If you’re going somewhere to cut down a fresh tree, don’t forget to figure out how you’ll get it home. | Toby Talbot~AP
Here are some tips for choosing, and caring for, a live Christmas tree:
Cutting your own
† Measure your room. Know how high your ceiling is and how wide the door
is before trying to shove a tree inside.
† For your tree hunt, wear warm clothes, thick gloves and sensible shoes. “Don’t wear your brand-new pretty boots; you’re going to get muddy,” said Dee Kobervig of Crystal Creek Tree Farm in Camino, Calif. “Prepare to get wet. Even if it’s not raining, the trees hold a lot of moisture.”
† If cutting a tree at a farm, you likely won’t need tools. Most farms provide saws, and some offer help cutting, too (usually for a gratuity).
† Measure the tree before cutting. Most farms have measuring poles available. A 10-footer may look “small” among other trees, but it may not fit in your living room.
† Cut the tree 6 to 12 inches above ground level, right above the first (or second) branch. That will allow the stump to grow another tree. The same stump can produce three or four trees over a 20-year period.
† Figure out how you’re going to get the tree home. Most farms offer tie-downs and/or netting to bundle the tree, but you may want to bring something to cover your car’s seats or trunk bed. “Some people rent trucks and come up here with family, friends and neighbors to get several trees at once,” Kobervig said.
Buying a precut tree
† Buy as fresh a tree as possible. “Check for smell first,” says Christmas-tree expert Mike Bondi, of Oregon State University’s College of Forestry. “Crush a few needles in your hand and take a deep whiff of that wonderful forest smell. It should have a good, clean evergreen scent.”
† Try the snap test. “When you bend it between your fingers, a fresh needle should snap in half like a carrot,” Bondi said. “If it’s pliable, it’s a sign the tree is drying out.”
† Take another half-inch off the base of the trunk. “This opens up pores that get clogged by pitch or sap,” explained Bondi. “That sap clogs up the tree’s ability to take up water.”
† Use the biggest tree stand you can find — even for a tabletop tree. “Ideally, the stand should hold a gallon of water,” Bondi said.
† Trees need water to stay fresh — and they drink a lot. “An average fir tree will soak up one to two quarts every day for the first week,” Bondi said. “You’ll be surprised by how much they drink.”
† Keep the stand filled with fresh water — and nothing else. Research by tree growers shows that additives and preservatives did little to lengthen the life of a fresh tree.
† Put the tree in a cool spot, away from furnaces, fireplaces and sunny windows. “I tell people to put them in the coldest room in the house,” said Kobervig. “Most people want to put them in the family room, which is often the warmest room. If you do, try to choose a cold spot in that room.”
† With proper care, a Douglas fir will last about three weeks before dropping needles. A Noble fir will last six weeks.