Keep Your Christmas Tree Looking Green

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O tannenbaum, o tannenbaum, I hope this year you don't burn down.

My apologies to Ernst Ansch├╝tz, the author of the original carol, but making sure your holiday tree is properly cared for is the best way to assure the festivities don't become a tragedy.

Glen McCombs, owner and operator of Plant Fair Nursery, Inc., provides the following helpful hints on caring for your Christmas tree.

"It starts with a fresh cut," McCombs said. "Then you water it and keep watering it."

1. Make a fresh cut. This opens up the tree's vascular system and allows the tree to continue to pull moisture up into its foliage.

If you do not make a fresh cut, the tree will not be able to absorb water.

2. Put it in water with preservative -- a commercial preservative added to the water is much more flame resistant than using plain water or homemade preservatives. Immediately (within 30 minutes) after you make a fresh cut, you will want to put the tree outside in a bucket of water that has preservative added to it.

Lukewarm water is taken up more readily that cold water. Be careful to keep the tree out of the sun, wind and freezing temperature. Keep it in a cool, protected area to reduce moisture loss.

3. Clean the stand. Mix a cap full of bleach with one cup of water and clean your stand's reservoir. This will reduce any microorganisms that can block the tree's ability to absorb water.

4. Keep it moist. After putting the tree in the stand, it is essential to keep water in the stand.

To keep the tree fresher for longer, be sure to add preservative to the water each time you fill the reservoir of the stand. An average tree may consume between two pints and one gallon of water per day.

Never let the tree go dry. If the water level drops below the butt of the tree, a seal will form and the tree will be unable to take up water. A stand with a large basin will need less refilling.

5. Keep it cool. It is best to use cool-burning lights on your tree. Turn off the lights when leaving the house or retiring for the night. It is very important to keep your tree away from heat sources such as heater vents, fireplaces, wood or pellet stoves, fireplace inserts, television sets and sunny windows. Turn down the room heat at night.

6. Remove the tree promptly. Remove the tree before it dries out. Never burn any part of a Christmas tree in a wood stove or fireplace.

McCombs also has tips for the care of your living Christmas tree, plus a word of caution, "We are not able to guarantee growth or survival of trees after they have been placed indoors."

  • Preparation: Keep the tree well-watered before bringing it in the house.
  • Placement: Situate your tree where it is at least 10 feet from a wood stove or fireplace, do not set it where heat from a furnace duct will blow directly on it and avoid putting it in a sunny window.
  • Watering: It is very important to keep the root ball of tree moist while it is in the house. Check the tree daily to be sure the soil is not dry. An easy and efficient way to water is to place ice cubes on top of the soil.

As they melt, they will supply even moisture. A vinyl saucer or plastic sheet under the tree will protect your floor or carpeting.

  • How Long: Living Christmas trees can be safely kept indoors up to seven days, it is important not to exceed this time limit without affecting the survivability of your tree.
  • Ornaments: Feel free to dress your living tree with your favorite decorations. Lights should be the small, miniature type.

Do not use spray snow that adheres to the branches.

  • Remove the tree promptly: After Christmas, set the tree in an unheated garage, carport, covered deck or other shady protected area for at least a week to allow it to readjust to cold weather. Hose it off and keep it watered during this period. Be sure to remove the plastic wrap or saucer to allow for drainage.
  • Planting: Dig the hole at least twice as wide and twice as deep as the depth of the container. Refill the bottom of the hole with a mixture of one-part mulch and two-parts soil.

Very carefully remove the tree from the pot and gently lower it into the hole. Set the top of the root ball even with the surrounding grade and build a good basin to hold water.

After planting, if there is twine around the base of the trunk, cut it and remove it. Leave any burlap intact as it will rot away. On large trees use stakes and guy wires to anchor against snow and high winds.

For more information, McCombs and Plant Fair have two publications available, "How to Plant Container Plants" and "How to Plant Balled and Burlapped Trees."

Plant Fair had a large selection of both cut and live trees arriving the week of Thanksgiving from Oregon, and will continue to have deliveries throughout the season.

Plant Fair Nursery is at 3497 E. Hwy. 260 in Star Valley. Call (928) 474-6556.

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