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Published December 02, 2009, 12:00 AM

Caring for your fresh-cut trees

It’s beginning to feel like the holiday season, and that can only mean one thing to my family: the annual trek to cut down our own Christmas tree.

By: By Robin Trott, Extension Educator, Alexandria Echo Press

It’s beginning to feel like the holiday season, and that can only mean one thing to my family: the annual trek to cut down our own Christmas tree. The smell of a fresh-cut tree always adds to the holiday feel of our home, and after a day baking cookies, wrapping presents and Christmas shopping, it’s wonderful to relax in front of the tree with a nice cup of eggnog. If you are considering purchasing a fresh-cut Christmas tree this year, or cutting your own, here are a few facts about Christmas trees, and tips for keeping your tree fresh throughout the holiday season.

Many different types of trees are grown right here in Minnesota. Christmas trees are a wonderful renewable and recyclable resource and are an important crop in Minnesota, with more than half a million trees harvested annually. Each acre of living Christmas trees puts enough oxygen into the air to supply the needs of 18 people, and there are at least a million acres of Christmas trees across the U.S. As trees are harvested, new ones are planted to take their place, and those that aren’t harvested help to prevent erosion and offer shelter for birds and other wildlife.

Once you’ve brought your tree home, cut off at least a half inch from the bottom and immediately place the tree in a bucket of water. Make sure your tree stand holds at least a gallon of water. The first few days your tree will drink a lot, and nothing is more frustrating than watering at night, to find the stand dry the next morning. Once the end of the tree is dry, it seals itself, and can no longer take up water.

You don’t need to add anything to the water to make your tree last longer. Plain tap water works fine, and some commercial additives can actually speed up the drying process and make the needles drop sooner.

Don’t place your tree next to a heat vent or other heat sources like space heaters, fireplaces, wood stove, televisions, computer monitors, etc. These will speed up evaporation and moisture loss of the tree.

If you want a Christmas tree that’s absolutely fresh, consider visiting a local Christmas tree farm. (The Minnesota Grown Directory lists several local farms that grow Christmas Trees.) A friendly reminder: trees in the field appear smaller than they actually are. I’ll never forget the Christmas we brought home a beautiful white pine. When we untied the branches, the tree just about filled our living room!

Whether you choose a pine, fir or spruce tree, your home will fill with fragrant holiday cheer, and your purchase will support our local farm economy.

If you have further questions about Christmas trees and other holiday greens, please contact me at Douglas County Extension at (320) 762-3890. Enjoy your tree and have a wonderful start to your holiday season!