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Christmas Tree - Are You Ready?

Dec 8, 2007
Well it is that time of year and you may be getting ready to go get your own Christmas tree for the holidays. Here are some tips:

Artificial vs Real - What is the best decision?

If you are wondering if buying a real tree is still a good idea or will you end up depleting precious natural resources, consider these facts.

The majority of the trees being sold as Christmas trees are grown on farms just for this purpose and for each of these trees chopped down for your home, another 2 to 3 are planted. Farms for Christmas trees are actually ecologically beneficial as every acre of trees provides enough fresh oxygen for 18 people and they actively cleanse the air. Also, these farms help preserve open space and provide habitat for wildlife. On the other hand artificial trees, when discarded will last for centuries in the landfill.

So you may be better off getting a real tree rather than a fake one for all the same reasons you have been refraining from using materials that are not biodegradable.

How To Measure

Before you go shopping, get out your measuring tape and take some notes so you don't have to prune and trim and practically destroy a beautiful tree when you get home. Remember a tree out in the open will look much smaller than it will in your living room. So go prepared!

Measure the ceiling height for the space you have chosen for your tree. Most ceiling are 8 feet but you may have 9 feet ceilings. From this subtract the height of your tree topper ornament and the height of your tree stand. For most people 6 to 7 feet tall trees are ideal. You may also want to measure the approximate width if you are planning to put your tree in a corner and are tight on space. You may also notice while searching that most trees will have one side that is less full. This is a natural result of sunlight being weaker on the north facing side of all plants. This can help better fit a tree in a corner.

How to Select the Best

If you have not grown a tree for this specific purpose you can go to farms where you can pick a tree and have them cut it down for you. Although these are the options that ensure the freshest tree, I realize most of us in urban areas have to purchase it from a retail lot.

Here are some tips on how to select a healthy tree:

-Determine the kind of species the retailer is selling and decide on the specific one you want. The best species for use as Christmas tress are fir as they do not shed a lot of needles specially as they are drying out. They also have good foliage color and scent. But you can select from a wide variety these days.

- Use the measurements you brought with you.

- Once you have specimen in mind, ask about when it was cut down. As you may suspect, more recently chopped down trees will last longer. And with proper care you can have your tree looking healthy for a long time.

- Examine your potential tree carefully. A good specimen will look healthy and green and with a potent fragrant.

- If it has dry, brittle twigs, a musty smell or any sign of dryness or browning it is your indication to move on to the next tree.

- Broken branches or any damage to the trunk or bark is also a good indicator to find another tree.

- The tree limbs should be strong enough to hold your ornaments and lights.

- The leaves or needles should be soft and flexible and should not snap or break when bent. You do not want a tree that is already losing excessive needles. There are couple of ways to check this. If you run you hand over a branch the needles should not all come off in your hands. Do a quick shake test - if you get a shower of needles move on to the next tree. Or you can bump the tree against the ground from a height of about one foot and again a shower of needles is no good. Just remember that some loss of leaves or needles is normal, specially from the interior of the tree.

If you are diligent and select a healthy, fresh tree and take care of it appropriately it will easily last you a good 5 to 6 weeks or more - all the way from Thanksgiving to after Christmas.

How to Transport It

Once you have selected the perfect tree for you, you want to get it home without putting it under any stress. Many retailers provide a delivery service but if they don't or you want to take it home yourself, follow these simple tips:

- Ask if the seller has a tree shaking service. This service removes the loose dead needles from the inside of the tree so you don't have a mess in your vehicle or home. Remember this is the natural loss of leaves on a healthy tree specially on the interior.

- Ask the supplier to wrap your tree in netting. This will make handling a lot easier and will reduce stress on the tree.

- If you traveling far with your tree or tying it on top of a car, you may want to further wrap it in a tarp.

- If you are not carrying it in a enclosed vehicle, tie it with the bottom of the tree facing forward to minimize needle loss.

Protect the tree best you can on the way home so you have the tree in the same shape as when you selected it.

How To Set It Up

Once you have your tree home, you need to prepare it for its stand. If you are going to store it for a while before setup, see the Storing Your Tree section.

Cut off about a half of one inch of wood from the base of the trunk and immediately put in a bucket of water or your tree stand that already contains water. The reason for the cut is that it exposes new, moist, live cells on the trunk that will more easily absorb water. Do not cut the base at a diagonal as you may have heard from some people. Only the bottom couple of inches of the trunk absorb water so a diagonal cut does not help but does the opposite. If you are reluctant to cut the tree yourself or have no tools, ask your supplier to do this before you transport the tree home. Do not get the base dirty and be sure to immediately place it in water when you get home. This is only recommended for a short travel distances.

Use an appropriate size tree stand. The stand should be able to hold enough water, about a days worth, and should be able to accommodate the tree trunk comfortably. Never shave off the side of the trunk or bark to fit it into the stand. This will greatly reduce the life of your tree. At this point you may want to consider placing a tree bag under the stand to make the eventual removal of the tree less challenging. You can hide it under your decorative tree shirt easily.

During the first 24 hours after the fresh cut, a tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water or more so watch it carefully. Use only plain water in the tree stand. All the hype about evaporation reducers and chemicals for preservation do not help. Also, warm water is of no benefit. If possible use room temperature water or just cool out of the tap is fine.

How To Care For It

A freshly cut tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water or more in the first 24 hours after it is cut. After that the general rule is that a tree needs approximately one quart of water per inch of trunk diameter. Use only plain water in the tree stand. All the hype about evaporation reducers and chemicals for preservation do not help. Also, warm water is of no benefit. If possible use room temperature water or just cool out of the tap is fine.

An adequately watered tree will not only look and smell wonderful, it will not shed as many leaves or needles and the branches will not droop. But the most important reason to keep your tree and the leaves moist is to prevent a fire hazard. Try to use miniature lights for decoration as they produce less heat and therefore are less drying to the tree. Always keep the tree stand filled with water so the bottom is never exposed to air and allowed to dry. This can happen very quickly and dried sap will form a barrier resin over the cut end of the tree stump. If this resin forms on the base, it will prevent the tree from absorbing enough water and your tree dry out and die. The only remedy at this point will be to make a fresh cut on the bottom of the trunk and start over.

Storing Your Tree Before Setup

So you have selected the perfect tree, brought it home but are not quite ready to put it in the house and start decorating. There are some things you must do to ensure freshness for when you are ready to move it in.

Cut off about a half of one inch of wood from the base of the trunk and immediately put in a bucket of water. The reason for the cut is that it exposes new, moist, live cells on the trunk that will more easily absorb water. Do not cut the base at a diagonal as you may have heard from some people. Only the bottom couple of inches of the trunk absorb water so a diagonal cut does not help but does the opposite. If you are reluctant to cut the tree yourself or have no tools, ask your supplier to do this before you transport the tree home. Do not get the base dirty and be sure to immediately place it in water when you get home.

Place the tree in a cool, shaded area where the tree will not be exposed to wind, extreme cold, very warm temperatures or sunlight. All of these conditions will reduce the life of your tree. Ideally an unheated garage is a great place. You still need to check on the water level each day so your tree does not dry out. Remember during the first 24 hours after the fresh cut, a tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water or more so watch it carefully. Thereafter, a general rule is that a tree needs approximately one quart of water per inch of trunk diameter.

When you are ready to take it indoors or into the final display area, a fresh cut to the base is recommended but not absolutely necessary. Just be quick during transport so the base does not dry out and sap resin does not form.

How to Remove, Dispose and Recycle

Although we all have a specific date in mind to tackle tree removal, you must constantly monitor your tree for dryness. As soon as you see the signs you must remove the tree immediately to prevent a fire hazard. Make sure you remove all decorations and lights; yes even the tinsel has to go for the tree to be prepared for recycling.

The best way to avoid a mess removing your tree is if you already placed a tree bag under the stand during setup. This plastic bag allows you to cover the entire tree by just pulling it up so you can carry the tree and stand outside without creating the huge mess that most of us are familiar with.

Do not burn your tree in a fire place or wood stove. Most Christmas trees have a lot of sap which can flash when lit and create chimney fires. Your tree is not dried enough and prepared for burning as most logs are.

Most cities and towns will pick up your tree on designated days and recycle them for you. Or you can use your tree in your own lawn and garden. Just put it through the chipper and come spring use it as any other mulch.
About the Author
Ann is a home based business entrepreneur who researches various topics and reviews internet products. For more information visit her site Christmas Trees
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