If you’re deciding to cut your own fresh Christmas tree this year, instead of taking the family on a Christmas tree adventure a la Clark Griswold, visit your local tree farm and follow these five steps to maintain your fresh Christmas tree in your home and avoid premature needle shedding throughout the holiday season.
1. Pick the right place in your home
It all starts with selecting the right place in your home to put your fresh Christmas tree. Make sure to find a place in your home that is away from heat sources (fireplaces, vents, space heaters, and candles) that can dry your tree out or catch it on fire as well as face it away from direct sunlight. Once you have found the ideal place, measure the space (height and width) where the tree is going to have a good idea of what size tree you will need to get.
2. Pick the right Christmas tree
Just as important as picking the right place for your Christmas tree is picking the right Christmas tree for your home. So take your time and decide which type of Christmas tree works best for your family, home, and the region where you live.
Here is a list of some common Christmas trees in North America.
- Balsam Fir – Known for its strong Christmas tree scent, conical shape, and full-colored green needles. Possesses a good needle retention rate after being cut and also works well with light ornaments. Naturally grows throughout the Northeastern U.S. and Canada.
- Scotch Pine (most common Christmas tree in U.S.) – Once cut, the dark green needles have an exceptional needle retention rate (meaning fewer needles get spread throughout the house). Stiff, strong branches to hold large ornaments. Mostly grown in the Eastern U.S. and Canada.
- Blue Spruce (aka Colorado Blue Spruce) – Conical, symmetrical shaped, bluish-gray colored tree with good needle retention. Naturally grows in the Western U.S. mountains from Idaho to New Mexico.
- Douglas Fir (half of all Christmas trees sold) – Strongly scented with dark blue-green needles. Use for light decoration and in warmer climates during the holiday season. Native to the West Coast of the United States from Central California up through Alaska.
- Virginia Pine (most popular Christmas tree in the South) – Conical in shape with bright yellow-green needles and strong, stout branches. Native to the South ranging from Central Pennsylvania to Northern Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.
To get an even better idea of what type of Christmas tree will work best for your home this holiday season check out this guide from Proflowers.com.
Once you have found the ideal Christmas tree for your home, check the needles on the tree to make sure none of them are brown and check the trunk of the tree for straightness. You want to get a fresh Christmas tree that is decently straight. After you have cut the tree, wrap it in plastic to avoid any damage to it on the ride home.
3. Cut the tree trunk again
Now that you and your family have successfully made it home with your fresh Christmas tree. Remove it from the car and unwrap it. Stand the tree up outside and grab with two hands and hit on the ground, to shake any loose needles off. Try to put the tree up as soon as possible.
A freshly cut Christmas tree will try to heal itself by closing up the severed area of the trunk with sap. This prevents the tree from absorbing water, so you will need to make another cut before you put the tree in its stand and give it water. Make an additional cut straight across the trunk half an inch up from the original cut.
4. Water the tree
The key to keeping your Christmas tree fresh is water and plenty of it. Once the trunk is cut the second time get it into water right away. You should use a stand with a wide and deep reservoir base that can hold up to a gallon of water. According to the National Christmas Tree Association for every inch of stem diameter, you should give the tree one quart of plain water (with no type of preservatives). No matter how big the diameter of the trunk is, you are going to need to check the water level daily.
Can’t get keep the family dog from drinking the Christmas tree water?
Not only will the Christmas tree dry out faster when Lassie drinks the tree’s water, he/she can also get sick from the bacteria that accumulate in the water. A lot of trees have fertilizer and pesticides used on them, which may contain harsh chemicals that can also get into the water.
To deter your pet from drinking the Christmas tree water: make a hole in a garbage bag or cardboard box and put it over the tree stand. If you want something a little more decorative? Try a tree skirt.
Finally, you are ready to decorate the tree. It’s probably been a while (at least a year) since you looked at and inspected your lights. Check them for wear and tear. If it’s time to get new lights, look at getting some LED lights. LED lights don’t heat as much as regular Christmas lights, so they are safer. They are also energy efficient, stronger, and longer-lasting.
Your tree looks great with its lights on but, you do not want to leave them on all the time. When you leave your house, go to bed, or leave the room for extended periods, turn them off to avoid drying out the tree and preventing fires.
You may also want to keep the room cool by lowering the temperature or using a humidifier. Fresh Christmas trees are used to an outside climate that is cooler and wetter.
Have a cat that won’t stop playing with the Christmas tree lights and ornaments?
Not only do cats love climbing things, but they also love shiny stuff that hangs in the air. So when they see a fresh Christmas tree with glistening lights and ornaments, they are going to have a field day for the duration of the holidays.
Here are a few tips:
- Avoid using shiny ornaments or place them higher up and back inside the tree. Place your favorite ornaments higher up on the tree as well. If you have any bell-type ornaments, place them lower on the tree so you can hear when Garfield is playing with them.
- Hide the Christmas tree light cords the best you can and get a chew safe cord cover to put over them.
- Mix turmeric and lemonade in a spray bottle and spray it around the tree. The bitter citrus smell should help keep the cat away.
- Cats don’t like loud noises. If you have some loose change lying around, put it in a small aluminum box. Every time you see your cat start to play with an ornament, shake the box. Eventually (like Pavlov’s dog), they will associate playing with the Christmas tree equals loud annoying noise.
It was another great holiday season, and now it’s time to prepare for the new year. So what do you do with your not so fresh Christmas tree? Let’s start the New Year right (isn’t one of your New Year’s resolutions to recycle more?) and dispose of it the responsible way.
- Remove the lights, ornaments, and tree stand. Lay the tree on a tarp.
- Sweep up the tree needles, but don’t vacuum them because they can clog up the vacuum.
- Recycle – Google your recycling options in your area or visit https://www.pickyourownchristmastree.org/disposing.php
- Many cities and communities offer curbside pick up for recycling Christmas trees for two weeks after Christmas.
- Find a drop-off recycling center in your area.
- Check with the tree farm where you got the tree. Some tree farms will take back the Christmas tree and recycle it.
- Click here for a list of alternative ways to recycle your Christmas tree.
Sill have questions about getting and maintaining a fresh Christmas tree this year? Visit realchristmastrees.org for everything you need to know about Christmas trees.
Now that winter is here, learn to protect yourself and your family during the winter months. Click to learn How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home this winter.
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