fingers. If the tree is fresh, very few green needles should come off.
Another test involves lifting the standing tree a couple of inches off the ground, then abruptly setting it down on its stump. The outside green needles should not fall off. Remember, inside needles turn brown and shed naturally.
Some trees retain more needles differently. A Leyland cypress, for example, does not lose as many needles as a fir or spruce.
It’s also important to inspect the base of the tree. A good tree will have straight trunk of 6 to 8 inches. Having this much trunk will make it easier to install the tree in the base and will make for a more secure tree.
When you get home, check the cut on the end of the stump. Trees can seal off a cut with sap to prevent losing moisture. This would prevent the tree from taking up water in a stand.
Make a fresh cut about a quarter-inch up from the original cut. Place the tree in the tree stand. If the tree won’t be decorated for a few days, leave it outside in a bucket of water in a spot out of the sun and wind.
Once the tree is inside, be careful not to place it near a fireplace, heater vent or other heat sources.
Check the stand regularly and make sure the water level never falls below the base of the tree. Without water, the base of the tree will seal over and prevent the tree from taking up additional water, which means it will need to be taken down and recut.
There is no need to add special products to the water. Just give the tree a gallon of water the first 24 hours and another 2 pints to a gallon the next day. You can count on supplying the tree with another 2 pints to a gallon of water every day.
While a well-hydrated tree will be safe, it’s important to turn off tree lights before going to sleep or leaving the house. Use only Underwriters Laboratories -approved lights and nonflammable decorations.
When the holiday season ends, recycle your tree. Options include taking it to a location that grinds trees into mulch or creating a fish attractor by weighting the base of the tree and sinking it in a pond or lake.
Do not burn your tree unless you obtain a permit to do so. This year’s drought has caused several wildfires. Burning your tree could be dangerous.
For more tips, visit extension.uga.edu.
William Tyson is the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension coordinator for Effingham County. Robert Adam Speir is the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent in Madison County.