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Davis: Tips for choosing the best Christmas tree

One of my favorite childhood memories was going out in the woods and picking out a real Christmas tree around Thanksgiving.

Of course, we had a lot to choose from because someone had planted white pine and a variety of other evergreens on our farm in the mountains of western North Carolina.

These were more like “Charlie Brown” trees because they had been so neglected over the years, but that did not matter to me.

Picking out a tree and harvesting with my dad and my sister was an experience we shared year after year.

Now we have tree lots filled with real cut or balled and burlapped trees all over Kentucky.

Selecting and using a real Christmas tree may be a tradition you would like to start with your family. It also supports a farmer.

Here are some tips to remember if you want to consider carrying out this tradition with your family.

Look for Kentucky Proud trees. Kentucky Proud means the trees have been grown by a Kentucky farmer.

Consider going out to a farm and selecting your own tree. “Cut your own” tree farms can be found throughout the state, and we have several in our area. Check on the Kentucky Department of Agriculture KY Proud page for the closest farms.

You also may be able to choose a tree that is balled and burlapped instead of cut. If watered well, taken care of and properly planted following the holidays, these can be incorporated back into your landscape.

Whether you choose a cut or balled and burlapped tree, make sure to have your tree wrapped or covered to protect it during transport back to your home.

When choosing real trees, most people prefer cut trees.

It is very important to pick out the freshest tree possible to maximize satisfaction. To see if a cut tree is fresh, pick it up a few inches and lightly drop it back to the ground. Drop it in a manner where the trunk of the tree lightly thumps the ground. If a very large number of green needles fall off, the tree is probably not very fresh. However, it is not uncommon for a few green needles or several brown needles to fall to the ground during this process.

Another way to test the freshness of real trees is to bend a green needle between your thumb and forefinger. If the needle snaps rather than bends, the tree may be too dry.

It is also good to notice how the trees are stored. Look around and make sure the trees on the lot are not in full sun, not exposed to the wind, standing up right and spread apart from each other, and possibly that the bases of the tree trunks are placed in water.

If these conditions are not met, it increases the likelihood the tree needles are dried out and will fall off.

Perhaps the simplest way to tell how fresh cut trees are is to ask the vendor when they were harvested, and from where they came.

Selecting a real Christmas tree can be a fun activity for the family and may make many memories to come. This may help you make a tradition your children may never forget. It is also another great way to support farmers.

If you have any questions about how to select the best real Christmas trees, feel free to contact me at david.davis@uky.edu or call 744-4682.

David Davis is a Clark County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources.