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Keep That Christmas Tree Safe!
Sorry, but I'm going to be the latest hammer in the anvil chorus toacknowledge—grudgingly—that the holidays are bearing down on us like anangry bull who sees Donald Duck spread a red picnic blanket in thewrong field.  

I do so because I refuse to be late with my Christmas tree tips againthis season! More and more of you are getting your trees into the houseearlier every year, and so I want to deliver my safe tree directionsNOW—while everyone can still benefit.

Your Three-Part Secret "Recipe" for aFireproof Tree!

This time of year I get a lot of requests for special recipes that are{quote}"guaranteed" to make a tree fireproof when the specified witchesbrew of household chemicals is added to the water. The endlesslyphoto-copied, worn-out sheets describing these concoctions have great"urban legend" backgrounds: A rocket scientist at {pick your company:Dow, Monsanto, the old Allied Chemical; I've seen them all} came upwith the formula; and its "guaranteed" to make your tree fireproof!
I love meeting people seeking this out in person, because I can thenask them what exactly they think the actual "guarantee" is? And whothey're going to chase after to collect whatever that is when thisnasty soup kills their tree or the fumes make them sick.
Please forget these things—they don't work and they can be reallydangerous. Trees don't just 'burst into flames'. They dry out becausepeople don't water them—and no chemical is going to prevent that; mostwill likely accelerate it. Actual fires are caused by using lights withbad wiring and overloading extension cords and outlets. Soaking yourpoor tree's butt in 20 Mule Team Borax, Snapple, Pam and dissolvedTwizzlers ain't gonna help when your wallboard starts burning.  
    But I do have a REAL secret recipe: A mixture ofthree powerful ingredients, guaranteed—by me—to make your treeabsolutely fireproof! Water, water, and water.

Water Number one:
When you get a cut live tree home, use a bow saw to remove an inch ortwo from the bottom of the stump and then sit that stumpy thing in abig bucket or tub of cool water—not in its stand yet— for at least 24hours; preferably 48. And keep refilling that bucket! At least some ofthese trees will have suffered through droughts where they were grown,and will drink up a lot of water.

Water Number two:
 After it's been able to drink all it wants, place it in its standand never let that reservoir dry out. Check it several times a day,especially early on, when the warmth of the house will have it drinkingheavily. Some of these trees will suck up gallons, and if that stumpdries out for just one day, it loses the ability to take up more.  

Water Number three:
Oh—that's for you. Drink a big glass and be happy you don't have atoxic waste lagoon under your Christmas tree.

"Santa's Magic Water Spout"
Keeps Your Tree Watered While You Stand Up
Of course, number two—keeping the water reservoir filled—is where mostpeople fall down on the job because it is such a drag crawling aroundon the floor down there. That's why I recommend "Santa's Magic WaterSpout": A hollow bell-shaped cup with a three-foot long tubeunderneath. You pour water into what looks like a nice ornament on thetree and it flows down to the reservoir, allowing you to water the treewhile standing up.
    You'll often find this nifty and inexpensive gadgetwhere cut trees are sold, and in lots of hardware and home stores.Heck, you can even order it online. And if you're at all handy, you canmake one yourself—just shove the hienie of a little funnel into the topof a rubber tube and run the tube down to the water; paint the funnel afestive color if you're feeling like Martha and strap it to a branch(Santa's Spout uses a Velcro loop.)

The real thing: Here's some links to show you exactly what you'relooking for. This the manufacturer's website, showing the device andthe store display:
http://www.santasmagicwaterspout.comAnd here's directions and illustrations from the Brookstone catalog:http://www.brookstone.com/bs_assets/files/pdf/product/354621.pdf

Recipe for a Needle-Free Floor: FreshCut & Seven-Up
Want to have a live tree AND a needle-free floor this season? Go to aChristmas tree farm and cut a really fresh one yourself—or have theattendant do the "timmmbbbeerrrrr!" part. Maybe they cut and you yell.Anyway, whether you 'cut it yourself' or buy it pre-cut, give it a goodshaking when you get it home—pound the bottom end on some concrete toget rid of all the dead needles before you bring it into the house.Then cut that inch or two off the bottom of the trunk—yes, even if youcut it fresh an hour ago—and let it sit in that big container of waterfor 24 to 48 hours.
Then bring it in, fill the reservoir with half water, and half Seven-Up(the sugar and citric acid are excellent natural preservatives) andkeep it filled. So yes, I did have a secret recipe after all.

Special Advice for TRULY live trees
Planning on getting a truly live tree for the holidays? A balled andburlaped one you'll plant outdoors afterwards? It's a great idea—butplan to set it up outdoors for the holidays (like on a porch or deck)or be prepared to get it in and out of the house FAST. Truly live treesshould spend no more than four days indoors, and that's in a room youcan keep well below 60 degrees. If that tree gets all warm and toasty,it will think Spring has arrived and start growing again—then it willperish when you deliver it into the clutches of Old Man Winteroutdoors!
But here's the BEST tip of all: Dig the planting hole for that tree NOW(or on the next warm day)—because I guarantee that your soil will befroze solid as steel after Christmas. And have lots of help when youmove the thing around—those big root balls can weigh several hundredpounds.

You Bet Your Garden   Question of the Week  ©2005Mike McGrath

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