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Wheeler: Maintaining your Christmas tree will keep it beautiful and safe
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It is during this time of year that everyone is busy buying gifts for loved ones and friends, going to Christmas parties and enjoying the magic of the holiday season work on their children and grandchildren. With all of this going on, it is easy to forget to keep an eye out for the condition of your Christmas tree.

If you have not gotten your tree yet, one of the first things you want to do is get it in the tree stand and water it as soon as you are able. This will be the number one thing you can do to keep the tree from becoming a fire hazard. To keep the tree from drying out too much, keep the tree away from fireplaces and heat vents.

Check the water level in the tree stand every other day to make sure the level does not drop below the bottom of the trunk. If you ever find that this has happened, you will have to cut the end of the trunk again to start up the flow of water again.

The reason is that 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.

Another consideration is the condition of the light sets you use on the tree. Look at them carefully and make sure they are in good condition. If you have any doubts, throw them out and get new ones.

If you have homemade ornaments that are made of paper, be careful they do not get hot from touching a light.

When the holiday season is over, don't just throw your tree away to go to the landfill. If you have a family member or a 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 use for your tree is to take it to a chipper so it can be used as mulch this spring.

Having a Christmas tree in the house is a great tradition that has been around for over 500 years. It is something that 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 extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County, 770-535-8293. His column appears weekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.

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