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Once cut, how to properly care for your Christmas tree

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I don’t know about you but I’m already in the Christmas spirit. We put our tree up this past Sunday, which is early for our family. One of my favorite family Christmas traditions is going to cut the tree. When our kids were young, we always hiked out on my father-in-laws’ farm to cut a cedar tree for Christmas because that’s what my family always did when I was growing up. My youngest son, Joel, once told Carole and me that he would disown us if we ever put up an artificial tree. Not to offend those of you who like an artificial tree. They are quite convenient for those with allergies and generally not as messy. I just love a real tree, so Carole and I will try to uphold the family tradition as long as we can.

There are many species of Christmas trees locally available for purchase including White Pine, Scots Pine, Eastern Red Cedar, Fraser Fir, Nobel Fir, Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, Concolor Fir and Canaan Fir. You can buy pre-cut trees, balled and burlapped trees or drive to a Christmas tree farm and cut your own. You will have to drive about an hour or so in southern Indiana or north central Kentucky to find a tree farm, but it can be a great family outing.

Balled and burlapped trees can be planted outdoors following the Christmas season. They should not be brought indoors, to a warmer environment, too soon as they must remain dormant. Keep your tree in a cool place such as a garage and bring it indoors a week or so before Christmas.

To find a local tree farm, check out the following websites for the Kentucky Christmas Tree Association at http://www.kychristmastreefarms.com/ or the Indiana Christmas Tree Growers Association at http://www.indianachristmastree.com/.

Once you get your lot-purchased tree home, it’s a good idea to cut off one or two inches from the bottom of the trunk.  Place the tree in a bucket of warm water and store it away from drying sun or wind, preferably in a garage or enclosed sun porch.  Gradually move the tree into the house, to minimize shock from a drastic change in temperature.

In the house, be careful to place your tree away from sources of heat such as fireplaces, stoves, heat registers or radiators.  Keeping the thermostat set at a lower temperature will help to prevent the tree from drying out too quickly. Keep the tree well-watered.  A fresh tree can easily drink a gallon or more of water each day, so using a tree-stand that holds at least that much water will make your job easier.

After the holiday season, remember to recycle your cut Christmas tree. Recycled trees can have many uses. Placed in an outside sheltered location with peanut buttered pine cones, and strings of popcorn and cranberries, your tree can serve as a good winter habitat for wildlife. Putting the tree into the trash should always be the last resort.

For more information, call the Trimble County Extension Office at 501-255-7188.

 Michael Pyles is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture.