Choosing a real Christmas tree is fun for the whole family and is easy to do. There are a few simple steps when selecting and caring for your tree.
First, when selecting a tree, do a freshness test. Gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Few needles should come off in your hand if the tree is fresh. Second, look at the ground around the tree. You should not see excessive amounts of green needles on the ground, although some interior loss of brown needles is normal and will occur over the lifetime of the tree. Once you’ve chosen your tree, keep it in a bucket of water in a sheltered, unheated area such as a porch or garage to protect it from the wind and sun until you’re ready to decorate it.
Before you set up your tree, make a fresh, straight cut across the base of the trunk – about a quarter of an inch up from the original cut – and place the tree in a tree stand that holds at least a gallon of water.
Caring for your real tree is easy. The most important thing to remember is that real trees need water daily. Never let your tree stand go dry.
A seal of dried sap will form over the cut stump if the water drops below the base of the tree – preventing the tree from absorbing water when the tree stand is refilled. If a seal does form, make another fresh cut to allow the tree to absorb water.
It is important to remember that a tree will absorb more than a gallon of water in the first 24 hours and 1 or more quarts a day thereafter. Water is important because it prevents the needles from drying and prevents the boughs of some species from drooping.
In addition, keep your tree away from heat and dry draft sources such as fireplaces, lights, vents and TV sets. Test your light cords and connections to make sure they’re in good working order before hanging them on the tree. You don’t want to use cords with cracked insulation or broken or empty sockets.
Be sure to unplug lights before you go to bed or leave the house. You should also keep pets and young children away from the tree and cords. Sensible precautions such as these will help preserve the unique beauty and tradition only a real Christmas tree can provide.
The preceding article was produced by the LSU AgCenter.