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Christmas Tree Selection and Caring Tips

Posted: December 6, 2012

So you bought a tree and now want to take good care of it so it will last and keep its needles.

The spirit of the holiday season has once again come to the Juniata Valley.  Stores are full of gifts, decorations, and wrapping paper, and Christmas carols are filling the radio waves.  It is time to go pick out that perfect Christmas tree with the family!  Here is a little help on the choosing and caring of your holiday pine.

First of all, where you purchase a tree can make a big difference.  Sure, convenience stores, gas stations, and even mail order through the internet are perfectly good ways to get deals on trees, but there are great advantages to supporting a local tree farm.  First of all, you are guaranteed freshness, as you either watch it being cut or even do the cutting yourself.  You also have a much greater selection within the species of trees a particular farm grows, and can find one with an aroma you like.  You are sure to find a shape of tree to fit any part of your house.  And finally, when going to a tree farm to pick out the perfect tree, it turns from a chore into a family event.  Some tree farms have special activities such as wagon rides, and sometimes it’s just fun to walk through the acres of trees until you find the best one that suits your home. A Christmas tree walk makes a great tradition.

When selecting a tree you should look for certain characteristics to ensure it’s good and healthy.  Make sure the needles are moist and flexible.  Try to find one with as little browning or broken branches as possible.  Also stay away from trees that have cuts or marks on the trunk.  A good test for a healthy tree is to shake the tree a bit if you can.  There will always be at least a few needles fall, but if a rain of needles falls to the ground, move on to another tree.

So you bought a tree and now want to take good care of it so it will last and keep its needles.  The most important time to worry about the care of your tree is the moments from when it is cut at the farm to when it gets placed in the stand with water.  As soon as the tree is cut, the trunk will start to dry out.  Getting it home in water as quickly as possible is the goal.  If your trunk becomes too dry, it will be closed off to absorbing the proper amount of water.  Just in case, you should cut, at an angle, one inch off the bottom trunk of your tree before you place it in a stand or bucket of water at home.  The first water you add to your tree should be warm water to help get that tree drinking.  Keeping your tree in a cool place will extend its life.  If you can, keep the tree in a cold garage or porch for a few days before introducing it to the heat of the house.  When the tree is standing in the house, make sure to keep the water level up, especially when pets are around that like to sneak under the tree for a pine flavored drink.

Make sure you place the tree away from fire hazards.  Do not place the tree near an open fireplace or candles.  Also check your tree lights for broken or frayed wires and loose connections.  If you leave your house or go to bed, remember to unplug the tree!

After the joy of the holidays and friends and family smiling over your tree, it’s time to remove it from the house.  Make sure you take off all tinsel and ornaments!  Do not burn the tree in the fireplace or wood burner!  That would be another fire hazard and there are much better ways to dispose of it.  Unfortunately, it is still popular to put the tree out with the garbage, but it is better to find or rent a chipper to turn the tree into mulch that can be used in your garden or compost.  Some municipalities have scheduled pick-ups to handle chipping and recycling of your trees.  Contact your local government to see if they have scheduled times.  An even better idea is to turn the Christmas tree into a backyard bird-feeder tree.  Simply set it up outside and hang fruit, suet balls, and seed cakes from it. 

You can watch birds scour your tree all winter long!