Home & Garden

Fresh Christmas tree the ideal holiday choice

Kenna McElmurrey, 6, holds her ears as her dad, Wade, and sister Dabni, 12, cut down a Christmas Tree recently at Double “B” Farms in Lizella.
Kenna McElmurrey, 6, holds her ears as her dad, Wade, and sister Dabni, 12, cut down a Christmas Tree recently at Double “B” Farms in Lizella. jvorhees@macon.com

It is hard to believe that the holiday season is upon us again! Frantically searching for the perfect gifts for loved ones, enjoying family and friends and, of course, putting up the family Christmas tree top the list for many.

Although the prolonged drought has been difficult on many growers, including tree farmers, there are still many quality trees out there to choose from.

If you prefer a pre-cut tree, pick one that is as fresh as possible. The tree should have a healthy green appearance with a fresh fragrance. Do a quick freshness test by running your hand along a branch. Needles should be flexible and not come off in your hand.

Next, shake the tree or bump the trunk on the ground. While you should expect to see the tree shed some brown needles, avoid a tree that loses green needles.

Examine the lower part of the trunk. If you can see splits, the tree most likely will have dried to a point where it will not take up water. Make sure the base of the trunk is straight and 6 to 8 inches long to allow for placement in the tree stand.

Whether you buy a pre-cut tree or visit one of our local farms, cut off a half-inch of the tree’s trunk when you get it home. Set it in a stand and supply water within 20 minutes. This unseals the sap residue and allows the tree to take up water. A 6-foot tree will consume a gallon or more of water per day for the first several days!

Although its water needs will lessen over time, make sure that the trunk stays at least one inch below the water level at all times. Adding a commercial preservative to the water may reduce bacterial growth and extend the life of the tree.

Another option to consider is a living tree (a variety suitable for Middle Georgia) that can be added to your landscape following the holidays. If you have a place in your yard that will accommodate the full-grown size of the tree, late December or early January is an ideal time to plant it. Choose either a balled-and-burlapped tree or one that has been container grown.

Allow the living tree to acclimate gradually to the indoor environment by first placing it in a sheltered area, such as a garage or a porch. When you move it into the house, choose as cool a location as possible, but one with a lot of natural light. Place the root ball or container in a water-holding tub with a 2-inch layer of gravel in the bottom. This will keep the tree from sitting in water. The root ball should be kept constantly and evenly moist. Living trees should remain inside for a maximum of seven to 10 days.

Whether fresh or living, remember that dry trees can be a fire hazard. Be sure to avoid heat sources such as vents and fireplaces. Miniature tree lights give off less heat than larger lights. Consider using lights only during times that people are in the room to minimize drying. Most importantly, as mentioned above, don’t forget to keep a constant water supply for the trees.

For information about Christmas tree farms near you, visit the Georgia Christmas Tree Association’s site at gacta.com. I hope you enjoy the beauty and fragrance of a fresh Christmas tree this season. Use it as a gathering point in your home and spend time there to make memories with family and friends.

Contact county Extension agent Karol Kelly at karolk@uga.edu.