Christmas Tree Hints, Tips and Care
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Tree Tips

Choose a Tree:  (Credits: Wendy Prince / www.styleathome.com)
Are you looking for a Christmas tree that won't shed all of its needles, lose its wonderful pine scent and turn brown before the holidays are over? No problem -- having the perfect tree is easy if you know what to look for and how to care for it.

Choosing your tree
Before you buy a tree do a quick freshness test. Grab a branch and pull your hand toward you. If the tree is fresh, only five to ten needles should fall off. If you grab a handful of needles, consider looking for another tree.

Coniferous care
If you aren't ready to decorate your tree when you get home, store it in a sheltered area where it will be cool and dry. Cut about two centimeters off the bottom of the trunk and put it in a bucket of water to provide moisture. When you're ready to bring it inside, make a fresh cut in the trunk and put it in a stand filled with at least four liters of water.

The Canadian Christmas Tree Growers Association recommends using tree stands that can hold six litres of water or more. Check the water level every day -- constant watering will mean your tree will keep its scent, colour and needles.




Tree Buying Tips: (Credits: © 1996-2006, Reader's Digest Magazines Canada Limited)
  1. Measure the height of the ceiling in the room where you will display your tree. Choose a tree that is at least one foot shorter than the ceiling height (take a tape measure with you). Also, it's best to measure the opening of your tree stand and make sure the base of your chosen tree will fit.
  2. Run your fingers along the needles and give the tree a shake. If the tree is fresh, the needles should be pliable and no more than ten should fall off.
  3. Make sure the base of the tree is straight and at least six inches long, so it will fit easily into the tree stand.


Keeping It Fresh: (Credits: © 1996-2006, Reader's Digest Magazines Canada Limited)
Here's how to maintain your tree's fragrance and prevent mass needle fallout:
  • When you buy your tree, have an inch cut off the base to make it easier for the tree to take in water. (Be sure the cut is straight so the tree will stand up properly.)
  • If you don't plan to put the tree up right away, place the tree in a bucket of warm water and stand it in an unheated garage or porch away from the wind and cold.
  • When you bring your tree inside, use a stand that holds at least one gallon of water.
  • Keep your tree well-watered. Water prevents the needles from drying and dropping off and maintains the fragrance. Trees may use several quarts a day, so check the water level in the stand every few hours.
  • Never let the water level fall below the base of the tree or the cut end may seal over, preventing further water intake. If this happens, take the tree down and make a fresh cut.
  • Don't add anything to the water. Though some people swear that throwing in such extras as aspirin, soda water, bleach, salt, sugar, or Karo syrup keeps trees fresher longer, the experts say plain water, and plenty of it, is best.


Safety Tips: (Credits: © 1996-2006, Reader's Digest Magazines Canada Limited)
This season, keep your home safe from some common Christmas-tree hazards by heeding these important tips from the National Safe Kids Campaign:
  1. Never place your tree near a heat source, such as a fireplace or portable heater.
  2. Trim the lower branches to avoid eye injuries if you have small children or pets.
  3. Hang all ornaments that are breakable, have small, detachable parts or metal hooks, or that look like food or candy on higher branches where small children can't reach them. Green floral wire, which can be twisted firmly around branches, is a great way to hang fragile ornaments.
  4. Keep pets out of the room in which the tree is placed, especially if you can't be there to supervise. Cats are notorious for leaping onto Christmas trees, especially when pursued by another pet. Keep the tree from toppling by tying it to a ceiling hook. Both cats and dogs can knock down and break glass ornaments, then cut themselves on the pieces. Pets may also gnaw on electrical cords for Christmas tree lights. So hide them when possible, or help prevent injury by purchasing a pet-proof conduit.
  5. Avoid using artificial snow sprays, which can cause lung irritation if inhaled.
  6. Turn off tree lights when you go to bed or leave the house. Use only UL-approved electrical decorations and extension cords, and check to be sure no cords have frayed since you last used the lights.
  7. Never burn Christmas-tree branches in your fireplace. It can cause the buildup of creosote, a highly flammable compound.


