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Top Ten X-Mas Tree Tips
Top Ten X-Mas Tree Tips

Here's How to Keep Your Cut ChristmasTree Fresh—Without Chemicals orPolluted Preservatives!


Q. Mike: A couple of years ago,you discussed a recipe that would make some kind of fire-proofing"drink" for Christmas trees. I lost my original copy and cannot find itposted on your website.  Any chance you could post it again? Thanks!
                                                           ---Janelle from Pennsburg, PA
A. I do recall discussing a'recipe' that was making the rounds a few years back—generally in theform of generations-old photocopies or endlessly-forwarded emails—thatadvocated combining a number of ill-advised household chemicals andthen adding this mix to the tree's water reservoir to create a "guaranteedfireproof tree!"  But I was warning against it.

(I found people to very gullible about this thing. "But its GUARANTEED," they would insist."What IS the actual 'guarantee'," I'd ask in response—"and who do youcall to collect on that guarantee if the trees does burn—or if you oryour pets are injured by the toxic soup in that stand?!")

The real key to freshness and fire safety is to NEVER let that tree gowithout water. Just one day in a dry stand is enough to insure that thetree will never be able to absorb moisture again. So here's my ten-step'recipe' for a really safe cut tree:

1.    If at allpossible, cut it yourself at a tree farm; its great family fun andyou'll KNOW that tree is fresh!
2.    Whether you cut it yourself or buy it pre-cut,give that tree a good shaking when you get it home; a lot of theneedles people find on their carpets came in pre-dead—so shake 'emloose.
3.    Again, whether you cut it yourself or buy itpre-cut, saw an extra inch or two off the bottom of the trunk when youget it home.
4.    Be sure you don't remove any bark above the cut;that bark is the only part that can carry water to the rest of thetree! (I once trimmed off lots of bark to make an especially 'trunky'tree fit into its stand, and the next day the thing looked likesomething Smokey the Bear would drag around to frighten children.)
5.    Let that freshly-recut tree sit in a bucket ofroom temperature water overnight.
6.    Then put it in its stand, and check that reservoirEVERY day—several times a day in the beginning. You'd be surprised howmuch water a cut tree can suck up.
7.    OK—let's be honest; chore #6 is a drag! You have to crawl on thefloor, battle those bottom branches, and you always spill half thewater on the carpet. So get yourself a gadget that allows you to keepthat tank filled while you stand up, like "Santa's Magic Water Spout."It looks like a bell shaped ornament on your tree, but that hollow bellleads to a three-foot long tube that runs down to the reservoir. Youslowly pour water into the bell and it fills the reservoir downbelow—there's even a built in water level indicator!
8.    Position your tree away from radiators and othersources of heat.
9.    Check your light strings carefully for frayed ordamaged wires before placing them on the tree, and trash any damagedones.

And finally…

10.    DON'T putaspirin, bleach, a penny or other urban legend tree preservers in thewater—especially if you have pets; they should not drink such things.If you don't have pets, aspirin and a little vinegar may help. But I'vefound 7-Up to be the best addition; it really helps preserve thetree—and it presents no danger to pooch and kitty types. Just add a cupof soda to the water in the reservoir every couple of days. Don'toverdo it; no more than one part Seven-Up to every three parts water.Cut flowers (yes, and trees) like the sugar and citric acid, and somefolks feel that the natural lemon lime flavoring may act as apreservative as well. Of course, you can use generic lemon-lime soda orknock-offs like Sprite and Bubble-Up instead—just make sure its'regular' and not diet soda; you're not the only one who likes a littlesugar around the holidays!

Santa's Magic Water Spout:

x

And if You're Planning on Planting that X-Mas Tree…

Getting a truly live tree for the holidays? A balled and burlaped oneyou'll plant outdoors afterwards? It's a great idea—but plan to set itup outdoors for the holidays (like on a porch or deck) or be preparedto get it in and out of the house FAST. Truly live trees should spendno more than four days indoors, and that's in a room you can keep wellbelow 60 degrees. (If that tree gets all warm and toasty, it will thinkSpring has arrived and start growing again—then you'll go and deliverit into the clutches of Old Man Winter, and it may well perish from theshock!)

But here's the BEST tip of all: Digthe planting hole for that tree NOW.(Or on the next nice day.) If you don't, I guarantee that soil will befroze solid as steel after Christmas. Cover the hole with a big pieceof plywood so nobody falls in. And maybe even bag up the soil and putIT somewhere it won't freeze.

Oh—and have lots of help around—those big root balls can weigh severalhundred pounds.

You Bet Your Garden   ©2004 Mike McGrath

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