For most people, artificial Christmas trees can’t match the glory of a real Christmas tree. Before you purchase your seasonal tree, you should read our tips on how to buy, care, and decorate a real Christmas tree.
In most homes, the Christmas tree is a glorious symbol of Christmas, ablaze with Christmas lights and garlanded with shimmering Christmas decorations. Too often, though, a neglected tree quickly becomes no more than a skeleton of bare branches on a carpet of needles, but a little Christmas tree care will keep your live tree fresh and green right through Christmas.
Why Choose A Real Christmas Tree
One way to reduce waste is to buy a living Christmas tree. Some of these trees are sold in a pot with their roots intact, and they can be successfully grown at home to provide trees for several Christmas celebrations in a row. The drawbacks of buying a living tree are that the pot is heavy and cumbersome, so it is not practical to buy a very large tree. Choose a container-grown tree which has been grown in its pot for at least one year for the best chances of success. It is best to re-pot into a larger container after Christmas to allow the tree to grow ready for the next year. Once the tree becomes too large, it can be replanted in the soil outside.
Real Christmas trees are good for the environment as they provide a habitat for wildlife including several species of bird, and locally grown trees do not require long-haul transportation. The trees are fully biodegradable and can be composted or recycled in lakes and ponds to create better habitats for fish. Tree growers also point out that carbon dioxide is taken in by the trees while they are growing; however, this carbon dioxide will be returned to the atmosphere when the tree is recycled or burned.
Buying A Real Christmas Tree
Always start by buying from a reliable supplier who can tell you where the trees were grown and when they were cut or lifted. You may have a local tree farm or a good garden centre near you.
Some types of Christmas trees last better than others. Whichever species you select, choosing a good Christmas tree is important, and try not to buy your Xmas tree before, at the earliest, the last week in November. A fresh Christmas tree tends to be less of a fire hazard than a dried-out one. One way to tell if the tree is still fresh is by its needles. If the needles are pliable and can retain its original shape after being bent, then it is fresh. Once you’ve chosen, caring for your tree properly right from the start is essential.
Wind will quickly dry out any tree. It’s best to transport a Christmas tree inside your car if it’s small enough, or in a covered trailer. If using a roof rack, protect the tree from the wind with a tarpaulin or sheet of plastic.
Taking the Christmas Tree Home
A centrally heated house is the worst possible environment for a real Christmas tree. Even trees that are resistant to needle drops, like Nordmann Firs, Scots Pines, Fraser Firs, and Colorado Blue Spruce, will suffer if exposed to these conditions over a long period, so it’s best to delay taking the tree indoors for as long as possible.
As soon as you get home, find a sheltered spot in the garden protected from the wind and “heel it in,” and soak the soil to keep the roots – or butt if it’s a cut tree – moist. Cutting half an inch of the bottom of a cut tree before doing so will help it take up water.
Setting Up The Christmas Tree
Standing the tree on a tree skirt or mat will not only catch any falling needles, but also protect the carpet or floor from water and soil. Remember that a potted tree can be very heavy and awkward to maneuver; it saves a struggle to bring a big tree indoors to its final position before potting.
If using a Christmas tree stand, always choose one with a water reservoir. Otherwise, stand the tree in a good big pot – either one with a drainage hole and a saucer to stop water staining floors and carpets or one of the special ornamental Christmas tree tubs with a solid bottom.
Wedge the tree firmly in the pot with wooden braces or a couple of bricks to stop it moving around, then fill the tub with garden soil to a couple of inches below the rim, firming it down well and water thoroughly.
Pot Grown or Bare Root Christmas Trees
Norway Spruce Christmas tree in sizes up to five or 6 feet are often sold with their roots, and these will always last better than cut specimens. If the potted tree is small enough to handle, it’s best to pot the tree up as soon as you get it home. Otherwise, heel it in as described above until bringing it indoors and potting.
When potting a rooted tree, use a pot with a drainage hole and stand it in a saucer. A waterlogged tree is just as likely to shed its needles as a dehydrated one.
How To Care For A Real Christmas Tree
It’s very easy to take care for a real Christmas tree. Top up the water reservoir or water the pot daily. Never let the water level go below the tree’s base.
If you treat a potted bare-root tree well and don’t keep it indoors too long, it should survive to serve another year or to plant out in the garden.
The placement of the tree is always a factor in its safety as well. A fresh Christmas tree is safest for the family when it is not in direct sunlight or near direct sources of heat.
Recycling Real Christmas Trees
In order to minimize the environmental impact of Christmas trees, it is important to dispose of them responsibly once the festive season is over. Most local cities operate special seasonal waste disposal points for Christmas trees throughout the end January, so why not give yours a good, environmentally friendly send-off.
In Ottawa, Christmas trees are usually collected on the regular scheduled collection day. All decorations must be removed and Christmas trees in plastic bags will not be collected. Municipalities will recycle trees usually by composting.
Safety Precautions When Decorating the Live Christmas Tree
Christmas tree safety may not be at the forefront of people’s minds during the holiday season, but it is every bit as important as finding the perfect Christmas tree. When the family comes together to decorate the fresh-cut tree, be sure to follow certain safety precautions when decorating the live Christmas tree.
- Larger light bulbs can potentially dry out or even scorch the needles of your tree. They can be a fire hazard.
- Rather than candles, use lights that are Laboratory-approved.
- If the lights are damaged or are not cool to the touch, discard them.
- Avoid tangling the cords around the tree, and turn off all Christmas tree lights when leaving home.
- Those with young children can consider using string or ribbon to hang ornaments rather than wire hooks to prevent an emergency room visit.
- People with pets should avoid allowing the animal to be in the room with a tree alone, as this can lead to a disaster.
Many people choose to decorate their homes with real Christmas trees during the festive season. And of course, tree care is needed to retain that glory throughout Christmas. After the Christmas tree is finally all set up, it is time to enjoy a hot cup of cocoa with Holiday Double Chocolate Cookies in front of the picture window staring into the star-filled sky.