For some, it’s a right of passage into the holidays. Cutting down your own Christmas tree is an adventure steeped in tradition. But if it’s your first time (or 20th) and you’re looking to add a little bit of ‘real’ evergreen to your Christmas decorations while getting into the holiday spirit, these tips and tricks could be helpful.
1. Choose the Right Time
Timing is everything. If you want your tree to last through the Christmas holiday, it’s important to not trim your tree too early. The best time for cutting your tree is between late November and mid-December. The average time a well-watered cut tree holds its needles is three to four weeks.
2. Dress Accordingly
It’s not only important to bring the right tools, but also dressing in them is equally as important. Bring leather gloves for gripping the tree, and wear some sort of hiking shoes just in case you have to trek in the forest to find your tree. Layering is also key if the weather’s going to be cold. Also, it might not hurt to bring sunglasses or some sort of protective eyewear. Debris could fly once you start cutting.
3. Tree Size Matters
Unless you want to pull a Clark Griswold from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” make sure you measure the space you’re putting your tree in before you leave to collect it. Trees can look a lot smaller when they’re in a field full of other, bigger trees. That is until you get it home. Be prepared and carry a tape measure with you when hunting for your tree. Don’t forget to measure the height and width.
4. Forest or Farm
Deciding where to harvest your tree from is just as important as selecting the perfect pine. If you’re looking for adventure, head out to the woods. But, be prepared! Certain areas require a permit to cut down a tree (usually a nominal fee). Also, there could be areas that restrict cutting down trees or only allow it during a specific time of year. Furthermore, certain rules might apply to the size of the tree (diameter of the trunk at the base) and gas-powered tools.
Then there’s going to a tree farm. They typically support your local community. Plus the trees are more uniform in shape and size. As a matter of fact, they’re usually grown in rows, allowing them to get an adequate amount of sunlight and that perfect Christmas tree shape. A tree farm can usually be found in your state.
5. Avoid Cutting Down a Dead Tree
Selecting a living tree can be deceiving. Yes, it’s going to die once you chop it down, but making sure it isn’t already actively dying is key. To do this, hold the tree by its trunk and shake it. Next, take hold of a branch or two near the trunk, and pull your enclosed hand to the end of the branch. If a lot of needles fall off, or the branches easily snap, then avoid choosing this tree. Furthermore, avoid trees that have a lot of brown needles or disclosed patches on their branches. These trees could be dehydrated, according to the Daily Record. And a dehydrated Christmas tree won’t make anyone happy.
6. Making the Perfect Cut
Cutting low is key. Making the cut as close to the ground, and quickly if possible, allows the tree to re-sprout in the future. Once the tree starts to lean to one side, finish sawing quickly. Also, don’t push the tree over, as tempting as it is. This can cause the bark to rip and splinter.
7. Transporting the Tree
Be prepared for when the time comes to take your tree home. Bring ropes or tie-downs, and a tarp or blanket. This will help catch some of the needles that are going to fall off during transport. Also, handle your tree with care. You don’t want to be breaking any branches off your newly harvested crop, or bend the top part of the tree.
8. A Fresh Tree is the Best Tree
To ensure freshness and the lifespan of your tree, take a one-inch slice off the bottom of the trunk when you get home, according to the Farmers’ Almanac. Making an additional cut will allow the tree to soak up the water faster. Get it into water as soon as possible, but make sure the water’s not too cold. This could shock the tree.
9. Water, Water, and Water Some More
Cut trees will consume most of its water within the first 24 hours. Therefore, be sure to check the tree’s water level within that time period. If the tree is not well-watered, it will seal itself and won’t take in much water. This could mean that your tree won’t last as long as you’d like. Make sure to check the water at least twice a day, and more during those first two days.
It’s also been said that Christmas trees like sugar water and it helps with the lifespan of your tree. Dissolving sugar into the water before you pour it into the basin might just be what the Christmas doctor ordered.
10. Have Fun!
This is supposed to be a fun, memory-making experience with the family. Take pictures, try and live in this moment, and enjoy the adventure. And of course, don’t forget to crank up the Christmas tunes on your ride home.