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Keep your Christmas tree fresh
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During this time of year, everyone is busy buying gifts for loved ones and friends, going to Christmas parties and enjoying the magic of the holiday season and its effect on children and grandchildren.

With all of this going on, it is easy to forget to pay attention to the condition of your Christmas tree. But to keep a real tree from losing its needles or becoming a fire hazard, here are a few guidelines to follow.

First, remove about an inch from the bottom of the trunk and place it in the tree stand.

Second, water it as soon as possible. This is the No. 1 thing to do to keep the tree from becoming a fire hazard.

Third, place the tree in a spot away from fireplaces and heat vents to keep it from drying out too much.

Fourth, check the water in the tree stand every day to ensure the level does not drop below the bottom of the trunk. If this happens, the tree’s ability to absorb water is reduced and it will dry out faster.

The reason for the necessary water level is tree trunks can be thought of as giant interconnected straws. As long as the column of water is maintained, water will continuously be sucked up through the tree. But if the column is broken, the air gap created will stop the flow even if you add water to the tree stand.

Fifth, before decorating your tree, consider the condition of the lights you plan to use. Look at them carefully, making sure they are in good condition. If you have any doubts, throw them out and get new ones. If you have homemade ornaments made of paper, be careful they do not get hot from touching a light.

Finally, when the holiday is over, don’t just throw your tree away. If you have a family member or friend who has a good fishing pond, give it to them so they can use the tree as a fish attractor. Fish love to use structure for cover or protection.

Another possibility is to take it to a chipper so it can be used as mulch this spring. From Jan. 3 to Feb. 1, the county compactor sites or the Hall County Recycling Center at 1008 Chestnut St. in Gainesville can have the tree chipped and used for mulch. Mulch is available to obtain Mondays through Friday at the Hall County Recycling Center.

Make sure everything is off the tree before taking it to the chipper. The Bring One for the Chipper program is sponsored by Keep Hall Beautiful and Hall County Government. If you have questions, call 770-535-8284.

Having a Christmas tree in the house is a great tradition that has been around for more than 500 years. It is something I always remember doing with my father and it really helps to mark the season. Take precautions this holiday season and stay safe.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears weekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.

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