Well, Thanksgiving is over, and now is the time to start putting up the Christmas decorations. To many people, the holiday season begins with putting up the Christmas tree. If you are like me, you love a fresh Christmas tree in your home. More than 33 million fresh trees are used to decorate in American households. There are several species to choose from, but the most common are pine, fir, spruce and cedar/cypress. Virginia Pines and Leyland Cypress are common Christmas trees grown in Georgia. The most well known Christmas tree is the Fraser Fir. These are grown in North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee and are shipped to Georgia during the holiday season. Here are a few tips on selecting and caring for the tree.
First, make sure that you choose a tree that will fit the space reserved for it. I am horrible about trying to buy a 10-foot tree when I only have 8-foot high ceilings. I have finally learned that a 7-foot tree is the max height that will fit into my home. Second, when selecting a cut tree do a freshness test. To do this you can either pull gently on a branch, or hold the tree off the ground and bring it down abruptly; very few green needles should shed. Remember that inner needles normally turn brown and shed naturally each year. Good fragrance and green color are also good indicators of freshness.
Once you have selected a fresh tree there are several things to do to keep it fresh. If you are carrying it on top of a car cover it in plastic. This will help reduce the drying effects of 60 mph winds.
The most important thing to remember is that real trees need water. Research has not shown much benefit from using “freshness extender” chemicals. When you get home, make a fresh cut across the base of the trunk 1/4 inch up from the original cut. When a tree is first cut, a seal of sap occurs naturally over the stump, which prevents water loss from the tree. The new cut breaks this seal and allows the tree to take up water.
Until you are ready to decorate, keep your tree outdoors, standing in a bucket of water, and protected from the sun and wind. Once inside, keep plenty of water in the tree stand. A Christmas tree can absorb a gallon of water in the first 24 hours, and two pints to a gallon each day it is up. Check the stand daily and add water as needed. If the stand goes dry a seal will reform on the stump and a new cut will need to be made.
Finally, make sure that your tree is away from heat sources and blowing air. Also make sure that lights are in good working order before you hang them, and unplug lights before going to bed.
Charlotte Meeks is the Houston County agricultural and natural resources agent. Contact her at 478-987-2028 or firstname.lastname@example.org.