How to Get the Most Out of Your Christmas Tree
Below is a list of what we feel are the most successful strategies for purchasing and maintaining a beautiful and fresh Christmas tree!
Finding A Quality Tree Lot or Farm:
1. Above all else your best efforts at having a long lived and great Christmas tree begin with where you purchase it. Ideally you want to either visit a farm where you can actually cut the tree down yourself (it's difficult to pick a more fresh tree than that!) OR where the precut trees are maintained properly. Precut trees can have an exceptionally long life span if they are managed well. Proper management includes three main techniques:
a) the trees are kept out of the wind to reduce water loss from chapping (the same thing that happens to our skin on windy days)
b) trees are kept out of the sun to reduce "sunburn" and dehydration (again the exact same thing that happens to our skin)
c) and most importantly find a location where the trees are maintained at all times in water. If the trees have not been capable of drinking consistently the sap will harden around the base of the tree and dehydration will quickly ensue. The only way to recover from and remove the hardened sap is to cut 2-3 inches off of the bottom of the tree. However it is much better to prevent the period of drying out that occurs from this scenario in the first place.
2. Don't be too concerned if you find that your tree drops a lot of brown needles when it is first picked up . . . this is very normal. All evergreen trees drop needles at some point each year . . . which is how people in the pine straw business can have something to actually collect and bale each year. With many species of evergreens (firs and spruce in particular) these needles have no way to fall completely to the ground and gradually build up on the interior of the trees. When the trees are cut down and moved from location to location these brown needles gradually begin to fall away.
3. The true test for the health of the tree is what is commonly known as the "Fresh Test". It's easy to do and a great indicator of how fresh the tree still is. Simply grab a branch about 6 to 12 inches from the end, squeeze it snugly, and pull the branch through your hand. If you end up with a handful of green needles the tree is beginning to dry out and that's not a very good sign. Ideally you will come away with either no or relatively few green needles.
Take Care of Your Tree At Home:
1. If you aren't going to bring your tree into your home upon arrival be sure to place the base in a bucket of water and keep it out of the sun and wind . . . for all of the same reasons as described above.
2. When you bring it into your home do your best to place it in an area that will minimize the amount of direct sunlight that it will receive.
3. After you get your tree in the stand go ahead and fill it with water right away. It is VERY important to never let the base of the tree stay out of water long enough for the sap at the base of the trunk to harden. It results in a situation similar to letting glue harden in a straw. You can go ahead and try to suck water through the straw later, but it isn't going to work!
4. Find a tree stand with a bowl that will hold at least two gallons of water. Christmas is a busy season and a large bowl that holds a lot of water will decrease the chances of your tree drinking the water dry in the bowl before you can refill it. This is particularly important with big trees as they can really consume some impressive quantities of water during the first couple of weeks.
5. Don't waste any efforts with placing additives into the water. Water is what keeps our blood flowing smoothly and trees aren't any different. Our bodies need lots of water and so do trees. Additives will likely have an extremely minimal effect.
6. Be sure to close any and all heating vents that will be blowing on or towards your Christmas tree. The dry air will increase the rate of dehydration through the needles.
7. If you heat your home with a wood burning stove or fireplace realize that your home has a VERY LOW level of humidity. That means all items at home containing moisture are going to dry quickly . . . your nose, your lips, kitchen towels, house plants, AND your Christmas tree! This is my situation so I can relate. We recommend waiting until December to get your tree if this is your situation. Wood heat is awesome . . . but Christmas trees aren't particularly huge fans of it (I guess they don't particularly like drying out and probably aren't crazy about the idea of you actually burning trees to warm yourself! HA!).
8. While I don't do this . . . I have heard several of our "Farm Friends" say that misting your tree once in a while with a squirt bottle really helps maintain its freshness. I'm not that ambitious, but I can appreciate the validity of the exercise! :) Another recommendation recently brought to our attention is to keep a humidifier in the same room as your Christmas tree . . . which really seems like a realistic idea for me!
9. We strongly recommend loading the area around the tree with plenty of presents for your family, friends, and particularly those less fortunate than you. A Christmas tree loaded with gifts for others just always seems to be beautiful no matter what its condition!
And above all else have a Merry Christmas and be certain to take plenty of opportunities to remember that the spirit of Christmas is heavily centered around spending time with your loved ones and gracing those whom you do know, and don't know, with acts of love, kindness, and unabashed charity!
We wish you a very Merry Christmas and the best in the New Year!