HOME & GARDEN SPOT: Caring for your Christmas tree | Lifestyles

On Thanksgiving Day, most families say goodbye to the fall décor and hello to snowflakes, snowmen and Santa Claus.

The one decoration people seem to enjoy most is the Christmas tree. Whether one chooses an artificial tree or a cut tree, the Christmas tree is one of the most-recognizable symbols of the holiday season.

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While there are advantages to either an artificial or a cut tree, many households would not consider it Christmas without having a cut tree in their living room. While it might be a little more work, many find the work and maintenance well worth it.

Chris Becker, Limestone County coordinator for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, advises residents to be aware of where they buy their tree.

“When buying a live tree, I would recommend buying from a reputable grower or garden center,” said Becker. “Also, don’t shop the bargain aisle. You will be paying a premium for a tree that most likely will not survive.”

You can assure yourself of a fresh tree by going to a local Christmas tree farm and cutting the tree yourself, which can also become a great family tradition. However, the ease and convenience of getting a precut tree may be more attractive to many.

If you choose to get your tree a few days before you plan to put it up, make a space in a sheltered area of your yard, out of direct wind and sunlight. An outdoor shed or an unheated garage would be the ideal location to store the tree.

Before storing the tree, cut off the bottom quarter inch of the trunk to open fresh vascular tissue. This allows the tree to take in water. Make the cut straight across so the tree will sit properly in its stand. Keep bark damage to a minimum so the tree can freely absorb water.

Place the tree in a bucket, tree stand or other container of water to keep it fresh. Make sure the base of the trunk stays submerged. If not, the base of the tree may seal up, forcing you to have to recut the base so it can absorb sufficient water.

Choose the right indoor location. Keep in mind that cooler temperatures and higher humidity help extend the life of the tree.

If possible, put the tree in a room where you can close the heat vents to keep it cooler. If that is not an option, keep the tree as far away as possible from heat vents and fireplaces.

Make sure your tree stand holds at least one gallon of water. Cut trees will use about a quart of water per inch of trunk diameter per day. The base of the tree must always be covered with water.

A Christmas tree will use the most water during its first week indoors, but check the water level daily and add water when needed. It takes only six hours for the base to dry and the sap to seal off the vascular system. If this happens, you will need to recut the base so the tree can absorb water again. That is a task no one wants to confront after the tree is decorated.

— For information on topics related to the home and garden, contact any office of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. The Limestone County Office is at 1109 W. Market St. in Athens. Office hours are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For more information, call 256-232-5510 or visit www.aces.edu.


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