How to choose a Christmas tree | Living the Country Life

How to choose a Christmas tree

Freshness and indoor use

Try a live tree

Balled and burlap or container trees can be a nice choice for a live tree. It will be heavier and need more diligent care once home. After the holidays are over, it can be added to the landscape. One extra step you'll need to adopt is the assessment of the planting space for proper growing space, sunlight and also watering needs. Make sure that the species you are choosing will thrive in your climate. A tree shipped from New Hampshire will have a rough time surviving the warm summer months in South Carolina.

Test your tree for freshness

Once you have the look you want, you'll need to test the tree for freshness. Trees that are on a lot have been cut and shipped weeks earlier. Look for greener trees with no signs of wilting or browning. What can be tricky here is the fact that many trees have undergone a colorizing treatment before they were shipped. That is why a quick, pull test is next on my list. Grab a limb or two and pull them toward you. Then release the limb slowly, allowing it to pull through your hand. A fresh tree will keep most or all of its needles in this test, and the limb will not feel brittle or snap. Flexibility in the limbs is a must if the tree is to remain green for the next few weeks indoors. The final test is a quick drop test. Lift the tree a few inches off of the ground and then let it fall until the butt of the tree hits the ground. That quick shock will release any dry needles and give you a good feel for how fresh the tree truly is. Don't worry about a few needles letting loose throughout the interior.

Prepare your tree for indoors

Once you pick the perfect tree and truck it home, make a fresh cut at the base, unless it was already done for you. One thing I like to do before I bring my tree inside is to take my STIHL blower out and give the tree a quick blast to remove any loose needles, debris wedged in the branches and, most importantly, remove any insects or egg masses that might have survived the journey.

Recycle your tree

After Christmas is over, you'll need to dispose of the family tree. There are many recycling programs all over the country that account for the recycling of 93% of all trees nationally. Most get ground into mulch to be given back to the community or utilized as mulch in flower beds and parks. Other communities have extensive erosion programs that take advantage of this biodegradable resource. Check local sources or Web sites like for more information.

I always enjoy shopping for my tree. It gives me a laugh when I see a "cut-your-own" farm advertising certain types of trees that I know do not grow in my area. I like to walk up and ask, "Where do you have the Fraser firs?" and watch as they point me toward the Douglas firs or even a spruce -- youch!

Want more information and advice from Mark? Visit Tree Buzz or STIHL.

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