With Christmas usually comes decorations, and there is no greater decoration than the Christmas tree. The University of Illinois Extension Office is giving some tips on finding the purchased tree whether you get it from a neighborhood lot or a tree farm. Of course, if you have a plastic one, you are already set.
The biggest decision is probably knowing where to place the tree. Make sure to place the tree away from heat sources, such as TVs, fireplaces, radiators, and air ducts, and place the tree clear of doors. Make sure you measure the height and width of the space you have available in the room where the tree will be placed. Take a tape measure with you to measure your tree and bring a cord to tie to your car.
Trees sold on retail lots may have come from out of state and may have been cut weeks in advance. Buying trees early before the best trees have been sold can make all the difference in the world. U of I Horticulture Educator Richard Hentschel, says that choosing a fresh tree can help it last the longest and offers some tips himself on what to do including dropping the tree a few inches and seeing how many green needles fall off.
Hentschel says most trees last the same amount of time, but if you’re able to get a local tree it will last longer.
Make sure the handle or base of the tree is straight and 6-8 inches long. Some Christmas trees will hold needles longer than others. If you are going to a farm, be careful of fire-ant mounds, tree stumps, an occasional blackberry vine, uneven ground, and sharp saws. Keep an eye on the weather and bring proper clothing including rain gear if need be.
For cutting, it’s usually a two-person project and can be done with the cutter lying on the ground while the helper holds the bottom limbs up. While the cut is being made the helper tugs on the tree lightly so that the saw doesn’t bind. The tugging force should be applied to the side of the tree opposite the cut. A back cut should be made first with the final cut coming from the opposite side.
You can usually bring the tree to the processing area where it will be cleaned and netted. You can also pick up a tree removal bag if the farm has one. A tree removal bag can be used as a tree skirt and pulled up around the tree to help keep floors clean.
If you aren’t putting your tree up right away, you can store it in an unheated garage or an area out of the wind and cold. Make a fresh cut on the bottom and place the tree in a bucket of warm water. Make another cut when you bring the tree inside. The stand for the tree should be sturdy and able to hold at least one gallon of water. Keep the water level about the base of the tree. If the base dries out resin will form and the tree will dry out quicker. Plenty of research shows that you only need water to keep your tree fresh.
Check all Christmas tree lights for cord wear and bulbs working. Unplug trees at night. After Christmas and you are ready to take your tree down, take it down before it dries out. Many fresh-cut trees can last at least five weeks before drying out. As always, you can check with your community to see if they have a tree pick-up service at the end of the season.