How to Select and Care for a Live Christmas Tree
How to choose a fresh Christmas Tree
Before you go to the tree farm, make sure you know the height of the room where you will put your tree, then buy a tree that is at least one foot shorter than the height of your room.
Make sure the trunk of the tree is straight, and make sure there is a trunk base 6-8 inches long to allow the tree to be inserted into a tree stand.
As you run your hand along the branch the needles should bend, but not break or fall off.
Shake or bounce the tree to see how many needles fall off — if the tree is fresh, only a few needles should fall off. Green needles should not drop off the tree, a few dried inner needles may fall, but the outer green needles should not be affected.
Also, be sure to check for insects and dead needles inside the tree crown. Often you can have dead needles shaken or blown out where you buy the tree.
Caring for the Tree in your Home
If you don’t plan to use the tree right away, cut one inch off the base and put the tree into a bucket of water, and keep it outside if possible.
Then later when you do bring the tree indoors cut another 1/2 inch off of the base of the trunk and place the tree in a tree stand that holds at least three liters of water. Always make sure the tree has lots of water and check it often, a tree can use several liters of water in a day.
Make sure the water level never falls below the base of the tree or the cut can seal over preventing it from taking more water. If this has happened you may need to take the tree down and make a fresh cut at the base of the tree.
Adding aspirin, soda water, bleach, or sugar to the water doesn’t improve the freshness of the tree. The best thing you can do is to make sure the tree has lots of water every day.
Under favorable conditions, Christmas trees should last inside safely for at least a few weeks.
When a tree ceases to “drink” water it should be removed from the home due to fire danger
Fireproofing your Tree
Do not place the tree near a fireplace, heater vents, or other heat sources; the cooler the tree is the better.
The best way to keep a tree fresh and fire-resistant is to keep it well supplied with water at all times. As long as the tree takes up water, it will be less likely to catch fire.
Use only cool lights and non-flammable decorations and never leave home or go to bed with the Christmas tree lights on.
Combating Insect Problems
Be aware of aphids and other insects that can enter the home on the Christmas tree and emerge once they are in the warm house.
Inspect the tree before bringing it indoors and bounce it on the pavement to dislodge any insects or other foreign objects.
If you find insects, spray the tree with an insecticide before bringing the tree indoors.
If insects appear after the tree is in the house (look for sticky drops on the carpet and presents) spray the tree with an indoor approved aerosol (be sure to follow the label when using any insecticide).
Recycling Your Tree
Natural Christmas trees are biodegradable but sending them off to the local landfill is not your only option.
You could also grind the tree for mulch and place it in your flower beds or gardens. Or you can drop your tree off at your local Christmas tree depot to be chipped and used in your local area.
Thoughts on the Environmental Aspects of using live Christmas trees
These days Christmas trees are farmed and replanted each year otherwise the farmer could not continue to harvest each year.
Christmas tree growers, like other farmers, need to be sensitive to potential environmental problems in the use of pesticides and other cultural practices.
Christmas trees are, except for cultivated forests, the most environmentally friendly crop around. This is because a tree is harvested only after ten years. To ensure future harvests, ninety percent of the farm must remain in trees all the time.
Just one acre of Christmas trees produces enough oxygen to support eighteen people. In the process, CO2 is taken out of the atmosphere, counteracting the production of CO2 resulting from the human use of fossil fuels.
Trees also act as air pollution filters and can remove up to 13 tons of airborne pollutants per acre per year.
Christmas tree farms are havens for a wide variety of bird and mammal species including grosbeaks, sparrows, chickadees, foxes, coyotes, mice, voles, and squirrels.
The “edge effect” created by a stand of Christmas trees next to a woodlot or an open field is known to increase wildlife species diversity.
Christmas trees that are grown locally use less energy from fossil fuels than artificial trees. Artificial trees generally have to be reused for many years to reduce their environmental costs to near those of natural trees.
Rooted live trees with a root ball that are briefly brought indoors in pots are sometimes suggested as an environmental alternative to cut trees. However, some argue that the environmental costs of handling a potted tree may be more than for a cut tree. And live trees generally don’t survive replanting in Northern Ontario winters.