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Christmas Trees of 2012 Not Affected by Drought

By Vickie Frantz, AccuWeather Staff Writer
December 12, 2012; 6:10 AM

Despite the fact that many Christmas tree farms suffered losses of young pine trees, this year's harvest is healthy and normal.

Leo Collins, owner of the Bluebird Christmas Tree Farm in Heiskell, Tenn., said he lost about 70 percent of the young trees he planted this year. "There may be a problem with our trees in about seven to eight years," he said.

However, his cut-your-own tree business is doing well.

"This year's trees are bigger trees with root systems that can pull water from a deeper and larger area," Collins said.

The root systems on the mature trees are spread over an area that may be 8 feet out and 4-5 feet down, Collins explained. The trees on his farm are healthy and not deprived of water.

Sales at his farm were good last year, and Collins said he is on track to have an even better year this year.

Once you have purchased a tree, it is important to make sure it remains healthy by providing plenty of water once you bring it into the house. Follow these simple instructions to keep your tree green for the whole holiday season.

1. When selecting your tree, look for one that has no brown needles. To guarantee freshness, avoid trees that have a musty or sour smell. Test the needles by removing one and trying to bend it. The needle of a fresh tree will bend slightly without breaking. A few needles in the center of the tree may be brown due to dropping off and becoming lodged there. This is normal.

2. Whether you purchase a pre-cut tree or decide to cut your own, make sure the base is long enough to support the tree in your stand. A fresh cut of about one inch from the base of the tree should be made before placing a pre-cut tree into the stand. This allows the tree to draw water properly. The tree stand should be large enough to store at least one gallon of water.

Photograph is courtesy of Photos.com.

3. Think about where the tree will be set up. Try to place it away from fireplaces, heat vents and windows. All of these sites are sources of heat and could contribute to drying out the tree. Once you have a location picked out, the tree is ready to be brought inside and put into the stand.

4. Now that the tree is in the stand, the vital job of keeping it supplied with water begins. A cut pine tree with no water will dry out within eight to 14 days, according to Dr. John Ball, assistant professor in the South Dakota University's Department of Horticulture, Forestry, Landscape and Parks. Dry trees, coupled with hot lights raise the risk of a fire.

The first day the tree is set up, it will use a gallon of water quickly. After this time, the tree will need about a pint of water per day. Do not allow the stand to go dry. Once the trunk dries out, resin will form on the base and prevent the tree from absorbing water. If this happens, a new cut of about one inch should be made.

The temperature of the water does not affect the amount of water a tree will use. There is no need to use any chemicals that help to prevent evaporation. These chemicals have not been shown to make a difference in water supply for the trees. Clean water is best for keeping the Christmas tree fresh.

Even the best hydrated tree will only last for 30 days at the most, and some species will dry out after about 15 days. When the tree begins to dry out, remove the decorations and remove the tree from your home.

There are a few options for disposing of the tree some towns will pick up and dispose of Christmas trees free of charge. If not, you can either take the tree to a business that chips it, or you can burn it in an outside pit or container. Do not burn the tree in a fire place or wood stove. The sap in the tree can flare up quickly and could become uncontrollable.

With the proper care, your Christmas tree will be a wonderful part of your holiday memories.

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