How to

2 December 2016

Looking After a Real Christmas Tree

The holiday season is fast-approaching, evidenced by the brittle coating of frost that has descended overnight. The unfailingly cheerful among you will have already picked out your tree and positioned it just so in your homes. Hopefully, the location you’ve strategically selected is close to outlets, allowing you to easily string lights through its branches. Don’t let your tree dry out in the sun either. I think we can all agree that decorating is the best part, but before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about how to care for a real tree.

Don’t Neglect the House

Be sure to lay down some sort of protective surface on the floor to protect against water spillage. Choosing a decorative tree skirt, fabric, or paper serves the dual purpose of protection and festivity. You may even want two layers: one acting as a protective layer underneath the tree base and another serving as a decorative finish on top of the base.

Pre-Positioning Party

When the tree trunk is cut, pitch, a viscous fluid somewhere between a liquid and solid, rushes out to seal the pores. Before placing it into the base, saw off an inch or so from the bottom. Making a fresh cut opens pores, letting the tree rehydrate while it rests in the base. Just do this outside and be sure to make a clean, even cut. At this early stage, it will be easy to correctly position the tree as it will be naked (i.e. undecorated). It’s best to enlist the help of another when placing the tree in its base. Once placed, take the time to determine whether the tree is straight. Step back and take a good look because it’s going to be impossible to change its position once it’s weighed down with ornaments and garland.

Feed Me Seymour

Whether you’re using a tree stand or the old-fashioned method (a water-filled bucket stabilized with rocks), don’t forget to feed your tree! This real, living tree will reside in your home for about a month, maybe more if you get attached. Give it 1 quart (950ml) of water for every inch (2.5cm) in trunk diameter, according to Mark Derowitsch, spokesperson for the Arbor Day Foundation. When it’s first placed in your home, it will require more water than later on, drinking up to a full gallon (3.7 litres) within its first 24 hours. You will need to supplement it with water every day, confirmed by this university study. Doing so not only keeps your tree healthy, regular watering keeps the tree less dry. By feeding your tree you are safeguarding against a potential fire hazard. If you forget to feed your tree, you may be facing a Little Shop of Horrors scenario.
  • Some people use additives, like aspirin, to keep water fresh; others will add a fizzy soda to the water. However, Derowitsch says that additive use is “totally unnecessary.”
  • Regularly check the tree for sap. A leakage can cause damage to the surrounding flooring, furnishing, and decorations.
  • Be vigilant in cleaning up fallen needles. If you have a pet or small child, they may ingest stray needles. Use a dustpan or handheld vacuum to clean up the mess. A regular vacuum can clog on the needles.

On to the Best Part…

Decorating! After placing the tree, leaving it to rest for an hour or more will allow it to settle into the shape it will assume for the rest of its time in your home. While the tree is settling, take the opportunity to do a safety check of your decorations. Gather your lights, checking each bulb to check that it’s working, and do a visual check of the cord to ensure that there is no fraying or damage from pets. Pet-proof covers can be used to protect wiring. If you’re lights aren’t quite up to snuff, consider investing in long-lasting LED lights. They run cooler, meaning a safer Christmas tree. Quickly check over ornaments, making sure to place the fragile ones on the upper branches. To further secure tricky ornaments, wrap green floral wire around the branches and attach your ornaments to it. A ceiling hook can be used to further anchor the tree.
  • Turn off your lights at the end of the night. Don’t leave light unattended if turned on. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).