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Hydrating, recycling keeps Christmas tree ‘green’ through New Year’s

Keeping a natural Christmas tree alive and well through New Year’s should rank high on your holiday to-do list. The aesthetic of a robust tree speaks for itself, but more so, a dried-out tree can become a fire hazard.

The National Fire Protection Association reports fire departments respond to an average of 160 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. Know that even though artificial trees may be fire retardant, they are vulnerable as well. Nothing is safe if the three elements are present to create a fire triangle: heat, oxygen and fuel, in this case, the fuel being a real or fake tree branch and the heat being frayed string light wires, candles, etc.

At the very least, the annoyance of dropping needles, drooping limbs causing ornaments to fall and potentially break should be enough motivation to keep that tree hydrated.

Trees really do “drink” a lot. A fresh, cut tree can drink 1 quart of water per 1-inch trunk diameter, per day. So, if you have a tree that is about 6 feet tall with a trunk that measures about 4-inches in diameter, you will need to have a stand that holds at least 1 gallon of water. This means refilling the stand daily. Know that a tree will use less water as it ages.

To ensure your tree absorbs water, it must have a freshly cut end. Once a tree is cut, sap leaks down and forms a hard cap that seals the end, preventing water absorption. If a tree has been cut and out of water for several hours, a new cut must be made. Approximately 1-inch will clear the hardened end. If your new tree isn’t drinking, you probably need to recut the bottom.

Know that the misconception of drilling a hole in the base of the trunk to help increase water uptake doesn’t work. Trees absorb water through the sapwood found just under the bark.

This year, when we brought our tree home, we set it in the stand, planning to decorate the next day. Checking the water level in the morning, it didn’t budge. We carefully lifted it out of the stand, laid it down on a sheet and cut an inch off with a bow saw. Now it’s drinking vigorously.

As far as Christmas tree preservatives, there are conflicting views. Miracle-Gro for Christmas Trees, for example, claims their formula “reduces needle drop compared to water only throughout the season.” Some folks swear by their homemade concoctions using things like corn syrup, white vinegar and 7-Up.

Some experts insist plain fresh water is all you need and adding anything will inhibit water absorption. While the jury’s out on additives, I have personally had great success using a preservative from a reputable brand.

Once it’s time to discard the tree, there are several smart options to consider.

“Boulder City Public Works Department is proud to offer Christmas tree recycling this year to all Boulder City residents for free. Working in partnership with BC Waste Free and the city of Henderson, the city will recycle your tree and turn it into rich organic mulch, which can then be used as part of your next landscaping project,” according to BCNV.org.

Confirm the drop-off dates and location of recycling containers on the city website or see the story in the Dec. 23 issue of the Boulder City Review..

The trunk can be used in a few creative ways. By slicing 3/4-inch discs you can paint/decorate them to make coasters, or drill a hole for ornaments. Cut the trunk in 2-inch slices and use them to line a walkway or flowerbed. Branches are great to use as the base of a compost bin or lay them on the ground to protect perennials from potential frost.

Using your Christmas tree for indoor firewood is not recommended because it will produce sticky, sooty creosote deposits in fireplaces. Outside, however, is fine, just let it dry out and cut of the smaller branches for kindling.

Have a merry and safe Christmas.

Norma Vally is a seasoned veteran of home improvement; her career includes four seasons as host of Discovery Home Channel’s Emmy-nominated series “Toolbelt Diva.” A columnist and author, Vally splits her time in Southern Nevada, Los Angeles and New York City. Follow her on Facebook at Norma Vally “Toolbelt Diva” and visit her at www.NormaVally.com. Email Norma@NormaVally.com.

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