‘Tis the season to be jolly! Nothing gets me into the holiday spirit faster than going to cut down our Christmas Tree. We typically go the long weekend after Thanksgiving and thanks to a few rules we have learned to follow, our tree stays green and healthy for the entire month.
Selecting Your Tree
Whether you are cutting your tree down or picking one that’s already been cut, you’ll want to make sure you select a tree that is the right size for your space and won’t start dropping needles the moment you get it home. Don’t buy a tree that is losing green needles or dry, brittle twigs. If you’re choosing a tree that’s cut, shake the tree a bit and drop it on its trunk a few times to see it drops needles. (The loss of old needles from the inside of the tree does not mean anything and those can be shaken out with a mechanical shaker found at many farms.) Also check out the bottom of the tree and make sure there’s enough room at the trunk to display it without having to cut off too many large branches.
Getting Your Tree Home
After the perfect tree has been picked, getting it home safely is critical. If you’ll need to take a highway home, it is ideal to wrap your tree in a tarp or carry it in the back of a pickup truck. Strong 60mph winds can damage your tree especially if it’s a warm day. Securely tie your tree to the roof, if necessary, and make sure the bottom of the tree faces forward to prevent needles from being blown off en route. If you can’t set your tree up immediately, make sure to keep it out of sunlight and in water until you’re ready to bring it indoors. Make a fresh cut in the base of the trunk and simply stand it in a bucket of water in a cool, shaded location.
Putting Your Tree in Its Stand
Before putting your tree into a stand, cut off a disk of wood about 1/2″ to 1″ thick from the base of the trunk. The cut should be perpendicular, not at an angle or into a v-shape. Make sure you leave enough of a handle for the stand to do its job properly. If you’re nervous to do this yourself, the farm or garden center you go to can do this for you just make sure not to bruise the end of the trunk or get it dirty on the way home and get it into water as quickly as possible. A tree will absorb a gallon or more of water in the first 24 hours after it’s cut and one or more quarts a day after that, so be sure to fill the tree stand with enough cold water to last 24 hours. If the stand should run dry before you’re able to refill it, the water uptake may stop or be limited and cause premature drying. Clean, cold water is the only requirement to keep your Christmas tree fresh and healthy throughout the season.
Keep Your Tree Watered
If possible, keep your tree away from sources of heat. Check the stand every morning for its water level as dried sap will form a seal over the cut trunk within hours if the water level falls below the base of the tree. To prevent having to take the tree down to make another cut, simply keep the stand full of cold water at all times. A steady water level prevents needles from drying and dropping off, prevents the boughs from drooping and also keeps the tree fragrant.
Following these “rules” does not guarantee that you won’t have needles to sweep up after removing the tree from your home. However, it will definitely reduce the number of needles dropped and help to keep your tree looking greener and smelling like Christmas for much longer.