HARRISBURG PA – The hunt for the best Christmas tree for your home, according to a university plant breeding expert, is starting earlier than usual in 2023.
“The tradition used to be getting a tree a week or so before Christmas,” Cornell University Senior Extension Associate Elizabeth Lamb observed Tuesday (Nov. 21, 2023). Just like holiday retailing, though, the tree-buying timeline is on a faster track. “Thanksgiving weekend now starts Christmas tree buying season off with a bang,” she added. Some choose-and-cut operations began even sooner.
So while Thanksgiving dinner plans are still gearing up, Lamb suggests many people are already preparing for the next holiday season. That includes planning where and when to find their Christmas tree, she said.
Before bundling up to leave for a tree farm or lot, the department warns, measure your space. Measuring the height and width of the area where you plan to deck out your tree, and remember to count space for your tree stand and tree topper. Also measure the width of your tree stand, id suggested, to ensure your tree’s trunk isn’t too wide.
If you prefer to shop from a lot and not cut your own, the department said, find one that sources its trees from a local farm to ensure they’re fresh and healthy. “When not from a local farm, trees on a lot are already three to four weeks old when you take them home,” it noted. If possible, cut your own tree. That guarantees it’s fresh, and likely to hold its needles longer.
Check the color
“Look for a tree with a consistent green color throughout. Yellow or brown needles are indicators of health issues, and also shed faster than healthy green needles. No tree is perfect,” the department admits, but adds if it’s more than 5-percent discolored, “move on to another tree.”
Feel the branches
The department recommends testing “an outer branch by bending it. A fresh tree should give without breaking,” it said. “Check the needles for freshness by grasping a branch and moving your hand out to the end. Fresh needles will bounce back and not snap off.” And shake things up … literally. When shaken “an unhealthy tree will drop a large pile of needles.” A healthy one will only lose a few.
Get a fresh cut
“If you’re on a lot,” ask the seller to give your choice a fresh cut. “This will remove the hardened sap and allow it to draw in more water,” according to the department. When the tree is home and set up, “check the water level often during the first few days.” That’s when the department said the tree will take in the most. Then check the level daily, ensuring water is above the cut.