Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

Taking Care of Tannenbaum!!

Taking Care of Tannenbaum!!

Christmas is coming! The presents have been purchased – most of them anyway – and now is the time to start thinking about that tree. Christmas trees come in all shapes and sizes, from the huge natural tree that towers above the White House lawn every season to little artificial ones with shiny aluminum needles.  For many families, the holiday wouldn’t be complete without a cut natural tree gracing the living room.

There are a wide variety of Christmas tree types available on the market, each with a distinctive shape and color.  Scots pine, white pine and white spruce are among the most popular and widely available.  And, in certain areas, local species are offered for sale as well.

Every year beginning in late fall, Christmas tree lots spring up in shopping mall parking lots, at home and garden centers and near local convenience stores.  Gas stations also get into the act.  Christmas trees are even available by mail order on the Internet.  While trees bought at these locations can be perfectly acceptable, an alternative worth considering, depending upon your location, is a tree farm.  Buying from a tree farm has a number of advantages.  The first is freshness.  When you see your tree being cut or you cut it yourself at a tree farm, you can be sure you are getting the freshest tree possible.  The second advantage is selection.  While most farms specialize in only one or two species of tree, the many different shapes and sizes available mean that trees are available to suit almost every taste.  Finally, a visit to a tree farm can be a real outing both for you and your family.  Many tree farms also have activities like wagon rides which turn buying a Christmas tree from a chore into an event.

If you do decide to purchase a Christmas tree from a commercial tree lot, once again, the most important consideration is freshness.  Many Christmas trees are trucked a considerable distance, sometimes part way across the continent, and days or even weeks may pass between the time the trees are cut and when they arrive for sale.  Always ask the vendor where the tree has come from and how long ago it was cut.  Buy a locally produced tree wherever possible.

Inspect your prospective purchase.  Does it appear green and healthy with a fragrant smell and moist flexible needles or is there evidence of drying or browning?  Avoid any trees with broken branches or damaged bark.  Bounce the tree lightly on its cut end if you can or shake it.  Does this result in an inevitable little sprinkling or does it produce a shower or needles?  If needles rain down, you might be wise to look around a little more.

The next consideration after freshness is size.  Make sure the tree you buy will fit comfortably in the room and location you have chosen.  Use a tape measure if necessary.  Check the bottom of the tree.  Is there enough space between the end and the lowest branches to make a slightly diagonal fresh cut?  Cutting an extra inch off the bottom before mounting your tree will greatly help water absorption and ensure your tree lasts as long as possible.  Be sure to make this final cut just before placing it in water.  If it is exposed to the air for too long, the vessels will become blocked.

The first thing to do after you have carefully selected your Christmas tree is to get it home and into its stand as quickly as possible.  A Christmas tree should never be mounted dry, but rather in a container of water that is replenished on a regular basis.  As referenced above, using a small handsaw, cut about an inch off the bottom at a slight angle to aid water absorption.  Make sure the tree is mounted securely in its stand and that the tree itself is positioned away from open flames or heat sources that may dry it out prematurely.

After your tree has been mounted, the decorating begins.  A properly maintained Christmas tree is not a particular fire hazard, but common sense is important too.  Candles or open-flame ornaments of any kind are never, ever to be used.  Check strings of lights to ensure that the bulbs are working properly, that the cords are not frayed and that the connections are secure.  Discard any that look questionable and replace with new strings.  Never leave lights on when no one is at home. Once your tree is up and decorated, sit back and enjoy.  Or get to work on those last minute presents!

Generally speaking, a Christmas tree should be kept for a maximum of 10 days. Still the most popular way of discarding a Christmas tree is to leave it with the garbage for pick up. Better, many municipalities have a special tree pick-up day when discarded trees are taken to be chipped for mulch. As an alternative to discarding your tree, think about standing it in your backyard for use as a bird feeder. Or take it yourself to have it chipped for mulch.

While maintaining your Christmas tree isn’t necessarily a “gardening task, it never hurts to be reminded about the proper care of your live tree during the holiday season. For complete information and recommendations for tree types log on to!

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