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Here come the ho-ho-holidays

Friday - 11/26/2010, 8:23pm  ET

Buy Local and Start with a REALLY Fresh Tree!

The secret to keeping a cut tree fresh and supple indoors isn't in any magic mixture you place in the water holder. It's in the handling of the tree before those bolts get tightened.

And the way to virtually insure long-term freshness is to visit a local Christmas tree farm and "cut your own". I use quotes there because I'm the only person who seems to bring their own saw; everybody else just picks out 'their tree' and the staff cuts it for them. Either way, you get a tree that's FRESH with a capital F; and you're buying local; supporting a local business; and helping keep that land planted in trees instead of houses and Home Depots. And it's a great family day outdoors! Cookies! Hot chocolate! Now that's a real hoe-hoe-hoe day!

And this year, I scouted up some brand new farm listings for our site! (New to me, anyway.) Take the time to check all the sites below for your area, as some farms are only listed at one site, and scouting around could save you some considerable travel time. And if you find a different tree farm listing site you like, send it to me and I'll add it.

Here's the farm listing from the Maryland Christmas Tree Association.

And the one for a similar group in Virgini a.

NEW THIS YEAR: These 'pick your own Christmas tree' sites aren't the best organized, but they contain a LOT of detail about the listed farms. Our part of Maryland: Northern VA: And finally, here's the old reliable 'Christmas Tree Farm Network' site. Just click on your state:

Pre-Cut Tree? Pre-Saturate it!

If pre-cut your tree must be, you can still keep it fresh indoors a long time-if you pick well and have a bow saw and a big bucket of water handy and waiting at home. Feel up your potential tree choices before buying. You're looking for branches that bend easily and needles that are supple and feel 'lush' to the touch. Don't be shy!

And if any part of a tree seems dry or brittle, pass it by-that tree is going to drop needles for a living. When you get your nicely supple tree home, shake it well to dislodge any already dead needles (these are common; evergreens shed needles on a regular basis). Bang the bottom of the trunk on a hard surface and shake the sides vigorously.

Then cut an extra inch or two off the bottom of the tree trunk and immediately place the newly-cut trunk in a big container of fresh, plain water for at least a couple of hours, preferably overnight. If the tree came from an area where it hadn't rained for awhile, it'll drink up many gallons of water. This 'pre-saturation' trick is the best way to prevent a shower of sharp needles on your floor.

And if you're one of those people who just has to put something 'magical' in the water, try the new product called "Vacation", an all-natural 'anti-transpirant' designed to trap moisture inside of plants. You'll find more info on it here.

Indoor Tree Care 101:

  • Pre-saturate the tree as directed. If its pre-cut, be SURE to remove a few inches from the bottom of the stump (borrow a saw if you have to). But don't strip any bark from the sides to make it fit into the holder-if you do, the tree won't be able to take up water.
  • Choose the coolest possible indoor location for the tree-far away from fireplace, wood stove, radiators or hot air vents.
  • Keep the water reservoir filled at all times; if that holder dries out completely, the tree will no longer be able to take up water. Gadgets like "Santa's Magic Water Spout" make this chore a lot easier. (The top of 'Santa's Magic Spout' looks like a bell-shaped ornament, but it's actually a funnel-like device that connects to a length of tubing that runs water down to your tree stand-without you having to bend over all the time.)
  • And if you're still using old-fashioned incandescent lights, make the move to LEDs this season. They look great, don't generate any heat, don't burn out and use almost no electricity.

Small Space? Think Rosemary Christmas Tree!

I love having a big cut Christmas tree in the house, but I also realize that many of our listeners just don't have the room for one-and many others out there have reached the age where tree-wrestling has simply lost its allure (if it ever had any). But that doesn't mean you can't celebrate the season with a live indoor tree; just pick up one of those cute-as-the-Dickens potted rosemary trees you see at garden centers and upscale markets this time of year. (My local Whole Foods store always has them.)

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