Keep your evergreen looking fresh with these handy tips.Christmas may be just around the corner, but it doesn't take more than a few days of heat and neglect to dry out a fresh Christmas tree. And a dry tree is not only an unsafe tree, but it's a messy tree that drops needles you'll have to clean up. If you're putting up a real Christmas tree, follow these important tips to make sure it starts out fresh and stays fresh well into the New Year.
1. Choose a healthy, green tree with few brown needles. Keep in mind that if you buy your tree from a garden store or roadside lot, the tree will likely have come from out of state and have been exposed to drying winds in transit. Run a few branches through your hands. The needles should feel pliable and not fall off. Raise the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it onto the trunk. Very few green needles should drop off, though it's fine for the tree to lose a few brown ones. Select a tree that been displayed in a shady, not a sunny, location.
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2. At home, make a fresh one-inch cut off the end of the trunk and place the tree in a bucket of warm water. Store any tree you are not putting up right away in an unheated garage or area that's protected from wind and freezing temperatures.
3. When you're ready to bring the tree inside, make another one-inch cut off the trunk and place it in a sturdy stand that holds at least one gallon of water. Fill the stand with one quart of water for every inch of the trunk's diameter.
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4. Locate your tree away from heat sources, like fireplaces, radiators, and air ducts. There's nothing more Christmas-y than a beautifully decorated tree beside a fireplace, but if you use your fireplace regularly, find another spot for your tree.
5. Keep the water level above the base of the trunk. Too little water causes resin to form over the cut end of the trunk. Once that happens, the tree stops absorbing water and dries out quickly. The jury is still out on whether or not additives in the water, like bleach, aspirin, and sugar, are really necessary to keep a tree fresh. They likely won't hurt, but most experts agree that plenty of plain water is really all you need to keep a tree fresh.
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Finally, take your tree down before it dries out. With proper care, most trees can last five weeks or more and remember to recycle your tree according to your town's policy.
The easiest way to clean up fallen needles is with your vacuum's hose. Skip the attachments and use just the end of the hose to draw needles directly into the bag or canister.
-By Carolyn Forte
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