Saturday, December 19, 2009

almost there!

Less than a week to go until Christmas and people are still buying trees. We've heard from some folks who have a specific number of days before Christmas when they put up their tree to decorate. We know others are waiting for family members to come home before trimming their tree.

Many people though have already put up their tree and have been asking some common, and some not so common questions. Here's a sampling with my answers in BLUE.

From: jim busche
Sent: Sunday, December 13, 2009 11:34 PM
Subject: Blog Talk Ideas - Scots pine question.

I have a question about our Scots pine that we cut from the lot on Nov 29th. Initially, I'd top it's water up everyday and it seemed to be drinking. These past two nights the water level hasn't changed and I'm worried that there's something wrong with it, the water in the stand smells pretty stagnant too. I wonder if I should change the water? It not near any heat sources, or anything like that. Is this normal? It's not a huge tree, maybe 6ft total. Thanks!

The rate of water absorption will vary throughout the time it is displayed. Some days it will absorb a lot, some days not so much. This is normal.

From: Anne
Sent: Friday, December 18, 2009 4:57 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree Question


I have heard ( but with no follow up info) that there is a type of Christmas Tree that reples cats. Something about the smell they do not like but I have no other information.
Have you heard of such a thing ??

While I make no claims to know anything about how cat’s sense of smell works, I think that’s an urban legend. However, I have had people tell me that if they have cats prone to climb in the Christmas tree, then they only need to have a Blue Spruce one year and that takes care of the problem. This comes about because a Blue Spruce has very sharp, prickly needles and a cat will learn to associate climbing the Christmas tree with ….well, sharp prickly needles.

From: Angie Redd
Sent: Sunday, December 13, 2009 6:10 PM
Subject: Christmas Tree Question


We cut down a Canaan Fir the day after Thanksgiving this year and put it in water within an hour and a half after we got home. We did not cut off any more after bringing it home. Over this last week there were a couple of days that we forgot to put water in it, I don't think that it was completely empty (although I am not completely positive because it is dark under there and hard to see). Since I put water in it a couple days ago it is not really soaking up any. The tree is starting to lose more needles than the Canaan Firs we have had in the past at this point in the season, especially on the lower limbs. Although on the rest of the tree it is not losing an exorbitant amount. There are branches that I run my fingers down and no needles fall off. I am wondering if there is anything that we can do to help it to take up water again with still having almost two weeks until Christmas. Also is it a great fire hazard to have the lights on with it getting more dry at this point?

Thanks so much for your help. I was excited when I found your website and look forward to browsing through it.

The rate of water absorption will vary. Some days it will be a lot, some days not so much. I think it’s fine from what you describe.

If your light set is less than about 15 years old and rated for indoor use, there is no way they emit enough heat to catch anything on fire, especially a plant full of moisture. A couple years ago on the show “Myth Busters” on the Discovery Channel, they took a tree and ran it in a kiln dryer. It became utterly devoid of any moisture (way more than could possibly happen in a tree displayed in water in your home for 4 weeks). Then they strung about 400 strands of lights on it…it was drawing 10 times more electricity than the average 2500 square foot home. They filmed it through a heat sensitive camera, and while you could see heat rising off this tree like a river current, it still couldn’t light any of the tree on fire. It was fascinating.

From: Mark K.
Sent: Tuesday, December 15, 2009 3:42 PM
Subject: christmas tree question


Is there a nationwide list of organizations that help to plant live trees after the holidays?

Christmas tree farms will be planting 40 – 45 million new trees in the U.S. alone. There are about 350,000 acres in the U.S. planted in conifers for the cut Christmas tree market, growing close to half a billion trees.

Do you want to be a Christmas tree farmer? I’m sure any area farm would love it if you wanted to volunteer to help with planting next spring.

Hello Rick,

Thank you for your quick response. I was talking about live, potted trees to be replanted after Christmas is over.

I am looking for information on nationwide organizations like this one that organize plantings of donated, live Christmas trees.

Hmmm…not that I know of, but I would start with your local parks department. They probably manage the most open / green space in metropolitan areas. Or you could ask the farm / nursery selling the potted tree who some of their customers are …I’m sure they’d love a donated tree.

From: steelerjk
Sent: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12:45 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: Water

I cut down a fresh tree on Dec. 5 and it consumed a lot of water the first 9 days and now has slowed down to very little. Is this normal and will my tree make it until January 1st?

That’s normal. The rate of water absorption will vary…some days it will be a lot, some days not so much. Just check and fill the stand every day even if it only needs a little additional water.

From: bjp78@
Sent: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 7:58 PM
Subject: crackling christmas tree

I have been reading about people and their crackling trees and I too have the same thing happening to my tree. My husband wonders if it could be the pine cones opening up? Our tree has a lot of pine cones on it and he says maybe as the tree is absorbing water the pine cones are opening up causing the crackling noises.

I had that question a couple years ago. I asked some of the plant pathologists and they said it was all of the tree’s plant tissue warming, softening and absorbing moisture. They said it was normal and wouldn’t impact the needle retention or moisture uptake of the tree.

From: jonathan bowden
Sent: Thursday, December 17, 2009 9:04 PM
Subject: Another tree question

First, thanks for all the help you provide people by answering these's really great. Simple it bad for old dead needles to get into the water in the stand? My tree has been great and absorbed plenty of water for the first two weeks but now it seems to be almost stopped at the end of the third week. The only odd thing i did was not clear out a few handfuls of dead needles that fell into stand when i put up the tree.

Nah -- old, fallen needles in the stand won't bother the tree. The plant tissue absorbs water at a molecular level anyway so floating needle debris can't impact that process. I do recommend that after Christmas, washing out the stand before storing until next year. That way you don't have decaying organic matter in the stand for 11 months.

From: Bill Campbell
Sent: Friday, December 18, 2009 9:49 AM
Subject: Condos

Hey Rick!

The condo I live in recently created a bylaw banning live Christmas Trees claiming a fire hazard (I live in a 16 story concrete building).

Do you have any data on fires and Christmas Trees?

Do you have any data on the legality of Strata Councils banning Christmas trees?

Here’s our main safety facts page . Unfortunately, no matter how frustrated I feel that this has happened to you, I can’t possibly advise you on legalities involved. The only general statement I can make is that a condo / owners association can make whatever rules they want as they are a private enterprise. However, I can tell you that no model fire code, neither the International Fire Code or the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA -1, prohibit cut trees from being displayed in individual units of multi-unit residential dwellings. In other words, if they cop the excuse to you that “oh, it’s against the fire code” you can tell them that’s plain wrong.

Great questions....keep them coming. We'll answer all emails up until Christmas Day. Don't forget to find out about your local tree recycling program. If you live where they have curb side pick up, make sure you know which days you can set the tree out for recycling. If you're like me, you may have to take your tree to a drop off location. Some tips to make it easier: grab an old blanket or sheet or if you have a removal bag, that's great too. Lift the tree vertically and carry outside. Try to let the water level in the stand go down -- that's the ONLY time you'll see that recommendation, but it's to prevent any spillage. Once outside, lay the tree down on it's side on top of the old blanket. Remove the stand, then simply roll it up in the blanket and put in or on your vehicle to transport down to the drop off location. For me, the whole process takes about 30 minutes. That's an easy task to do for a good environmental cause. Tree are 100% biodegradable and recycling programs help in many ways.

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