Christmas Trees
Image by Christie Brewer - Seneca County CCE

Christmas Trees

Christmas Trees

This time of the year, selling Christmas Trees is a big business. In 2012, New York State Ranked 8th in the country in the number of Christmas trees harvested, with over 270,000. Oregon was the largest producer of Christmas trees with over 6 million trees harvested. Even with all those trees being sold, it is estimated that 80% of American Households with a Christmas tree celebrate with an artificial tree.

According to a survey done by the National Christmas Tree Association, 85% of real trees are purchased pre-cut and 14% are cut your own. Whether you choose to purchase a cut tree or cut your own, it’s important that you choose the right variety. The most popular Christmas tree varieties in New York State are Fraser fir and balsam fir. Douglas fir used to be more popular, but many growers have switched their production to more disease resistant trees. Firs and pines can last in your house for up to a month, while spruces only last one week to ten days before drying out.

Though this year’s drought hit many local Christmas tree growers pretty hard, trees intended for harvest this year were mostly unaffected. In the Finger Lakes Region, it takes about eight years for a Christmas tree to grow from planting to harvest. The majority of the casualties were recently planted trees with less developed root systems, especially in areas where there was insufficient irrigation.

Christmas Tree Care:

When you cut your own tree, it hasn’t been sitting in a tree lot, so you can be sure you’re purchasing it fresh. If you’re buying a pre-cut tree, it’s important to make sure it hasn’t started to dry out. First, hold the tree upright and thump it on the ground- if you see a shower of needles fall off, the tree isn’t fresh. Then, check the end of the tree- a fresh tree will have some sap flowing. Finally, bend the needles slightly- fresh needles will snap back quickly.

When you bring your tree home, make a fresh cut a minimum of one quarter inch from the base of the trunk. This reopens the tree stem so it can take up water immediately. If you’re not going to decorate it right away, leave it outside in a bucket of water in a spot protected from wind and sun. When you bring it inside, immediately put it into a tree stand with a water reservoir. Do not let the water level fall below the stem or it will reseal and be unable to take up more water. Christmas trees can drink between two pints and one gallon of water per day, so check your water level daily and refill it as needed. Once you have the tree set up, don’t place it near a radiator or furnace vent, too much heat can quickly dry out your tree.

Live Christmas Trees:

Some people choose to buy a live tree with a root ball for planting outside after Christmas. If you plan to do this, you need to choose a spot to plant your tree before you purchase your tree. Make sure your spot is suitable for the variety of tree you are purchasing. Look at how much room it will have when it grows- remember that the small tree you plant now can be a very large tree in ten years. If you don’t have much space, consider a dwarf evergreen variety. You also need to dig the hole before the ground freezes and store the dirt you dig up in a place where it will not freeze. Water your tree as soon as you get it home -the root ball must be kept moist, but not soggy. Don’t bring the tree into your house too early. The tree will stay fresh better in a cool location, sheltered from wind and sun. Bring the tree inside a day or two before Christmas. Be sure to keep it moist and move it back outside to a cool location as soon as possible. Keep the tree in a cool, protected spot for a week before planting it in its permanent location. When planting the tree, be sure that the hole is three times larger than the root ball. Make sure the hole is not too deep. If the soil is good, you should not need additional soil amendments, just use the soil you dug up when digging the hole. Make sure you don’t plant the tree too deep. The root flair should be at or just above the surface. Sometimes nursery trees have been planted too deep so you may have to carefully remove the dirt on the top part of the root ball down to the root flair. Also be sure to remove all burlap, twine and wire baskets before planting. If you mulch the tree, be sure to leave a few inches around the trunk of the tree free of mulch.

Christmas tree selection and care:

http://www.cceoneida.com/assets/FactsheetPDFs/Trees/Christmas-Tree-Selection-Care-2012.pdf

Live Christmas tree information:

http://ccesuffolk.org/assets/Horticulture-Leaflets/How-To-Choose-And-Plant-A-Live-Christmas-Tree.pdf

Local Christmas tree farms:

List of Ithaca Area Cut-Your-Own Christmas Tree Farms:

http://ccetompkins.org/agriculture/buy-local/local-christmas-trees

List of Central New York Cut-Your-Own Christmas Tree Farms:

http://blog.syracuse.com/cny/2009/11/where_to_cut_your_own_christmas_tree_in_central_new_york.html

Wright’s Tree Farm – Waterloo

https://www.facebook.com/pg/Wrights-Tree-Farm-467748996673000/about/?ref=page_internal

Christmas Tree Recycling Programs:

http://www.cayugaswcd.org/trade-a-tree.html

Last updated December 20, 2016