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How to Care for Your Live Christmas Tree

Following a few simple steps when caring for your live tree will help keep it fresh during this season, whether you buy the tree from a tree lot, garden center or a "cut your own" farm.

Is it me or has anyone noticed that the Christmas decorating season seems to begin earlier each year? Like a number of my neighbors, I took advantage of the balmy weather over Thanksgiving weekend to put up my outdoor lights and decorations.

Thanksgiving weekend also signals the arrival of cut Christmas trees at local garden centers, tree lots and the opening of area tree farms for those folks who like to cut their own tree. Since live Christmas trees can be purchased a month before the actual holiday, I thought it might be helpful to share some basic steps to keep your tree as fresh as possible through the season.

 The Maryland Department of Agriculture recommends that an easy way to test for freshness when selecting a cut, live tree is to make sure the needles will bend without breaking. Brittle needles often mean the tree has become dried out between the time it was harvested and made available for sale. It has been my experience in the past that even a freshly cut tree will lose some needles when moved. The important thing to remember is to not choose a tree that is losing its needles like Charlie Brown’s little tree.

Whether you buy a tree that has already been cut or buy a tree from a “cut your own” farm, there are several things you can do to keep your tree in good condition.

According to The Maryland Christmas Tree Association live trees need lots of water to remain as fresh as possible. Whether you are going to put the tree in your home right away or keep it outside in cool, shaded area for a few days, have a tree stand or bucket filled with lukewarm water ready in which to place your tree.

Then, using a saw cut about a one inch long portion of the tree trunk from the base of the tree making sure the cut is straight and perpendicular to the tree trunk. Once the cut is made, immediately place the tree in the stand or bucket filled with water.

A good rule for selecting an appropriate size tree stand is to choose one that can hold a quart of water for every inch of trunk diameter and have an opening large enough to accommodate the trunk. A tree with a four inch diameter trunk would need a tree stand that holds at least a gallon of water. Make sure to check the amount of water in the stand daily because a fresh tree will take up a lot of water, especially the first few days it is in your home.

Making sure your Christmas tree has plenty of water in its stand is vital to maintaining the freshness of your tree. For additional information on keeping a live tree in your house, The Maryland Christmas Tree Association has more advice on how to keep your tree fresh and safe during the holiday season.

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