Just after Thanksgiving is celebrated in America, Christmas tree farm owners see their first customers of the season. In a matter of minutes, seven to 10 years work that went into growing a spruce, pine or fir tree can be cut down and driven away to grace a home. A fresh cut tree can last well beyond the holidays, but choosing the right tree and tending it properly are essential to making the most of holiday cheer.
The Right Tree
The choice is somewhat subjective – short needles vs. long needles, the right height and width – all can be matters of taste. What is not left to opinion is the condition of the tree and knowing where it will fit in a home. Whether the tree is farm cut or bought at a lot, make sure it is healthy and will not become a bother instead of a holiday centerpiece.
It can take seven to 10 years to grow a tree from seedling to seven feet or more – seven years in a variety of weather conditions. First, make sure the tree is not laden with browned or brittle needles. Check the limbs closely – do they look strong enough to hold heavier ornaments? Measure the trunk to be certain it will fit in a tree stand.
When cutting down a tree, check the terrain it sits on – does it allow enough room for a good level cut? Keep the home ceiling height in mind and subtract a foot to make room for the stand and tree-topping ornaments. Choose a tree that will fit into mesh wrapping that protects limbs on the drive home, or wrap it in a tarp. Leaving the mesh on when putting the tree in the stand can make balancing the tree easier as well. Before placing the tree in the stand, cut off another inch of the trunk to allow it to absorb more water.
Avoid Fire Hazards
Water is the key word for Christmas tree care. A dry tree, or one poorly located will quickly become a thing of danger instead of beauty. Fresh trees are thirsty – check the water level frequently and be prepared to fill the stand twice a day. Brown, dried needles and branches are fire hazards, but a well watered tree will last more than a month in a stand.
Limit the use of extension cords for tree lights and ornaments and do not put the cords under carpets. Pet owners need to be especially vigilant, secure the top of the tree to a fixed object or ceiling hook. Turn off the tree lights when leaving the house or going to bed for the night. Do not set a tree within five feet of a woodstove, fireplace or heater and avoid placing a tree near a heating duct.
Help a Local Economy
Christmas tree lot sales often support worthy causes and charities, but owners of “choose and cut” Christmas tree fields are often farmers supplementing income from family-owned land. Choosing a tree each year can quickly become a family tradition, and the farmers often count on seeing the same families each year as well. The growing season is year-long, the selling season may last four weeks and can be hurt by bad weather, especially weekend storms.
Listings for Christmas tree farms can often be found at state agricultural websites. Farmers have also created into growing associations with websites and listings. For more information and tips on selecting a Christmas tree, visit pickyourownchristmastree.org.