But once you get to the farm or lot, how do you pick a tree, and how do you keep a Christmas tree alive? We asked N.C. Christmas Tree Association Executive Director Jennifer Greene some questions about Christmas tree selection and care.
When is the best time to buy a Christmas tree? Should people wait until closer to Christmas?
Jennifer Greene: If you are one of those people that like to keep your tree up until after the New Year, it's best to wait until right after Thanksgiving or the first of December. However, it really doesn’t matter as long as you take proper care of the tree and make sure it always has water. Water is the key to keeping your real tree fresh and hydrated.
What options are out there for people who want to cut their own tree down?
For those who do not want to go to the farm to find their tree, there are plenty of other options – big box stores such as grocery stores carry real trees, along with local garden centers and roadside stands, and you can even order a real Christmas tree and/or wreath by mail order. All available options can be found here.
What type of trees are best for indoors?
Jennifer Greene: North Carolina Fraser fir is considered to be a great choice for a real Christmas tree. Fraser fir Christmas trees are known for their incomparable needle retention, meaning that they hold their needles well and lose less needles than other Christmas tree species, they have pliable, yet strong branches with pleasant to the touch needles that hold can hold heavy ornaments, they have a beautiful blue-green color, and the smell is incomparable!
What can people do to help keep their tree fresh for longer?
Jennifer Greene: WATER! Water is key to keeping your tree hydrated and safe. Get a stand that will hold at least 1 gallon of water and check the water level daily for the first week. Make sure the tree never goes dry. Do not place the tree next to or over heat vents, and do not place the tree in direct sunlight as it will cause it to dry out faster.
Are there any limitations on what can be put on a real tree? Garland? Lights? Is there a fire hazard associated with a real tree?
Jennifer Greene: Real trees themselves are not a fire hazard. At NO time can a real Christmas tree START or CAUSE a fire. Once again, the key is keeping it watered. One of the most important safety tips is to always check your lights to make sure that there are no exposed wires or shorts in the cords because that could indeed cause a fire.
Any tips for putting your tree in the stand or making it level?
Jennifer Greene: I would suggest putting the tree in the stand before you unwrap/unbale it, that way you can get a look to see how straight the tree is before you open it up and it's much easier to adjust it without the branches in your way. Most importantly, make sure you have a good stand that holds at least a gallon of water and is big enough for the tree that you have.
How should people dispose of their trees?
Jennifer Greene: After the holidays, real trees are chipped into biodegradable mulch, which replenishes soil in landscapes, parks, and schools. Recycled Real Christmas trees are also used as wind and water barriers at beaches and riverbeds to fight sand and soil erosion. They protect our water supplies, and provide refuge for wildlife. When sunk in ponds, they provide excellent refuge and feeding areas for fish. And they can be used as a feeding station and winter shelter for songbirds in your yard.
Real trees are biodegradable, and many communities have tree recycling programs. Check with your local waste management company, a nearby garden center or local conservation organization to find out if Christmas tree recycling via curbside pickup or drop-off is available in your area.
Greene also wants to remind people that real Christmas trees are grown on family-owned farms that help contribute to the local, state and national economy.
"Real Christmas trees are an agricultural crop, and they were planted for the purpose of being harvested. Real trees are grown by American farmers on American soil and when you buy one you contribute to the American economy," Greene said.