“Let The Game Begin”

Here’s an attention getter for you… there is a Christmas tree shortage this year and you should expect prices to go up! Over the past year independent garden centers have known this truth and have been scrambling to have enough inventory to meet the demand. The average size tree, between 6 and 8 feet, takes nearly a decade to grow. Ten years ago, when supply and demand were not aligned, many Christmas tree growers were held with inventory and either plowed their fields or simply went out of business. When you find your tree this year, here are the best tricks for keeping it fresh the longest. And to avoid excessive quotations and references, many of the following points have come directly from the National Christmas Tree Association, www.realchristmastrees.org as well as Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences. There are however, a few personal introductions from yours truly.

When a Christmas tree is cut more than half of its weight is water!

A cut tree will absorb a surprising amount of water, particularly during the first week, so replenish the water daily.

As a general rule, stands should provide (1) quart of water per inch of stem diameter.

For most Christmas trees, the stand should hold at least (1) gallon of water.

Use a tree stand that fits your tree. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.

Make a fresh cut to remove about a ½-inch thick disk of wood from the base of the trunk before putting the tree in the stand. Make the cut perpendicular to the stem axis. Don’t cut the trunk at an angle, or into a V-shape, which makes it far more difficult to hold the tree in the stand and also reduces the amount of water available to the tree.

Drilling a hole in the base of the trunk does NOT improve water uptake. My personal favorite!

Once home, place the tree in water as soon as possible. Most species can go 6 to 8 hours after cutting the trunk and still take up water. Don’t bruise the cut surface or get it dirty.

The temperature of the water used to fill the stand is not important and does not affect water uptake.

For those who believe in adding sugar, aspirin, floral preservatives, molasses, bleach, honey or vodka to the tree water, none of these so-called additives will help. Clean water still works the best (The Spokesman-Review-Karen Herzog).

Check the stand daily to make sure that the level of water does not go below the base of the tree.

Lowering the room temperature will slow the dying process, resulting in less water consumption each day.

It is perfectly normal to have some interior needles be brown and shed. However, you don’t want the needles on the outside ends to come off in your hand as you test for freshness when purchasing.

Monitor your tree for dryness. Run your fingers across the needles to determine if they are dry and brittle. If the needles break easily or fall off in your hand, the tree is dry and should be removed from the house. A well-cared-for tree should normally remain fresh at least three to four weeks before drying to an unacceptable level.

Finally, it has been my experience that purchasing your tree early, for best selection, and waiting to install it closer to Christmas, gives it the best chance to go well beyond the holiday. Storing your tree in an outdoor, shady location, standing up on end until you are ready to bring it in your home, seems to work best. Once you cut the bottom of your tree and put it in water, the game begins. A cut tree is only capable of hydrating itself so much before it begins to dry out. In other words, the sooner you cut your tree and put it in water, the sooner it will dry out.

Today’s top selling Christmas trees continue to be Fraser fir, Balsam fir, Noble fir, and Douglas fir. However, Canaan fir, Korean fir, Grand fir, Scotch pine and Blue spruce are typically available too. Many growers today graft Fraser fir with the likes of Momi fir (Abies firma), Turkish fir (Abies bornmuelleriana) and Canaan fir (Abies balsamea var phanerolepis) for their strong horticultural attributes which includes disease resistance. In short, maintaining a high moisture level, with clean water, is the single most important thing you can do to ensure your tree lasts as long as possible.