1579 Fanshawe park Road east, London - (519) 455-8873

Weekly Gardening Guide: Keepin' it FRESH!

November 26, 2015

Keeping it fresh!

The holiday season is our favourite time of year for a number of reasons. Aside from the obvious joy of family, friends, and togetherness that surrounds the holidays, we are truly proud of our store and what we offer our customers during the winter season.

We try to make sure we always use the terms “Holidays” and “Winter” décor regarding our products. We do this for a couple of reasons, firstly – we truly want to make sure all of our customers, regardless of their faith, feel welcome in our store this time of year. More importantly, we always remind our customers; you don’t just want your home to look great for December, you want your décor choices to look great all the way through until spring! In that way, these are not “Christmas” urns, wreaths, etc. they are “Winter” urns, wreaths, etc!

 However, one section of our store is undeniably dedicated to Christmas – I’m talking of course about our beautiful, fresh, locally grown CHRISTMAS TREES!

So, since our #1 question this time of year is “how do I keep my tree from drying out?” this week’s tip is about keeping your beautiful REAL Christmas tree looking and smelling great well into the New Year!

Firstly – you’ve come to the right place! Unlike some of *the other guys* our trees were cut within a day or two of arriving at our store! If you point to a tree in our store, I can tell you the exact date it was cut down! This is not true for many of the big box stores, who’s trees may have been sitting in a warehouse for weeks before being shipped out to the stores. This is the most important step in keeping your tree fresh – start with a fresh tree!

Secondly – species selection is crucial. I understand that certain cultures and traditions demand a certain species of evergreen tree, and of course that is your choice! For example, the “traditional” British Christmas tree is the Norway Spruce, while certain types of Pine (White pine and Scotch Pine) are preferred by some eastern European cultures. However, both of these types of tree are lacking in the needle retention department. If you have ever had a spruce or pine Christmas tree, you know that they drop their needles like CRAZY and additionally have stiff, “pokey” needles that hard (read: Painful) to decorate and very difficult to vacuum up.
Enter the Family-Friendly-FIRS!
Balsam and Fraser firs have, in recent years, become widely desired and propagated thanks not only to their soft needles but also to their “post-harvest needle retention” – which is a fancy way of saying LESS MESS!
For whatever reason, fir trees, even after they begin to dry out simply hold onto their needles better than most. In the needle holding hierarchy, Fraser beats out Balsam by a narrow but practical margin – lets be honest, we eager beavers who put up our trees early, want it looking great a month later on Christmas morning, so every extra day counts! That’s not to say Balsams are bad – just that if you want that extra few days of a fresh looking tree, go fraser.

Now its time to pick the spot for your tree!
Of course, we all have that perfect spot in our house that just screams for a Christmas tree. However, not every spot is ideal from a needle retention standpoint. Heat, sun, and dry air are the enemy. When possible pick a location in your home that is out of the direct sunlight, away from a heat source (such as a fireplace or furnace vent) and when possible turn up the humidifier on your furnace to keep some extra moisture in the air. If you must put your tree near a furnace vent, make sure it is closed as much as possible. Sarah and I have a vent right underneath our tree, but we keep it closed, and with the tree skirt over top of it for good measure.

Next; a “fresh cut” on the end of the tree is very important and here’s why:
The cut butt end of a tree harvested from a farm will quickly dry out. Even a fresh tree that still has tons of moisture in its needles, will have a dry base within a day or 2 of being cut down. Even when you put this dry base into water, the water will have a difficult time wicking its way up the trunk to be taken into the tree. The way around this is with a fresh cut on the trunk of the tree – about 1.5-2” from the existing end.

Now it’s time to mount your tree in the stand;
I’m not going to tell you how to get it standing straight – cause that’s NOT my forte either. However, I will caution you from experience that you want to make sure you remove 1-2 courses of branches from the bottom of the tree to make sure that it a) sits flat on the bottom of the tree stand and b) Is easy to access for re-watering…. (and c) leaves lots of room for presents :P)

Once its in the stand, its time to water it. Here’s possibly my first “oooohhh that makes sense” moment of this blog…. Use HOT water for your first watering! Why? Well you know how I mentioned the fact that your tree needs to wick up the water from the base and take it through the tree? It must first break through a lot of oozing and crystalized sugars. Using hot water both dissolves these sugars, and creates a temperature gradient that will cause the flow of water to start. ***Once you have used hot water once, you can use cold water from then on***

Going forward, the most crucial thing for keeping your tree fresh is to NEVER LET IT DRY OUT COMPLETELY! Be diligent. Make it part of your morning routine to check the reservoir. The worst thing you can do to cause your tree to dry out is to force it to stop drinking by letting the reservoir dry out. Short of taking it down and putting another fresh cut on it, this is a difficult “oops” to recover from. If you do notice that your reservoir has dried out, immediately refill it with hot water again.

Naturally, your tree will stop drinking at some point – a tree can only survive without roots for so long. Up until this point your tree has been hydrating from the inside. Depending on how close it is to the big day, you may wish to help hydrate it from the outside. This process is as simple as misting the tree with a spray bottle (with the lights unplugged) once or twice a day to help retain moisture. This step is not absolutely necessary, but logically, the more moisture you have in the foliage, the less likely it is to dry out.

With Fraser and Balsam firs (unlike some other species), the nice thing is, even once the needles are dry and brittle, they don’t drop their needles unless you actively handle or agitate the branches. So the best way to keep these trees from dropping their needles is to simply look but don’t touch!

When it comes time to take the tree outside at the end of the season, do yourself a favour and purchase one of our $3 tree bags. These are basically giant garbage bags that can slide over the entire tree, containing it and all its needles inside and allowing you to throw the whole thing in the car to take to the tree dump without vacuuming needles out of your upholstery until August!

At this point you may be wondering about the old family recipe of putting sugar, or baking soda, or a store bought preservative, or eye of newt, or whatever into the reservoir to help keep your tree green longer. According to my experience, and the Mythbusters, pure water is still just as good as any elixir for keeping the needles on a tree. I doubt these family recipes are doing any harm but in my research, good old fashioned tap water and the right tree is all that’s required to keep your floor needle free!

To summarize - For maximum needle retention:
1) Buy a fresh tree – From Heirloom! J
2) Choose a fir instead of another species. Fraser is king!
3) Choose a location in your home away from dry heat or direct sun.
4) Close any nearby furnace ducts when possible
5) Put a fresh cut on the base of the tree – 1.5”-2” from the existing end
6) Use *hot* water the first time you fill the reservoir
7) KEEP IT WET  - never let the reservoir dry out completely
8) Once the tree stops drinking, you can use spray bottle full of water to help keep the needles moist
9) Avoid handling or touching the tree whenever possible
10) Use a tree bag when it comes time to remove the tree to avoid a big mess!


As always, thanks for reading! We can’t wait to see you in the store this season!

Please don’t hesitate to call, email, or facebook message us with questions or c
oncerns!

Bryan

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