Oh Christmas tree, how faithful are thy branches? Not very, I’m afraid, especially if you don’t choose your tree carefully and maintain it adequately.
No one wants to hunt for the perfect tree, bring it all the way home and gather the family for decorating, only to have all the needles fall off just days before Christmas!
This year, by keeping in mind a few simple tips before you choose your tree, and practicing a couple of routine acts of maintenance once it’s home, your family can have a tree that is as faithful as the song says.
Size matters: Before you head out to pick your tree, make sure to measure the space you’ve got. This means width and height. Kids will always push for a bigger tree, but staying comfortably within your space’s limits will not only ensure your tree looks better, but will keep it healthier too.
Shake it baby! When you find a tree that your family agrees on (not easy, we know) a good freshness test is to take the tree by the trunk and give it a good shake. If more than a few brown needles fall off, it is probably not as fresh as it should be.
First things first: Most trees come wrapped in nylon netting. Leave the tree wrapped up until you are ready to put it in its stand. It’ll help keep the boughs out of the way while you set it up.
Before set up: Before you place your tree into a sturdy tree stand, make a straight cut off the bottom of the trunk, about an inch from the previous cut. Once cut, you must get that tree into fresh water as soon as possible.
Water and what? Water and nothing else, actually. A lot of people mistakenly think adding something to the water keeps the tree fresher, when in fact the most common mistake is just not providing enough water. A moderate-sized tree will gulp up close to four litres on the first day after a fresh cut is made.
Okay, so it’s standing. Now what? Once you’ve placed your tree securely in its stand (it helps to have two people for this job) you can cut off the nylon netting. Don’t be concerned if your tree looks squashed and the branches aren’t falling as nicely as they were at the lot. They will fall again in time. Leave the tree standing for three or four hours before you decorate, to ensure that all the boughs have fallen.
Why water? Water will not only keep those needles from falling off before Santa arrives, but it also keeps the branches from drooping and losing all your decorations. Furthermore, a freshly watered tree is beautifully fragrant. Isn’t that the reason you got a real tree to begin with?
How much? You must water your tree every single day. A fresh tree will drink about one litre of water everyday. If you miss a day and the water runs dry, a layer of sticky sap forms over the bottom of the trunk, blocking water from being absorbed at all. The only way to remedy this is to cut another slice from the bottom… not at all easy if your tree is already decorated.
Can’t say it enough: Moisture is key. So, besides regular watering, keep your tree away from drafts and direct sources of heat. Ducts, fireplaces, electric heaters, even television sets will only serve to dry out your tree.
Safety first: Some things are obvious, like never leaving your tree close to open flames. No matter how often you water, those branches and needles are dry and will catch fire very easily. Secondly, inspect those lights. Christmas lights spend many months in cold, damp storage areas. Don’t hang them on your tree without carefully checking for cracks in the wire, loose bulbs or other signs of damage. Also, watch those decorations. Glass bulbs and tinsel can be dangerous to small children.