Tips for a safe Christmas tree

Photo: istockphoto.com/Lisa Thornberg
Your real tree is up and decorated. Now the challenge is to keep it fresh and alive. We've got some tips from our friends at Natural Resources Canada on how to keep that yuletide tree festive. Before the stand Did you remember to first cut about three centimetres (one inch) off the bottom of the trunk before setting it up? Exposing new trunk will remove dried resin that often covers tissue able to absorb water. If you forgot this important step your tree may dry out quicker. Location, location, location Just about place in your room is suitable for your tree as long as it's placed away from heat sources like radiators, air ducts and fireplaces. Try not to block any doorways since this can cause accidents. Keep moist Make sure you tree is immersed in a container filled with enough water to cover the cut. Check the water level each day. A two-metre (six-foot) tree can absorb one litre of water in a day. If your tree does become dried out it will shed its needles prematurely. If this happens the only solution is to take the tree down and cut about three centimeters (one inch) off the bottom. Stand the tree up again and re-water. It's annoying but it will give your tree a longer life. A helpful star If you're returning to a real tree after years of having artificial you may forget to water the tree. Climbing under the tree to check the water can be a real hassle (particularly if you have a fancy tree skirt). The Tree Green-Star is a water level indicator with a built in alarm. The audible alarm plays a Christmas tune once per hour when the water is almost empty and every half hour when empty. Your tree won't go dry with this star. Simple H20 the best There is no need to add anything to the water to keep your tree fresh. Sugar, aspirin and commercially prepared additives really don't do much. Plain tap water will do the trick. Stay away from fire retardants since the chemicals used to create them are extremely toxic and are no substitute for an adequate water supply. Simple way to water For ease watering create this simple system Gene and Marian Anderson of Guse Hardware in Minneapolis:
  • Buy a funnel and 100 to 125 metres
  • Slip the tube over the funnel
  • Hide the funnel in a branch of the tree
  • Weave the tube down through the branches into the stand without bending the tube
  • To water the tree pour water into the funnel.
  • Check the decorations Use only lights bearing the Canadian Standards Association label of approval or the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) UL label. Make sure each wire and socket is working properly and if any bulbs blow be sure to replace them immediately. Don't let the bulbs touch anything that can burn easily, like paper. Be sure to turn the lights off when you go out or go to bed. Don't attach decorations made of light paper or cardboard to lights and keep them away from candles. Although candles are becoming popular items for Christmas trees, they are not recommended since they pose a fire hazard. Kids and animal hazards Secure the tree at the top and bottom so it isn't knocked over by young children or the family pet. Tree decorations and lights can be alluring to your pets so take away any items they start nibbling or obsessing over. Time to turf When is your tree just too dry? An overly dry tree will have brittle branches that easily shed needles. Draw your fingers through a branch -- the needles should slide through without coming off and you shouldn't be getting a handful of needles. Fold a needle back until the tip touches the stem to make a circle. If it breaks or doesn't bounce back your tree is dry and its days are numbered. Wish it a fond farewell and find out the recycling days for Noel trees in your neighbourhood.