How to take care of your Christmas tree

You can keep your real Christmas tree fresh and green by taking a few simple steps when you get it home.

• Once home, place the tree in water as soon as possible. Most species can go 6 to 8 hours after cutting the trunk and still are able to take up water, but it’s a good idea to cut 1/2 -inch or so off the bottom before putting the tree in the water. Don't bruise the cut surface or get it dirty.

• If needed, trees can be temporarily stored for several days in a cool location. Place the freshly cut trunk in a bucket that is kept full of water.

• Displaying your tree in a traditional reservoir-type stand that has an adequate water-holding capacity is the most effective way of maintaining its freshness and minimizing needle loss problems.

• When you get ready to put your tree in the stand, make a fresh cut to remove about a 1/2-inch thick disk of wood from the base of the trunk. Make the cut straight across the trunk — don’t cut it at an angle, or into a v-shape, which makes it far more difficult to hold the tree in the stand.

• As a general rule, stands should provide 1 quart of water per inch of stem diameter. Devices are available that help maintain a constant water level in the stand. Regardless of how you measure your water needs, check the water level daily and don’t let it dry out. The tree can suck up lots of water the first few days. If it dries out, then the water intake may slow or stop.

• Use a stand that fits your tree. Avoid whittling the sides of the trunk down to fit a stand. The outer layers of wood are the most efficient in taking up water and should not be removed.

• Keep trees away from major sources of heat, such as fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, and direct sunlight. Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process, resulting in less water consumption each day.

How real Christmas trees benefit the environment

What’s best for the environment — a real, fresh Christmas tree, or an artificial one? When it comes to sustainability, the real tree is always the better choice.

Artificial trees have to be manufactured, which not only uses nonrenewable resources, but also contributes to the problem of greenhouse gases. Real Christmas trees, on the other hand, make our planet healthier by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.

Real Christmas trees are grown on farms just like any other agricultural crop. To ensure a constant supply, Church Christmas Tree Farms plants one to three new seedlings for every tree that is harvested.

During the time that the trees are growing to the right size, they do a lot of good work for the environment — stabilizing soil, preventing storm runoff, and making use of land that is not suitable for other crops. The greenbelt space created by Christmas tree farms provides important habitat for wildlife and a safe place for native plants to thrive. We use sustainable practices in growing our trees, so we primarily use horticultural oil to control insect pests rather than conventional pesticides, wood chips to enrich the soil, and conserve water whenever possible.

Among the native animals you’ll see on our farm are white-tailed deer, scrub jays, rosy finches, Anna’s hummingbirds, Western swallowtail butterflies, blue-belly fence lizards, California quail and harvester ants. Native plants include Douglas iris, manzanita, California poppy, toyon (also known as Christmas berry), coastal live oak, and sticky monkeyflower, among many others.

And when the Yule season is over, real Christmas trees can be recycled for mulch or other purposes. Artificial trees are used for only an average six to nine years before being thrown away, and cannot be recycled, so they wind up in landfills.