Garden Musings Podcast

The monthly Garden Musings were written by George and Becky Lohmiller. Early recordings in the series were read by Almanac group publisher John Pierce, as well as Almanac copy editor Jack Burnett. Almanac editor Heidi Stonehill became the narrator in 2012.

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Making Your Christmas Tree Last and Last

The tradition of bringing a tree into the house and decorating it for Christmas originated in Germany more than 400 years ago but didn’t gain popularity in the United States until the mid-1800s. In those days, trees were cut from the wild or from the family woodlot and weren’t as full and shapely as the trees we buy now. Today, family woodlots are rare, and with the demand for “that perfect tree,” almost all Christmas trees are professionally grown.

Many families still like to share in the experience of cutting their own Christmas tree by visiting a choose-and-cut tree farm. Harvesting your own tree is the surest way of knowing that it is as fresh as it can be.

Most Christmas trees, however, are purchased at garden centers or tree lots, making it difficult to know how fresh they are. Ask the seller where the trees were grown and when they were cut. If he can answer both of these questions, chances are you will be getting a tree that will survive the season with minimal needle drop. A quick test to determine the freshness of a Christmas tree is to grasp the tip of the branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it gently. Very few needles will come off in your hand if the tree is fresh.

Even the freshest trees will prematurely shed their needles if not handled properly. Just before you bring your tree inside, cut off a ¼-inch-thick wafer of wood from the bottom of the trunk; then immediately set the tree into a stand filled with water. The tree will probably drink a gallon of water in the first 24 hours. Check the water in the stand daily. If the reservoir is allowed to run dry, sap may seal the bottom of the trunk and reduce future water uptake.

Display your tree in a cool room, if possible, and never near a woodstove, radiator, or other source of heat. Even under the best of conditions, some needle drop is natural.

After the holidays, set your tree out in the yard and decorate it with popcorn, peanuts, and other snacks for the birds and squirrels. Back in its natural environment, your tree should remain beautiful through the winter.

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