Friday, December 14, 2007

Reader Q&A

Sorry for not getting more blog entries up this week, it was quite busy and there were many questions and topics sent in.

Just wanted to share this email we received this week. It represents another example of why we love coordinating the Trees for Troops program with FedEx.

Sir or Ma’am-
I just wanted to thank your company for sponsoring the trees for troops program. I am a Navy sailor embedded with a Army unit in Baghdad, Iraq. We received our tree this morning and it was both unexpected and a real joy to receive. None of us had ever heard of this program. We already had a 18” plastic tree that anywhere else would seem pathetic but here it is a reminder of home and seemed much larger than it actually is. The tree we received today seems to bring home and the holidays a lot closer for all of us. The smell, the feel, everything about the tree is a joy to have. Once again thank you for helping support this effort, it is a real blessing for this unit.
Thank you,
Tim Hull
Camp Liberty, Baghdad Iraq

Some common questions/topics came in this week, and also some not so common ones.

Hi there,
We have two young children and since they were causing a ruckus at the tree lot, my husband boldly grabbed a tree and headed for the register. Fortunately, it is a lush and gorgeous tree. The unfortunate part is that we’ve realized that we should’ve had a fresh cut done at the bottom. How critical is this? We’ve already decorated the tree, but since there are still a few weeks to go, is it worth it for us to take it down and make that fresh cut?

Thank you very much in advance for your help. (What a great resource you are to us tree novices!)

Answer: Well, the bad news is, yes -- you really should make a fresh cut off the stump. It only needs to be about 1/4 or 1/2 inch. This opens up the plant tissue in the cambium layer which move water molecules up the tree. When exposed to air for long periods of time (generally more than 4-6 hours), the cut surface will absorb air molecules into the plant tissue and this inhibits the tree's ability to move water. It might still absorb some water, but to maximize it, a fresh cut should be made.

I know that can be a pain if it's already decorated, but it's not as hard as it seems. Remove the water in the stand with a turkey baster or a shop-vac attachment, then remove ornaments, but you can leave the light strings on. Then simply tip the tree on it's side on top of an old blanket or sheet, remove the stand, make a fresh cut, vaccuum up with a shop-vac, re-attach the stand, set upright and fill with plain tap water again. Maybe you can have a re-decorating party this weekend and make some lemonade from this particular "lemon" situation.

Thanks for the blog info! We found it most educational, but still have a question or two: Should we add anything to our tap water to help a cut tree last longer? Corn syrup? Sugar? Plant food? We've heard all three at different times.- Could one add food coloring to the water to increase greenness in the needles? Looking forward to your reply...

Jan and Susan Blake

Answer: Nope...don't add anything to the water. Plant pathologists have actually done many controlled studies on moisture retention and needle retention over the years with various ingredients in the water absorbed by the tree. Nothing has ever been shown to improve either water uptake or needle retention over just plain tap water. If you put sugar, corn syrup or fertilizer (plant food which is basically nitrogen) or any other organic matter in the water stand, it will simply make your tree water smell bad.

Needles are green from chlorophyll, a chemical produced via photosynthesis. Food coloring will only make the water green, not the tree's foliage.

Are you able to confirm or deny the following statement relating to Christmas tree stands: "Metal stands cause trees to dry out and become flammable”. I read it in a list of Holiday Safety Tips recently. I can’t find anything that suggests that there is a problem with metal stands per se…Maybe it could mean that metal stands might be smaller in general and not able to hold enough water? Thanks for any help you are able to provide.

Answer: That's a preposterous statement. Water molecules are not altered if water is in a metal container, or plastic container or glass container, etc.