The most important things to consider when choosing a cut tree are how fresh it is and how it will fit in its allotted space in your home.
Freshness can be determined by how pliable the tips are, as well as how much needle loss is occurring. When you have found a fresh tree that is the right size, take advantage of any wrapping and tying-down services the tree lot offers. This will help you to get it home in the best condition possible. Take a long, light rope with you, just in case folks at the tree lot are unprepared to help. If the tree needs to make the trip home on top of a vehicle, it is best to place it so the trunk faces the front.
Once you get it home, carefully cut a disk (ideally 3 inches thick) off the bottom of the trunk and place immediately place it securely in its holder, filling the reservoir with water. The tree will be very thirsty at first, so check the water often, and never let the bottom of the trunk dry out. Any time electricity and heat-producing lights surround a Christmas tree (or any other holiday decoration), you have to be very safety-minded.
When you are ready to take the tree down, please consider recycling it. The city of Tracy will pick up trees if they have been stripped of their decorations.
Some families prefer a living tree that can be planted in their yard or in a public area (with permission only, of course) when the holidays are over. Consider choosing an Aleppo, Mondell, Afghan, or Italian stone pine, a Colorado blue spruce or a Deodar cedar, as these trees have the greatest chance of making it when planted here. Keep the root ball moist and the tree away from heat sources. Having it indoors for the shortest time possible is best. When planting your tree, remember to dig wide as well as deep, and set the tree in to a depth where the top roots are visible where they attach to the trunk. The tree will settle in a little over time, and you want to avoid it ending up too deep.
Planning ahead and using a little care will allow your Christmas tree — whichever one you choose — to contribute to your happy holiday.
• University of California-certified master gardeners are available to answer gardening questions from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 953-6112 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions for Heather Hamilton can be sent to email@example.com.