When you choose to decorate your home with a real Christmas tree, there are steps you can take to keep the tree green, healthy and safe throughout the holiday season. If you love the characteristic aroma of an evergreen tree, then you need to take care of it at the source. It’s important that you know to to appropriately choose and care for your tree so that it can last longer and you can be more environmentally conscious.
Picking a Good Tree
Choose a healthy tree. If at all possible, buy a Christmas tree from a tree farm, where you can purchase your tree while it’s still in the ground. A freshly cut Christmas tree will last longer than one that’s been cut weeks ago and shipped to distant retail outlets.
Steer clear of trees with a large number of dead or browning needles––these trees are already past their prime. Gently stroke a branch on the tree to make sure that the needles are flexible and remain on the tree.
Making Space in Your Home
Choose and clear a location for the tree. It should be kept away from open flames or heat sources, which may dry it out prematurely. Trees do sometimes burn so be careful (see Warnings below). Corners are good places to put trees because this placement keeps the tree safe from knocks and bumps. If you’ll be using lights to decorate your tree, place the tree close to an outlet. If this isn’t possible, you’ll need to use an extension cord. Be sure that if you use an extension cord, it runs along to wall and doesn’t create a trip hazard.
Cover the floor where the tree will be placed. You can use a properly sewn tree skirt or be budget savvy and use Christmas-themed paper or a piece of satin fabric as shown. This will not only serve decorative purposes, but it will also help protect the floor in case any water splashes out. If you have a skirt that goes over the cradle, you can still place abarrier underneath the cradle and apply the decorative skirt after the tree has been mounted. Not only does this make the tree more presentable but it prevents pets from attempting or wanting to drink the water in the base.
Mounting the Tree
Prepare the base of your tree. Using a small handsaw, cut about a half inch to an inch (1.3cm-2.5cm) off the bottom to aid water absorption. Note: It is recommended that you don’t cut the base at an angle, in a V-shape or drill a hole in the base. None of these methods help water absorption and they may make it more difficult to hold the tree safely in the stand.
DO NOT cut the tree with a reciprocal saw or any blade that moves so fast that it will create friction. If the cut gets hot enough, the sap in the tree will seal the end and make water absorption impossible. A chainsaw or manual saw will work.
Mount your tree within eight hours of cutting the base. That is how long a fresh tree can go without water before absorption is jeopardized. A Christmas tree should never be mounted dry. It is much better to place it in a container of water that is replenished on a regular basis. You can buy special tree cradles or stands which screw into the base of the tree and provide watering space. Or, you can go for the rougher but tried-and-true method of using a bucket filled with small rocks (put the tree in, fill the bucket with rocks around the trunk). The tree should be provided with 1 quart (950ml) of water for every inch (2.5cm) in trunk diameter.
Note: ensure that whatever you use, the tree is stable. Don’t whittle down the bark of the tree just so that it can fit in the stand – that outer layer is the part that absorbs the most water.
Make sure the tree is straight. It is a good idea for at least two people to put up the tree, one holding it stable while the other fixes the base. Always stand back to check that the tree is straight before you get busy decorating. Obviously, it is easiest to fix at this stage.
Decorating the Tree Safely
Decorate the tree. For many, this is the most enjoyable part. It’s also a good time to think about Christmas tree safety. A properly maintained Christmas tree should not be a fire hazard, as long as you use common sense in decorating it. For example:
Check each string of lights to ensure that the bulbs are working properly.
Inspect the cords to make sure they are not frayed or bitten by pets, and that the connections are secure.
Discard any decorations that look questionable and replace them. Tree ornaments are not expensive items to replace, but your house is.
Place small and fragile ornaments out of the reach of small children and pets to prevent accidental breakage or ingestion.
Taking Care of the Tree
Water the tree. To start, you’ll need to make sure your tree gets lots of water because in the first few hours that it’s settling in, it will need plenty and will drink like crazy (possibly a full gallon/3.7 liters on the first day). (Also see Tips below.) Afterward, you will need to add water almost every day. Not only is regular water good for the tree’s vitality, but a well-watered tree is less dry and therefore, less combustible. Make sure you never let the water level go below the base of the tree. Some people put an aspirin in the water to help keep it fresh. Some alsoadd Ginger Ale, Sprite™ or another similar soda drink (fizzy lemonade) to feed their tree. Be careful, though; if you accidentally bump the can whilst watering the tree, you might end up with very sticky presents!
Check for sap leakage. It is a good idea to check occasionally for sap that has leaked from your tree onto nearby furnishings or floor coverings. The sooner you catch any sap leakages, the easier they are to remove.
Collect fallen pine needles. Use a dust pan and brush or a handheld vacuum (many needles going into a larger vacuum can easily clog it up; this may even break the machine, whereas a handheld version works well because you are obliged to keep emptying it as you work).
This is a daily ritual, unless you want to have an enormous pile of needles to clean up when you finally move the tree. The needles are unsightly and potentially hazardous for curious pets and infants.
A well-watered tree will lose fewer needles but all fresh trees will lose some needles.
Disposing of the Tree
Dispose of your tree as garden waste. Your tree has given you its life and has done a great service in being a part of your Christmas spirit. If your municipality has a tree collection program, you can make use of it. If you have room in the garden, you can leave your tree there until spring, when you can chip it into garden mulch (or, if you live where Christmas occurs in summer, you can chip the tree as soon as you remove it).
Some people choose to dispose of their old and decaying Christmas trees in lakes. If you live in an area warm enough to do this, consider that a Christmas tree would provide a healthy hiding place for fish and other underwater critters. Check with local officials or park rangers before depositing old trees into lakes.
Use LED Christmas lights to help keep down the heat on the tree (and also to conserve energy). Turn off the lights when not in use to save energy and to lessen any potential for fire danger.
Try not to use water that’s been treated through a home water softener system. Water softener water has high levels of sodium in it which will actually shorten the life of the cut tree. If possible, find a faucet in the house that is not “downstream” of the water softener. Otherwise, you can use distilled water or bottled water, but bottled water may also contain traces of sodium (but usually lower than water softener water).
Never leave your house unattended with your Christmas tree lights still on as it could catch on fire. If you’re traveling but a family is going there and you leave the lights on, consider a neighbor checking to make sure it’s not too hot.
If you accidentally let the tree run out of water, it may dry out and shed its needles. The only way to solve this problem is to cut another inch off the base and water generously.
Remember never to leave lights on when no one is at home or everyone is sleeping.
Be careful when watering, since water and electricity do not mix well.
Cats and dogs are notorious for knocking down Christmas trees and making a big mess. If you have a cat, a dog or other pet in the house, keep them out of the room where the tree is located or take steps to dog-proof or cat-proof your Christmas tree.
Do not put flammable or heat-producing items close to the tree, ever. That means keeping such items as candles, TVs, stereos, electric heaters etc. well away from the tree.
Don’t overload electrical circuits.
Do not run a green fir tree through a chipper. The combination of resin and needles may clog it up, leaving you with a difficult cleaning job.
How to Care for a Living Christmas Tree
How to Pick out a Christmas Tree
How to Choose a Living Christmas Tree
How to Buy a Christmas Tree from a Tree Farm
How to Dispose of a Christmas Tree
How to Cat Proof Your Christmas Tree
How to Make Your Christmas Tree Smell Good Longer
Sources and Citations
http://www.christmas-tree-care.com/1-christmas-tree-care.htm Tree Help. Original source of this article. Shared with permission.
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