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The time is at hand to deck the halls for the Holiday
Season. Christmas is fast approaching. Do you have the
mistletoe, holly, and yule tree ready yet?
Few of us have direct access to a local source of fresh
sprigs of mistletoe to hang over doorways as mistletoe
is fairly rare in Galveston County. (This is actually very
good — for our trees anyway — because American species
of mistletoe are parasitic plants as opposed to the
European mistletoe celebrated in Christmas traditions.)
Some of us can make fresh boughs of holly to deck the
halls since hollies have set a good berry crop this year.
However, for many folks — both the young and notso-
young — a fresh Christmas tree complete with lights
and other decorations provides a delightful focal point to
assemble and open those holiday gifts. Fortunately, the
Christmas tree is accessible through a wide variety of
outlets. Christmas trees are now a renewable resource.
After a tree is harvested on a tree growing farm, it is
replaced with a transplant seedling and the cycle is
repeated. Christmas tree production is an emerging
industry in Texas.
How will you select, prepare, and care for your
Christmas tree? Even if you put off buying the yule tree
until the last minute, there are several steps you should
take to ensure adequate safety and full enjoyment of
the occasion. The lasting beauty of a Christmas tree
depends on careful selection and proper pre-holiday
treatment. The following are suggested guidelines:
SELECTING THE TREE: Choosing a real Christmas
tree is a fun outing for the whole family and easy to
do. Here are a few helpful hints, so your tree isn’t bare
by Christmas Eve: First, select a tree with fresh, green
color. Such trees provide good needle retention, pleasing
fragrance, better fire resistance and longer holiday
beauty. Second, conduct a simple freshness test. Gently
grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and
pull it toward you. Few needles should come off in your
hand if the tree is fresh. Third, try lifting the tree a few
inches off the ground and letting it drop on the stump
end. Very few green needles should fall off.
PREPARING THE TREE: Once the tree is selected,
properly pre-condition it before setting it up inside the
home. Imagine that your tree has been cut a while back,
packed into trucks, and shipped to its final destination.
During this period of transport, the tree’s water uptake
mechanism at the point of cut becomes blocked with
dirt, sawdust, and resins from the tree.
To help alleviate the water uptake problems, purchase
your tree a little in advance of the time before it is to be
set up and decorated. When you get your tree home, cut
off the butt of the tree trunk at least one inch above the
original cut. Place the trunk in a container of water in a
cool location out of doors overnight or even for a couple
of days, if possible. This helps the tree to absorb water
which will extend the season of freshness and reduce
the fire hazard associated with dry trees.
CARING FOR THE TREE: When it’s time to trim the
tree, place it in a tree stand that holds water, and keep it
filled throughout its use over the holiday season. Check
the water level periodically and refill as needed.
A cut Christmas tree will absorb a surprising amount
of water, especially during the first few days. During
the first week, check the level of water in the stand a
couple of times a day and refill as needed. Then check
the stand daily. Make sure the water level never drops
below the bottom of the trunk.
The tree will take up a larger quantity of water at first,
as much as a gallon or more a day depending on the
size of the tree, but water uptake will slack off later. The
amount of water initially taken up primarily depends on
how recently the tree was harvested. After the tree is
placed in a container of water, never allow the water
level in the container to drop below the freshly cut end
of the trunk.
We think of the holidays as happy times, an occasion
for celebration, thankfulness and sharing with our family,
friends and community. By taking a few preventive
measures, you and your family can celebrate a happy,
nostalgic, and fire-safe holiday.
At a Glance
WHAT: Master Gardener Training Course
DATE: Tuesdays and Thursdays, from February 13 to
April 19
TIME: 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.
TOPICS: diverse variety of horticulture-related topics
will be covered including soils and plant nutrition; growing
vegetables; growing fruit and citrus trees; disease
identification and control; insect pest identification and
control; weed identification and control; selection and
use of pesticides; proper fertilization; integrated pest
management; pruning and training ornamentals; landscape
perennials and annuals; propagation and grafting
techniques; environmental horticulture and urban
HOW TO APPLY: Contact the Galveston County
AgriLife Extension Office in Carbide Park located at
4102-B Main St. in La Marque (phone 281-309-5065;
e-mail Visit http://aggiehorticulture. for additional details
and to download application.
APPLICATION DEADLINE: Wednesday, January 10
William Johnson is a horticulturist with the Galveston
County office of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Visit his website at

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