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Home and garden checklist

Published: Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 11CALIFORNIA LIFE


A fresh-cut Christmas tree adds instant holiday spirit to any home.

But when shopping for a pre-cut tree, how do you know a fir is really fresh – and that it will last to Christmas?

Members of the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association, which supplies more than 90 percent of the pre-cut fresh trees in California, offer these tips for finding a fresh tree and keeping it that way:

• Before heading to the retail lot, be sure you know what size (height and width) you really need. It's easy to buy a tree that won't fit in your space. No room for a 6-footer? Smaller trees can make a great tabletop display for apartments or condos.

• Use the "smell and snap" test. Give a branch a gentle crush and smell the needles to check for a clean Christmas tree fragrance. Then, bend a single needle between your fingers. If it snaps like a carrot, the tree is fresh.

• Look for other indicators of dryness or deterioration. Those include excessive needle loss, discolored foliage and wrinkled bark or a musty, mildewlike smell.

• When in doubt about the freshness of a tree, select another one. If none of the trees on the lot looks fresh, go to another lot.

• Make a fresh cut on the bottom of the tree to open up the pores, which have been clogged by sap. Cut off at least a half-inch and place the tree in a sturdy stand that will hold at least one gallon of water.

• Add fresh, plain water to the tree stand every day. An average tree may consume between a quart and a gallon of water per day. If the water level drops below the cut end of the trunk, a seal will form and no more water will be absorbed by the tree unless another fresh cut is made. Just keep the water reservoir topped off.

For more tips and a shopping guide, click on

Want to cut your own tree? Check out our local tree farm map at


• Yes, you can grow vegetables in December. (That's why we love living in California.) Take a break from the holiday hoopla and work on your garden.

• Transplant asparagus roots along with seedlings for bok choy, kale and leaf lettuce.

• Seed directly into garden beds fava beans, broccoli, mustard, radicchio and radishes. Also, plant onion sets and garlic.

• Start indoors early spring annuals such as aster, calendula, cornflower and cosmos.

• Seeds for California poppy and echinacea can be planted directly in the garden.

– Debbie Arrington

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