It’s the time of year when many people go shopping for trees to decorate their homes during the holiday season.
LSU AgCenter expert Dr. Don Reed offers a few tips on selecting and caring for a tree that may help you get the most enjoyment from it.
Although sale lots pop up each year and trees can be found at a variety of local stores, Reed says choosing and cutting your own tree is another option.
For most people that means a visit to a "choose-and-cut" Christmas tree farm – a trip Reed says you can make a fun family outing.
"The No. 1 benefit of going out and picking your tree while it’s still on the stump is that you know it’s fresh," he said.
The LSU AgCenter expert says that with so many different places to buy pre-cut trees these days, it’s hard to know whether a tree is fresh or one that’s gone without moisture for several weeks.
Adequate moisture is the key to keeping your tree looking good throughout the holiday season, Reed says.
"Once you pick that perfect tree and get it home, you really need to make sure you get it in some water quickly," Reed explained.
"Most people don’t realize just how much water these trees take up, so they run into trouble," he added. "Normally, what happens is people put the tree in a gallon or two of water and within about 24 hours, the tree has absorbed all of that water, and the tree is just sitting there out of the water."
In such cases, the tree builds a callus on the cut end of the trunk. So even when you put water back in its stand, the tree won’t take up the water, Reed explained.
"I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping plenty of water in the stand," the LSU AgCenter expert said. "Even if you buy the tree and are not going to put it up for a day or two, go ahead and put it in a bucket of water. And keep water available for the tree as long as you have it up."
According to Reed, there are several varieties of Christmas trees to choose from, but the three most popular in Louisiana are the Leyland Cypress, Carolina Sapphire and the old traditional Virginia Pine.
Reed said of the three, most people’s favorite is the Leyland Cypress because it doesn’t shed its needles, it’s non-allergenic and it’s just a beautiful tree.
As for the state’s Christmas tree growers, Reed said the public should be able to expect good products from them because most of the trees have overcome the damage from last year’s hurricanes. He said because Christmas trees have a shallow root system, some of the trees had to be straightened and staked after the storms last year but that they look good now.
"The only problem I can imagine you having at a choose-and-cut farm this year is trying to decide which tree to take home," he said.
Part of that decision is picking the right size tree – and Reed said that part sometimes is difficult for consumers.
"Normally, the trees don’t look as big out in the open as they do inside your house, so you might want to use a measuring tape to determine how big your tree should be before you head out to the farm," he said.
Reed said if you keep it in water constantly, a fresh cut tree will easily last from now until the first of the year.
For proper disposal after the holidays, Reed says to contact your local or parish government offices.
"For example, some areas collect the trees at a central location to be used for coastal erosion mitigation, while others have people who will pick them up and chip them into muclh," he said. "Some people even put them in ponds and lakes for fish structures."
To find a convenient choose-and-cut Christmas tree farm near you, visit the Southern Christmas Tree Association Web site at www.southernchristmastrees.org.
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