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Into the Garden: Hydrating mix fireproofs Christmas tree

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- My friend Scott Mourier sent this Christmas tree fireproofing solution to me recently, and I find it fascinating. Scott works at Dow, and he said while he's never tried the solution, it sounds reasonable to him.

It's from the Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Association (www.lepa.org) in Baton Rouge.

Here's what they recommend to make your Christmas tree fireproof -- and to keep it from losing its needles.

1. Once you get home with your new tree, get a saw and immediately make a fresh cut at the base of the tree trunk. This is mandatory for any tree you've bought. Make your cut about an inch above the bottom of the trunk.

2. Immediately after making your cut at the bottom of the tree, mix the homemade preservative as follows:

Into a 2-gallon bucket, add hot water from the kitchen tap. Fill the bucket to within an inch or so of the top, then add the following ingredients:

2 cups of Karo syrup

2 ounces of liquid chlorine bleach

2 pinches of Epsom salt

1/2 teaspoon of Boraxo

1 teaspoon of chelated iron

Stir these ingredients thoroughly in the bucket, then immediately stand the trunk of the tree in this solution. Leave the tree in the solution container for a day or two until you're ready to take it indoors and decorate it.

3. You'll need a place to store your tree for a few days before taking it into your home, as it takes a few days for the preservative to fully saturate the tree. An ideal place would be the carport/garage or possible a balcony for apartment dwellers.

4. After taking the tree indoors, make sure to put it in a stand with a water reservoir at the bottom. Once the tree is secured in its "final resting place," get the bucket containing your preservative and fill the reservoir in the tree stand to the top.

5. Last, but not least, every day, without exception, make sure the reservoir is kept filled to the top with the preservative solution.

That's all there is to it. If you follow these steps faithfully, you will have a completely fireproofed Christmas tree to enjoy throughout the holidays.

For those inquisitive minds, here's an explanation of why and how it works:

The Karo syrup provides the sugar, and it is only in the presence of sugar that tremendous amounts of water will be taken up by the exposed tissue at the base of the trunk. Without the sugar, only the smallest amount of water will be absorbed. However, in the presence of sugar, you can expect more than 1 1/2 gallons of the solution to be absorbed by the tree during a 10- to 14-day period.

But there's more. Thanks to the boron you have supplied (in the Boraxo), the water and sugar will be moved to every needle and branch of the tree. Remember, boron is what makes sugar move, not only in trees, but vegetables, fruits and even houseplants.

Then, there's the Epsom salt and the chelated (pronounced KEY-lated) iron. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, and magnesium, together with iron, is the center molecule in the process we know as chlorophyll production. By making the magnesium and iron available to the tree, you're assuring yourself of green needles, even if the tree was not sprayed at the tree farm before being shipped to the market.

But what about the chlorine bleach? Chlorine stops a mold from forming when water and sugar stand for any period of time. Here, the chlorine stops the mold from forming in the bucket and the reservoir of the tree stand where your preservative sits.

Benefits

Your tree will be soaking wet with water. In fact, at least 800 percent more water than when the tree was growing in the forest. This, in turn, prevents the tree from becoming a fire hazard.

No needles will drop, no matter what variety of evergreen you choose to display in your home. At the same time, the tree will give off a fragrance like that which you've sensed while walking through a forest of evergreens or strolling through the Christmas tree lot.

Finally, make the test yourself. When the holidays are over and the tree is taken down and moved outdoors, cut one of the branches off. Move away from the tree and try to light the branch with a match. It won't burn! So, take the time to fireproof your live evergreen tree this Christmas and enjoy a safe holiday.

Thanks, Scott! Very fascinating.

Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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