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You're mistreating your Christmas tree, and here's how to fix it By MLive Media Group

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If you're one of those folks for whom the holiday season doesn't really start until there's a real live Christmas tree in your home -- wafting its woodsy pine scent, glowing with lights and ornaments -- then you'll want to heed the following tips from Amy Start, executive director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association.

Start says many of reasons why some people think live trees are a hassle (pine needles everywhere, the tree drying out well before Christmas actually arrives) can be attributed to, as she put it, "user error" -- i.e., poor tree care, especially during the tree's crucial first few days in your home. Follow Start's tips to make sure your live Christmas tree stays healthy and lasts well into the New Year. 

1. Always get a fresh cut.

Whether you're cutting your own tree at a tree farm or out in the woods, or picking out a pre-cut live tree at a Christmas tree lot, be sure to get a fresh cut along the bottom of the trunk: This is what allows the tree to drink up water and keep it alive. If that tree of your is pre-cut, ask for a fresh cut before you take it home. 

2. Don't leave it out of water for more than two hours.

One of the biggest no-no's of bringing home a live Christmas tree, Start says, it taking too long to get it home. After buying their tree, some people might want to run other errands or go Christmas shopping -- during which time, the fresh cut on the bottom of their tree's trunk will crust over with sap, preventing it from taking up water when the tree finally gets put in a tree stand. "By the time they get it home, it may have been out for hours, which is why it dries out in the first few days," she says.

If that shopping absolutely can't wait and your tree will be out for more than two hours, Start says to be sure to make another fresh cut along the bottom so that it can take up water. 

3. Keep the tree away from heat sources.

Not placing your tree next to a fireplace seems like a no brainer, but placing it next to any heat source -- including heating ducts -- can dry out your live tree, too. If this can't be helped, make sure to check the tree stand's water more frequently, and fill 'er up when needed. 

4. Refill the water frequently during the first few days.

By now you're probably getting the picture: Keeping that tree hydrated is the theme here. "In the first few days, it takes a lot of water," Start says. So don't just plop that tree in its tree stand and forget it: Check that the water level stays high in the stand, especially during those first few days. 


5. But don't forget to keep filling the water even when the tree's water uptake slows down.

A live-cut tree will eventually slow its roll when it comes to drinking up water, but you should still stay on top of keeping it hydrated. Make it a habit to check the water level daily, and that tree will last you well past New Year's. 

Bonus tip: When you take the tree down, lay it on a sheet for easy removal.

Start's favorite tip for success in taking down a Christmas tree with minimal hassle: Just lay the tree down on a large bed sheet and drag it out the door; the sheet will collect and contain and needles that fall along the way. 

Be sure to recycle your tree.

One of the best parts about live Christmas trees, Start says, is that they're completely recyclable. Check with your city or county waste collection programs to see if they offer Christmas tree pick-up (some have drop-off locations for tree recycling), which keeps trees out of landfills and turns them into a truly renewable resource. 


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