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Handy Tips and Hacks for Christmas Trees

Use these tips to make your holiday festivities easier

Knee-Saving Watering Technique

To make tree watering easier, hang a funnel from a tree branch with a loop of clothes hanger. Then slip a plastic tube over the end of the funnel and run the tube along the trunk and into the water reservoir. To prevent overfilling, have one of the kids watch the water level or put a finger in the reservoir and tell you when it's full.

No-Spill Christmas Tree

A plastic snow saucer, the kind with the flat area in the center (available at discount stores), is great for keeping overflowing Christmas tree water from staining your floor. Place a carpet remnant under the saucer to prevent scratches on wood flooring. If you're really worried about leaks, you can also use technology to detect water leaks.

Buy a Tree Bag When You Get Your Tree

Slip a tree disposal bag over the base of the tree before putting it in the stand. (Tear a slit for the trunk so the tree can get water!) The bag is hidden under the tree skirt until you're ready to haul the tree out the door—without leaving a trail of needles through the house. Just remove the ornaments from the tree, pull the bag up like a pair of pants, and you're on your way.

Christmas Tree Basics

Check the height of the tree before you bring it into the house to make sure it'll fit under the ceiling. Then if you have to shorten the trunk, the sawdust will stay outside. Cut an inch or so off the bottom of the trunk. The fresh wood can absorb more water, so the tree will stay fresher longer. Check the trunk diameter by test-fitting the stand. If the tree's too big, you'll need to either get a bigger stand;—or start whittling. Use a lopper to trim any bottom branches that don't clear the sides of the stand.

Don't Cut Off the Netting?Yet

When you bring your tree home, carry it into the house and set it up in the stand before removing the netting. It'll slip right through doors, hallways and stairwells without making a mess. You'll find it easier to get at the tree stand screws and easier to tell if the tree is straight.

Cat-Proof Christmas Tree

Two or three lengths of fishing line can keep climbing cats or rambunctious kids from tipping your tree. Just tie one end of each line to the top of the tree and the other to something sturdy: a screw driven into an inconspicuous spot on the wall, moldings above windows or doors, or even a curtain rod. Get tips on hanging stuff on your walls here.

Tip-Proof a Christmas Tree

To make a Christmas tree stand more firmly on deep, spongy carpet, set the stand on a piece of 1/4-in. hardboard (a.k.a. Masonite). 4 x 8-ft. sheets are available at home centers (some home centers also have 4 x 4-ft. sheets). To make the tree tip-proof, bolt the tree stand to the hardboard using 1/4-in. pan head machine screws. On wood or tile floors, cover the screwheads with duct tape so they don't scratch the floor. Get more ideas for protecting your home year-round here.

Should You Plant a Live Christmas Tree?

Planting a 'live' Christmas tree is an ambitious task. Its practicality depends on three things: (1) the climate you live in; (2) the size of your Christmas tree budget; and (3) how strong you are.

Live trees are sensitive. For a tree to have any chance of survival, it can't undergo extreme climatic changes. When a tree is brought into a warm home, it will react as if it's spring and start growing. Once it has entered this growing stage, it will likely die if it suffers through a prolonged freeze when it's set out after Christmas.

If you live in a moderate climate, a live tree is feasible. When the Christmas season is over, gradually get your tree accustomed to the outdoors by storing it in the garage or three-season porch before planting it. The time for heavy frost must be past before you take it outside. When you finally plant your tree, place it in well-drained soil where it will get full sun.

If you live in a cold climate, a live tree really isn't practical. You'd need to leave it outside on a screen porch or deck the entire time so it would stay more or less dormant. And you probably don't want your ornaments outside.

Live trees are expensive. Expect to pay two to three times more than you would for a cut tree. Usually these trees are potted. If your tree is balled and burlapped, you'll have to buy a heavy-duty pot to act as both stand and container.

Finally, live trees are heavy. If you want a typical-sized Christmas tree, say a six-footer, together the pot, soil and tree will weigh 250 lbs. or more. Add a little water and moving it will be about as much fun as hefting a piano.

When you do decide to plant the tree, follow our expert tree-planting advice here.


All About Christmas Tree Safety

Keep your Christmas tree fire-safe by keeping it watered. Buy it fresh, pull light plugs overnight, and keep it well away from candles and fireplaces. Click for more fire prevention tips.

Lazy Susan Tree Stand for Wood Floors

Winding the lights around your Christmas tree can be a pain. Here's a great way to rotate the tree in its stand?without scratching up your hardwood floor. Put a bath rug underneath the tree stand, fabric side down, rubber side up. You can easily turn the tree to string your lights and place your ornaments just where you want them. It makes 'undecorating' the tree a breeze too. Fold the rug under the tree skirt to keep it hidden.

Easy Bolt Tightening

Tightening tree-stand bolts by hand is tiring and takes forever. Try this, our favorite Christmas tree hint from our archives: Cut off the little L's at the end of the tree stand bolts with a hacksaw. Chuck the ends of the bolts into a variable-speed drill and tighten them into the trunk. Your tree will be secure, and you can get out from underneath the tree and get decorating. Is your bolt broken or stuck? Learn how to fix broken bolts here.

Tip-Proof, Drip-Proof Lazy Susan for Carpet

If you've had trees fall over?because they were top heavy with ornaments or got tipped over by the cat, here's an easy solution: Cut a 2-ft.-diameter circle out of plywood, screw your tree stand to it and then staple plastic sheeting to the plywood. The wooden base will give your tree solid footing so that even the cat can't topple it (not that she won't keep trying). The plastic let's you slide the tree around on the carpet for easy decorating and protects the carpet from any watering spills.

Hook for Tall Trees

Putting up and taking down holiday lights in a tall outdoor tree can be tricky. The easiest method we've found is to use a paint roller extension pole with a hook on the end. You can use a wire coat hanger or other heavy-gauge wire. Just embed it in the pole threads, bend the wire up into a hook and secure it with duct tape to keep the hook from sliding around the pole.

Soft Artificial Tree Binding

When dismantling our artificial Christmas tree, we always used the ribbons it was originally packed with to tie up the boughs of each section. Last year, the ribbons finally wore out and we couldn't find a strong enough replacement. Instead, we came up with a terrific substitute?self-adhesive 'bandage' wrap. The wrap is strong and reusable, it won't damage the tree and it's not very expensive.