Donald Reed, Coolman, Denise | 11/24/2005 1:07:47 AM
As the temperatures fall and holiday shoppers head for the malls, many people’s thoughts turn to decorating their homes for the holidays.
Many Louisiana families will turn to natural trees as part of those decorations, and LSU AgCenter forestry specialist Dr. Don Reed offers tips on picking out the perfect tree, as well as keeping it looking perfect all season long.
"Making sure the tree is fresh when you get it is most important," Reed advises, adding, "The best way to get a tree you know is fresh is to go to a ‘choose-and-cut’ tree farm."
For customers who have to buy pre-cut trees, Reed offers a "freshness test" you can use to determine just how fresh the tree is.
"Gently grasp a branch in your hand, and pull the branch toward you," he says. "If the tree isn’t fresh, a lot of needles will come off in your hand."
You also can shake a tree to determine freshness. Again, if a lot of needles fall off, don’t buy it, Reed says, adding that a few needles may come off even if the tree is fresh.
"But don’t buy a tree if a lot of needles fall off," he says.
The LSU AgCenter specialist also stresses you should make sure the tree is the correct color, size and shape for your needs.
"Make sure it doesn’t have any holes where branches are missing," Reed says, adding, "While it is a common practice to apply a light colorant to trees in order to hide the off-color appearance they develop in the late fall, make certain that this practice is not being used to disguise a tree with dried out needles."
Reed also says to shake the tree to rid it of any insects that may be hiding in the branches.
And he points out that a straight trunk is another characteristic to look for when selecting a "real" tree for your holiday decorations. "This will help it stand straight in the tree stand," Reed says.
As for other tips, Reed says once you get home you should cut the tree straight across the base of the trunk, at least about one-quarter of an inch above the first cut, and place it in a stand that holds a lot of water. Check the water regularly to make sure the tree doesn’t dry out, he stresses.
Keeping the tree away from heat is another way to make sure it doesn’t dry out, so the experts say to try not to place the tree near heating vents, fireplaces, heaters or other heat sources.
If the tree is to be decorated with lights, check the cords and connections to make sure they are in good working order before putting them on the tree.
"It’s also a good idea to unplug the lights before you go to bed – or before you leave your house," Reed says.
For more information on a variety of topics related to family life, nutrition, food, agriculture and much more, visit the LSU AgCenter’s Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.