Christmas Tree Set Up and Care

saving money, Christmas treesThe Christmas Tree has been purchased. Now comes the work of setting it up and caring for it before that special day of fun and enjoyment.

Buying a tree in a timely manner, usually right after Thanksgiving, offers the freshest and best selection. However, many homes aren't ready to put the tree up and decorate. If that is the case in your house, leave the netting on and store the tree in an unheated garage or some other area out of the wind and cold (freezing) temperatures. Make a fresh one inch cut on the base or butt end of the tree. The place it in a bucket of warm water. A bow saw works well for this cut. Warm water is used for two reasons. One it will 'melt' the hardened sap and two, the water will be absorbed by the tree more quickly if it is warm.

saving money, Christmas trees

TIP: Keep the netting on the tree until it is time to actually decorate it. It makes moving it and working with much easier.

When you decide to bring the tree indoors, make a new fresh one inch cut off the base. This is sometimes called a 'cookie". Wrap the tree in a sheet to limit damage and needle drop.

Place the tree in a sturdy stand. The stand should be strong enough to hold the size of the tree and hold at least one gallon of water. saving money, Christmas treesMake sure the tree is very secure in the stand. Some stands have screws to hold it in place. Make sure it is straight and lock it in. This is usually a two person job. One to secure the tree and the other to hold the tree straight.

RULE OF THUMB: use one quart of water for every inch of diameter of the trunk.

saving money, Christmas trees

TIP: Use warm water for all watering. 180º is recommended. A typical 7' tree needs a gallon of water/day to stay fresh. A well cared for tree can last up to five weeks.

Keep the water level above the base of the tree. If the base dries out, resin will form over the cut end and the tree will not be able to absorb water. It will then dry out quickly. At first the tree may absorb several gallons of water before it reaches saturation. After that, check the tree everyday and water as needed.

Commercially prepared mixes; aspirin; sugar and other additives added to the water are not necessary. Research has shown that plain water will keep a tree fresh.

saving money, Christmas trees

TIP: Add a little anti-bacterial mouthwash (2 oz)to keep the water from becoming a breeding ground for mold and other nasties.

MYTH: There are a lot of commercial and
homemade additives (aspirin, maple syrup, sugar, honey, etc) for tree water.
None of them offer any appreciable benefit. Keeping the tree watered will keep the tree fresh.

saving money, Christmas trees

TIP: A funnel, watering can or even a meat baster are effective tools to keep the water level up.

YANKEE WISDOM: Make your own Christmas tree waterer. Take an old garden hose, cut off a four foot section. Slip the hose over a funnel outlet, extend tubing down into the tree stand and water without bending over or disturbing the tree skirt. Hide this system in an out-of-the-way part of the tree.

saving money, Christmas trees

As stated earlier, if the tree does dry, sap will form. This crusty barrier will compromise future watering. There are two work-around solutions. The best option for the tree is to re-cut the base. This is not a good idea after the tree has been decorated. You can try the second option. Use hot water in the hope it will 'melt' the sap and water will again be absorbed. Be proactive and monitor the trees consumption of water to avert this eventuality.

Now is the time to remove netting and twist the tree so that proper or best face is facing where it offers the best view. Let the tree stand without netting for a day or so as the tree unfurls its branches and finds its natural form.

Meanwhile, check all lights & cords for safety. Look for frays and other potential hazards. Use only UL approved cords. When considering lights, use ones that generate the least amount of heat. Smaller lights will limit the drying effect. LED lights, which take less power and generate less heat, are gaining in popularity. Look for advancements in this lighting option over the next few seasons.

When everything is ready, string the lights. A good site for light string tips is below.
saving money, Christmas trees
With the lights up, other decorations can be added. The Frugal Yankee strongly suggests making homemade trimmings. Its fun for everyone and gets folks into the right frame of mind. Another wonderful tradition is adding one nice fixture every year. Over time these will become heirlooms to pass onto future generations.

Once completed, the tree is ready to be enjoyed for the season. Remember to turn the lights off at night or when leaving the house. Also be sure the tree has sufficient water. Has that been said enough?

A properly cared for will last at least five weeks before drying out and a properly cared for tree will be much easier to remove, with far less mess, than one that is not. As with bringing in, warp the tree in a sheet. That will keep the needles from getting all over the place.
saving money, Christmas trees
Recycle your tree after Christmas. The branches when cut off, make decent mulch for acid loving shrubs like rhododendrons. These days, many communities will pick up trees and turn them into chips. You might put the tree in your back yard and place bread and suet among the branches for the birds. There are more ideas on the Mother Nature site listed below.

Sites for more tips:

Check out the Frugal Yankee's article on BUYING A CHRISTMAS TREE.

Check out the Frugal Yankee's article on CHRISTMAS TREE TRIVIA

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