I can’t believe that many of my friends and family have already started to get their homes decorated for Christmas.

Personally, I try to hang on until at least Dec. 1 before I turn on the outdoor lights or put up a tree in front of the window.

This is partially because it’s tradition in my family to wait, but also because I always go with a live tree, which won’t survive much longer than five-six weeks indoors before it sheds all of its needles.

If you’re like me and are going with a real tree this year, here are my rules for keeping it looking its best for as long as possible.

Start with a fresh tree. Seems kind of obvious but so many homeowners rush out early and get a tree that was cut several weeks before and then shipped into the lot.

When possible, try to buy a locally grown tree to ensure that it hasn’t been in transit for more than a couple of days. An even better option is to head to a tree farm and cut your own. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon and then you know you have a fresh one.

When you choose your tree, have the base cut at the farm or even at the lot. When you get it home, plan on trimming off another one to two inches and get the tree immediately into water so that it can start soaking it up.

Much like fresh flowers, a tree will start taking in air if the trimmed trunk is not in a water source. This air is one reason why it loses its needles and begins to die quickly.

In the first few days that a tree gets inside of a home, it will need a lot of water. Make sure to keep that reservoir filled. Use hot water for the first few fillings; this will help melt any sap and allow the tree to drink more easily.

I grew up using just fresh water in the beginning and then I’d start to alternate a simple mixture of one litre of water, three tablespoons of sugar, two drops of vinegar and one drop of bleach to keep the water clean.

Many disagree that you need to do this but my trees usually last six weeks with their needles, so I’m not going to jinx it by changing my routine. I’ve also heard that you can add a couple of ground-up anti-inflammatory pills to the first batch of water to help preserve the tree. Tree-farm experts just laugh and say that they’ve heard it all, including using Coke, Sprite and Miracle Grow.

Finally, keep your tree away from bright light or heat sources. Both of these encourage a tree to dry out faster because of the photosynthesis process.

Have a happy holiday season by helping your Christmas tree look its best, then make sure to properly dispose of it so that it can be composted or reused — making it the best environmental choice over the artificial trees.