Holiday hacks: Extend the life of your fresh cut Christmas tree

You might be used to artificial Christmas trees but this year you want to try a real one.. well, here are some holiday ...
You might be used to artificial Christmas trees but this year you want to try a real one.. well, here are some holiday hacks to care for one. Photo: Earth911

It's that time of the year again, when the great Christmas debate occurs. To select a real or artificial Christmas tree? There is no right or wrong answer, but we feel that we should offer some holiday hacks for those who ritually select a live tree and for those who are trialling the pine fresh goodness of the real sort.

The best way is to try to avoid thinking of a real Christmas tree like taking on a climatically sensitive, needy, pine needle shedding temporary housemate. Instead, try to embrace the entire process from selection to disposal.

In truth, without proper handling and care, a real tree won't look perky for long, but we sought some expert tips from Leo Demasi who operates Dural Christmas Tree Farm so you can keep your tree fresher for longer.

1. Select a fresh cut tree

Choosing the right tree is the first thing to do. You can go out to your local Christmas tree farm or a market or some companies even offer delivery and installation. But we warn you, selecting the Christmas tree is of utmost importance. Selecting the tree yourself is only second to cutting down the perfect tree down yourself! (Christmas tree selecting is a serious business). Choose the freshest tree by checking the tree for brown needles. If you see a cut trees surrounded by a bed of brown needles, get into your car and go, fast, there is no saving them. Also try running your hand through the branches and if they retain their needles, you are good to go. Check for insects before taking the tree home, these critters suck nutrients from the tree and you really don't want them creeping and flying about the lounge room. If you can't see any on sight, trying spotting any odd needle discolouration or nibble markings, you can also spray the tree with fly spray. 

2. Get the right tree for your home

When choosing a tree make sure you have measured the space you wish to put it. If the tree is too large it won't fit the space right (or even the doorway for that matter) and if it's too tall, you won't be about to fit a tree topper! Also be aware that pruning and trimming when done incorrectly can actually kill the tree...then there is no way to spruce it up.

3. Trim the trunk

When you manage to get your dream tree home intact trim ½ inch off the bottom of the trunk and immediately place it in a bucket of water to absorb water. If you don't do this straight away the tree will release sap that will seal over the base of the trunk and hinder the tree's ability to absorb water. Freshly cut trees will drink more water during its first days, so it is important to check the water source several times a day. If the tree receives a sufficient and steady supply of water the tree's needles will remain soft, otherwise the needles will dry out and shed, becoming a fire hazard or just a right old mess.


4. You need a stand...and more water

You will need a decent stand to keep the tree upright and this must house sufficient water. According to Leo Demasi a small tree will take 4L of water, medium trees, 7-8L and a large tree, 10L. Some Christmas tree stands only hold 500L which is not enough, the most important aspect of preparation and upkeep is that the water supply doesn't run out.

5. No direct sunlight

Not too shady, not too bright, you need it to be juuust right. Keep the tree away from any heat sources to prevent drying and fire hazards. Be sure to turn off independent heat sources when you leave the room, this includes the fairy lights that grace your tree! (Try using LED lights that generate less heat and are energy efficient). 

When the tree is overstaying it's welcome

But wait, what do you do with a live tree after Christmas? There are collection services available that will recycle and mulch trees, and some Council areas offer free collection as well. Otherwise, you can cut it up and put it in with your green wastes, or keep branches to dry out to put in a fire place for some year round yuletide scented joy. 

During the Christmas period, no one wants any extra stress, including that the extra load a live Christmas tree starting to droop in the corner provides. So, get the entire family on board and involved, teach the kids about caring for the tree, not just decorating it. Let the kids re-fill and make sure the water source is full. That way, everyone will have enjoyed the process from start to finish and will look forward to housing another next Christmas. Kind of heart warming, isn't it?