6 ways to keep your Christmas tree fresh all season long

Oh, the holiday joy of a real Christmas tree - the smell of fresh pine from a freshly cut tree, all decked out merrily.

Of course, after finding the perfect tree, you want to be sure your tree remains vibrant through Christmas.

The good news is a few easy steps can help keep your live tree alive through the holidays.

Mark Andrew Czarnota is an associate professor and extension specialist at the University of Georgia (Ornamental, Small Fruit, and Christmas Tree Weed Control Specialist). He is also known for being a Christmas tree expert, and he provided us with the following six tips for maintaining a healthy fresh-cut Christmas tree. (His favorite is balsam fir, and he tries to get one fresh every year as long as he and his family are in town. The size of his tree is usually 8 to 10 feet.)

Buy a fresh tree. By far, the most important factor is to select a healthy, fresh-cut, well-maintained tree. Many of the pre-cut trees available in Georgia (fir species – Fraser, balsam, Douglas and noble) were cut in late October or November and are delivered to the stores right after Thanksgiving. Consider cutting your own tree – available from one of the many Christmas tree nurseries throughout the state; the Georgia Christmas Tree Association has an active list of growers: www.gacta.com.

Give it a fresh cut. When you are ready to move the tree into the house and decorate, make a fresh cut (about any inch) above the original cut. Avoid pruning the tree because the cuts can leak sap onto your lights, ornaments, gifts and floor.

Give it water. Once the tree is home, immediately put the cut end in water (5-gallon bucket of water). Make sure the tree never runs out of water. Place the tree in a sturdy stand that holds at least 1 gallon of water and make sure that the tree never runs out of water (check twice a day).

Keep it cool. Make sure to place the Christmas tree out of the direct sunlight and away from heat sources and heat registers. Make sure the tree is in a shady location away from direct sunlight.

RELATED: Your guide to the holidays, including food, shopping and more in Atlanta.

Tree disposal. Take down the tree before it dries completely and becomes a fire hazard. Czarnota doesn’t recommend leaving a fresh-cut tree up more than two weeks or maybe three weeks if starting with a fresh tree that is well-maintained. There are many ways to dispose of your tree once its usefulness is gone. Most cities have pickup or places to take trees for composting.

Make a tree of treats for wildlife. There are many other creative ways to get a few more weeks (even months) for the tree: Place it outside and decorate with popcorn string and bird seed ornamentals – allowing your feathered friends to have a snack and have a place to roost during the cold winter nights or rainy (even snowy) days.

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