These tips can help you find the perfect Christmas Tree
at a retail lot or fresh from the farm!
- Most tree farms keep their fields very well groomed, but there are some things that are beyond the farmer's control. Be careful of tree stumps, an occasional blackberry vine, uneven ground and sharp saws.
- Go to the farm prepared for a day in the country. Wear comfortable shoes and old clothes. Bring rain gear if the weather is threatening. The "cutter downers" and the "loader uppers" should also have gloves. DON'T FORGET THE CAMERA. It's best to leave "Rover" at home (many farms will prohibit pets). But, if a pet is allowed and must come along; keep him on a leash at all times. Please don't let him "mark" other people's trees.
- Saws are usually provided by the farm operator. Check ahead of time.
- Some farms measure and price their trees individually, others sell them by the foot. Ask about the pricing policy before heading out in the field.
- Head out to the field and select the tree that fits your predetermined needs. Some farms will offer a measuring stick to help you determine height. Also check that the tree has a sufficiently long handle (bare trunk at bottom) to accommodate your stand. Take your stand with you, if it may be difficult to fit.
- In the fall of the year ALL conifers drop, or shed, a certain portion of their oldest needles. This is a normal part of the life cycle of the tree. This phenomena occurs because the tree is preparing itself for winter. Most farms provide shaking, or blowing, services so that you will depart with a perfectly clean tree.
- Cutting the tree is easiest as a two person project. The "cutter downer" usually lies on the ground. While the helper holds the bottom limbs up. While the cut is being made, the helper should tug on the tree lightly to ensure that the saw kerf remains open and the saw does not bind. The tugging force should be applied to the side of the tree opposite the cut.
- Bring the tree to the processing area where it will be cleaned and netted or baled. Netting or baling makes transporting and handling the tree substantially easier.
- Be sure you know what size (height and width) you need before heading to the retail lot.
- If you want the same species you know or have always used, great. If you want to try a different species, browse the NCTA website to become familiar with the species popular in your area before heading to the retail lot.
- Go to a retail lot that is well-lit and stores trees in a shaded area.
- Often, a tree obtained soon after its arrival on the retail lot will be very fresh because it was cut recently. Consumers should ask the retailer when he/she gets the trees: are they delivered once at the beginning of the season, or does he/she obtain several shipments during the season.
- Do a freshness test on the trees. Green needles on fresh trees break crisply when bent sharply with the fingers -- much like a fresh carrot.
- Pines have different indicators because of the fibrous nature of their needles compared to firs. The needles on fresh pines do NOT break, unless they are very dry.
- Look for other indicators of dryness or deterioration: excessive needle loss, discolored foliage, musty odor, needle pliability, and wrinkled bark. A good rule-of-thumb is, when in doubt about the freshness of a tree, select another one. If none of the trees on the lot look fresh, go to another lot.
- Some species, such as Fraser Fir, last longer and remain fresh longer than others in different climates. Ask your retailer which tree performs best in your climate.
- Ask the retailer about recycling Christmas Trees in your community.
- Involve the whole family in the selecting and plan fun things for everyone to do during the trip.
Now you're ready to load up and head home to decorate your Real Christmas Tree.
Before you go:
• Measure the ceiling height in the room where the tree will be displayed. The trees in the field look small when the sky is the ceiling. Don't overbuy.
• Measure the width of the area of the room where the tree will be displayed. Most trees on tree farms are trimmed to an 80% taper. So a tree that's 10' tall will be 8' wide at the bottom. A tree that will fit in the room vertically may be entirely too big horizontally.
• What decorating theme will be used? Some species have more open foliage, stiffer branches or longer needles. Research the characteristics of the different species on the NCTA website www.realchristmastrees.org, then find a farm near you that has the species you are looking for.
Hint: Fraser Fir have strong branches, straight trunks, short, soft needles, a lovely silver cast to the underside of the needles, and hold their needles best of all species. They are fragrant, and can be found in a variety of shapes and density.
Tips for a Safe Tree:
• Be sure your tree has a "fresh cut" before you put it in your stand. A cut tree trunk will seal over within 12 hours or so - and then it will not soak up water.
• If you purchased your tree at a choose & cut farm, put it in water as soon as you get it home (your stand or a bucket). If you bought it from a retail store or tree lot, and did not get a fresh cut at the time of purchase, you should saw about one-half inch off the bottom of the trunk, then put it in water.
• Do not make an angled cut, or remove bark above the water line. The tree needs its outer bark layer to adequately drink water.
• Keep your tree watered! A fresh tree, especially a Fraser Fir, should not need any preservatives, additives, or fire retardants.
• All Christmas tree varieties have a quantity of old, dry needles within the older branches of the tree. The bulk of these will fall off readily, and can be removed easily before you put the tree in its stand. Simply repeatedly drop the tree trunk on an outdoor surface until most of the needles have fallen. This will simplify cleanup during your holiday season. Fraser Firs needles rarely become dry enough to fall off throughout even a month of indoor display.
• Avoid over-loading your electrical outlets, or plugging too many lights strings together.
• Unplug your decorative lights when you leave your home or go to bed.
• Keep any heat or fire sources a safe distance from your tree or furniture.