One of the best childhood memories I can remember growing up was going with my dad to pick out a Christmas tree.
He seemed to always make it special for us, even though to him I am sure it was one of things he had to do to keep peace in the house.
No matter the reason why you choose a live Christmas tree for your family, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to keep the tree looking good and safe all season long.
Dad would always look for the freshest tree that would still fit inside the house. It is best to pick a tree that is at least a foot shorter than your ceiling.
He would also do a battery of tests to make sure the tree had not dried out too much. One such test was to shake and bounce the tree on the ground.
This allows you to see if too many needles fall from the tree, but also you can look for insects that might fall, too.
I remember one of the first things dad would do to the tree when we got it home was to cut the last inch or so from the trunk. I always wondered about that procedure, and after going through forestry school I now understand why.
Think about what happens if you get a small hole in a straw that is in your drink. All of a sudden it becomes very difficult to get any of your drink up through the straw.
It is the same principle with trees. Trees can be thought of as straws. When a tree is cut from the stump, an air gap is created at the cut and the tree can no longer suck up water.
By cutting the last bit you access new fresh cells, allowing the tree to take in water. This is key to keeping the tree as fresh as possible.
Placement of the tree in the home is important. Try not to get it too close to a fireplace or heating duct. If the only place for the tree is close to a heating duct, get a diverter to keep the warm air off the tree.
Lights are always part of the decorations of the tree. Inspect the string of lights as you are putting them on every year. The condition of the lights can change over a year’s time if they have been exposed to rodents or the heat of an attic. When you leave the house or go to bed, turn all the lights off.
One thing that you should always be aware of is the amount of water in the tree stand. If the water level gets below the bottom of the tree, it can be hard to restart the flow of water again. Keeping the tree hydrated will keep it fresh and from becoming a fire hazard in your home.
Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears weekly and on gainesville times.com/life.