Few things are as festive as putting up a real tree for Christmas. The fresh scent of pine and the sweet smell of sap help bring the outdoors right into your home. The biggest challenge of having a real tree is often keeping it fresh and green throughout the holiday season.
Not only do brown pine needles look dull, but they can also be a big fire hazard. Just one spark into a dry Christmas tree could cause it to go up in flames in a matter of minutes. Keep your tree looking green and reduce your risk of fire by following these tips for Christmas tree care.
Choose a Healthy Tree
Depending on your location, you might have access to cut down your tree from a Christmas tree farm or even a National Forest with a permit. When cutting your tree, try to find a tree that is full and green. Avoid trees that have bare or brown patches. These missing or discolored needles could be a sign of disease or distress that will age your tree faster.
The same advice holds when choosing a pre-cut tree from a Christmas tree lot. You should try to find a tree without bare patches or browning needles. Also try to pick a tree in a shady location, such as under an awning. The sun can quickly dry out trees on a lot. When you find a tree you like, run your hands over the branches. Very few green needles should fall off as your hand passes across them. If a lot of needles fall, move on to the next tree.
Look for a lot that sells locally-sourced trees, if possible. The further a tree has to travel, the drier it becomes because it’s exposed to wind and weather during transport.
Make a Fresh Cut
The Christmas tree lot will probably offer to make a fresh cut at the base of your tree before loading it onto your vehicle. This fresh cut straight across the trunk helps the tree absorb more water. As trees sit on a lot, the sap slides down the trunk and can form a resin around the base. This hardened resin creates a seal that makes it almost impossible for water to be absorbed by the tree.
Place the tree into a bucket of water if you’re not putting your tree up right away. Store the tree in an unheated garage, covered porch, or other areas where it won’t be exposed to the weather. Avoid putting the tree in an area that’s heated, sunny, or exposed to wind or freezing temperatures. These conditions can cause your tree to dry faster and create a potential fire hazard. Be sure to make another fresh cut about one inch above the base of the trunk to allow for more water absorption before bringing the tree inside.
Pick the Right Spot
When planning where to put your tree for the holidays, look for a spot that’s away from heat sources. Any type of heat source can cause your tree to dry up faster, including televisions, computers, or heating ducts.
Other heat sources not only dry out your tree but could be a potential fire hazard. Keep your tree away from fireplaces, space heaters, or wood stoves. You should also avoid placing décor like candles near the tree, where they could potentially fall over and start a fire.
You can help keep your tree from excessive drying by adding a humidifier to your room. A humidifier helps put moisture back into the air and might help extend the life of your tree.
Keep it Hydrated
Your tree will likely need a lot of water when you first bring it home. Expect to fill your Christmas tree stand with a gallon or more of water when you first put up the tree. After the initial watering, you should check the water level daily. The base of the tree should always be covered by water. If it’s not, refill the tree stand so there’s plenty of water for the tree to drink. This prevents sap resin from forming and reduces the need to make another cut to the base.
There are a lot of commercial additives and homemade recipes that can be added to your tree’s water, but most experts suggest using plain tap water. Avoid cutting into the side bark of the tree or cutting the base in a “V” shape or at an angle. This makes it much harder for your tree to absorb water.
Be Careful with Decorations
Adding lights and festive ornaments is part of the fun of having a Christmas tree. You can lower your risk of starting a fire by using the right decorations and checking your lights before adding them to your tree. Choose lights that meet the latest safety standards and never overload an electrical outlet. Use surge protectors to help prevent power surges to the lights on the tree.
Inspect your lights before adding them to your tree. Replace the lights if you find frayed wires or loose connections. Turn off Christmas tree lights before you go to bed each night or whenever you leave the house. This can help reduce the risk of an accident while you’re not around.
Decorating your home with a real Christmas tree is a time-honored tradition for many families. Help keep your home and family safe from fire hazards by following these tips to keep your tree fresh throughout the holiday season.