Storing your Ornaments (Credits: © 1996-2006, Reader's Digest Magazines Canada Limited)
Whether they're heirlooms passed down to you from your great-grandmother or homemade treasures your kindergartner crafted, ornaments need to be stowed with care to maintain their pristine condition for next Christmas. Here's how:

Choose the correct container: The experts at Silvestri, a top manufacturer of holiday decorations, recommend storing ornaments in sturdy, partitioned cardboard boxes. You can buy these, but the sectioned boxes you can obtain for free at liquor stores work just as well. Forgo plastic containers; they don't allow air flow, so moisture can become trapped and damage the ornaments.

Wrap them right: Protect your ornaments before boxing them by wrapping them individually in acid-free tissue paper or 100 percent cotton cloth. Don't overstuff the compartments or you'll risk crushing the contents.

Find the ideal spot: Ornaments should be kept in a cool, dry place. So skip the attic (extreme temperatures can cause paint to flake) and the basement (dampness and mildew can cause irreparable damage). The best choice is an upper shelf in a closet where they can remain undisturbed until next December.



Recycling your tree:  (Credits: Wendy Prince / www.styleathome.com)
Instead of just throwing your tree out after the holidays, why not put it to some use? In some cities, non-profit groups gather trees for recycling. Or you can put it in the backyard with some suet for a bird shelter. Some municipalities also accept trees and use them for mulching.

Planting a Live Tree: (Credits: Michael J. McGroarty, www.Classbrain.com)
Tis the season when lots of people drag a real tree into their house and decorate it. Some people buy live trees that are balled in burlap instead of a cut tree. A live tree is a great idea, but many people make serious mistakes when it comes to handling a live tree, and they end up losing their money. The information in this article also pertains to any live tree you are planting, be it now during the winter, or during the summer.
  1. Before you even take the tree in the house, dig a hole for the tree where you expect to plant it after the holidays. Put the soil in a wheelbarrow and park it in the garage. You'll need loose soil to back fill the hole, and the ground might be frozen after the holidays.
  2. Keep your live tree in the house for as short a time as is possible.
  3. Keep the ball plenty moist while in the house, but not in a tub full of water. You don't want the ball to dry out completely, but by the same token it shouldn't be soggy all the time either. Just moist. You can wet it thoroughly, but then don't water again until the water is almost gone.
  4. After Christmas move the tree outdoors as soon as possible and plant it immediately. If you were not able to dig the hole earlier, the ground is frozen, and the tree can not be planted, leave it outside and pack bags of leaves or bales of straw around the ball. Find a way to heal it in in such a way that the amount of sun and wind the root ball receives is minimal.
  5. Try and plant the tree immediately if you can. You do not want to store the tree on top of the ground during the winter if you can avoid it. Putting in your garage is not a good idea either, it is likely to dry out in there. The absolute best place for the ball is in the ground, even if the ground has frozen after you dug the hole. Just set the tree in the hole and back fill with loose soil. Make sure there are no air pockets around the ball. Back fill only with small particles of soil. If this can not be done because the soil is frozen, just set the tree in the hole and back fill as soon as the weather permits.
  6. Check the ball for nylon string. Cut and remove any nylon string. Sometimes the diggers wrap the string around the stem of the tree. If the string is a cotton type, like sisal twine you can leave it on the ball but remove it from the stem. If the burlap is nylon it should be cut in many places or removed. If the ball is wrapped with a wire basket I recommend leaving it on. It will help to secure the tree and keep it from rocking back and forth with the wind. The roots will find their way through the wire and the burlap. Just cut the burlap where you can.
  7. Do not plant the tree too deep. This is the number one reason for plants that do not survive. They should not be planted any deeper than they were in the nursery. The top of the ball should be one to two inches above the ground level. If you have heavy, wet, clay soil, you should plant it even higher and build a bed up around the ball. When you plant them too deep the plants literally suffocate.
  8. Do not fertilize the tree at the time of planting. You can fertilize it in the spring, but only with an organic fertilizer. If you have compost available, mix some in while planting. Fertilizer can do more harm than it can good. I always recommend organic fertilizers. It's hard to make a mistake with organics. It's always a good idea to stake trees when you plant them. If the wind is constantly rocking them back and forth they will have a difficult time establishing new roots in their new home.
Michael J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit his most interesting website, http://www.freeplants.com and sign up for his excellent gardening newsletter, and grab a FREE copy of his E-book, "Easy Plant Propagation"

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