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Christmas tree farm. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lunaspin/">looseends</a>, CC <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en">some rights reserved
Christmas tree farm. Photo: looseends, CC some rights reserved

Tips on Christmas trees

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It's the thick of Christmas tree season. The Associated Press reported this morning that New York tree farms are having a great year, with more people buying their trees from local growers.

That probably means they're getting a fresher tree. But it's always a good idea to check for the freshest tree on the lot. Martha Foley talks with Cooperative Extension horticulturist Amy Ivy about how to pick the best, and keep it fresh.

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Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

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The longer you want the tree to last, the fresher it needs to be. Some people like to get rid of the tree the day after Christmas, while others like to keep it as long as possible.

One way to check freshness is to take a needle and see if it bends a lot before it breaks or snaps. You want a healthy tree rather than a dry one, so the more it bends the better. Another way is to take a cut tree and “bonk” it on the ground and see how many needles fall off.

Ask the person you’re getting a tree from when it was cut. Some trees are imported from other states or regions, while some are cut locally. The more recently the tree was cut the better, (and it is always nice to buy local).

One way to keep the tree fresh is to leave it outside until you’re ready to bring it in. Another is to keep it well-watered. For the tree to absorb water, it is important to always make a fresh cut to the base before putting the tree in its stand. Ivy explains, “Think of the vascular system of the tree as like a lot of straws. And it actually draws the water up, through those straws.” As soon as the tree is cut the area starts to heal over, and the “straws” start to become blocked. When in doubt it’s always better to make a cut before you put it in the stand, even if it’s only been a couple hours.

Once in the tree stand, make sure there is always water for it. There are things people try to add to the water to help the tree stay fresh, but Ivy says keeping the water level up is the best and most important thing to do. Check regularly, especially during the first couple of days, as that’s when the tree “drinks” the most. If the tree goes dry for a day, the “straws” will plug up and the tree will start losing its freshness.

Another way to keep your tree fresh is keep it away from heating areas like fireplaces or heating vents, as hot, dry interior air hinders the tree.

When the needles start falling off and are very dry, it is time to bring the tree down. You can do the same needle check throughout the holiday season as mentioned above. A dry tree is a potential fire hazard.

There are other houseplants that can be alternatives to a Christmas tree, such as Norfolk Island pine, or a weeping fig. Ivy uses her jade tree for decorations, and said any tree-like houseplant can look good.

It is a personal decision whether to use a real tree or an artificial Christmas tree, but Ivy said she prefers the smell you get with the real thing. Artificial trees can be useful and have their place, such as in businesses and hotel lobbies, where easy clean-up is important.

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