Selecting Your Christmas Tree…A Holly Jolly Time

— Written By Susan Condlin and last updated by Kay Morton

Did you know that 25 years ago, the Cadillac of North Carolina Christmas trees, the Fraser fir, was just a novelty? Generating over a $100 million annually, this North Carolina agri-business industry is the second-largest Christmas tree-producing state in the nation.

North Carolina has 2,500 growers producing an estimated 50 million Fraser fir Christmas trees on over 25,000 acres. The Fraser fir trees, grown in the far Western North Carolina counties, represent over 96 percent of all species grown in the state and by the time a Fraser fir is cut, it is nearly 15 years old. In addition to the Fraser fir trees there are over 300 growers in eastern North Carolina producing Virginia pine, eastern white pine and red cedar trees. These trees are mostly in choose and cut operations and are harvested around year five. The North Carolina Christmas tree industry is ranked second in the nation in number of trees harvested and first in the nation in terms of dollars made per tree.

As you read this article today you may be making your plans to take your family to select your perfect tree for the holidays. I encourage you to support our local Christmas tree farmers. In Lee County we have two local operations: Griffin Christmas Trees on Broadway Road and The Christmas Tree Patch on Henley Road. Both offer you the opportunity to choose and cut your own tree. Whether you are on the “nice or naughty list” the operators will help you cut your tree or let you cut your own.

When you purchase a “choose and cut” Christmas tree you are not only supporting our local agriculture you are creating a lasting memory for your family. Our Christmas tree industry is also good for the environment. Growing trees absorb carbon dioxide and other harmful “greenhouse” gases and release fresh oxygen into the air. One acre of Christmas trees provides the daily oxygen requirement for 18 people. There are about 500,000 acres of Christmas trees in the United States, which collectively provide oxygen for 9 million people daily. This supply continues because as one tree is harvested, another one is planted in its place, ensuring a steady supply year after year. Christmas tree fields also support turkey, quail, songbirds, rabbits and deer habitat. When planted outside after the holidays, balled and burlaped trees temper winds, suppress loud sounds, filter dust, moderate temperature, and dissipate offensive odors.

Christmas trees are an all-American renewable, recyclable resource. After the holidays, they are still environmentally friendly in that they can be chipped into biodegradable mulch and used to replenish soil in your landscape. They can be used as wind and water barriers at beaches and riverbeds to fight sand and soil erosion and they can provide refuge for wildlife and feeding stations and winter shelter for songbirds in your yard. When sunk in ponds, they provide excellent refuge and feeding areas for fish.

When you bring a live tree into your home be sure to keep safety in mind. Christmas trees don’t start house fires, but they can act as fuel if they’re neglected during their holiday display. Be sure to buy a fresh tree. Shake the tree to remove the dried needles. Smell it for a fresh aroma and look for mold or mildew. Excessive needles and mold or mildew tells me the tree is not fresh. When you get the tree home cut an inch off the bottom and put the tree in water in a cool place. Be sure to check the water daily and don’t let the stand run out of water. As a general rule the tree can use up to a quart of water per day for each inch of stem diameter. Be sure to keep your tree away from heaters, TV sets, fireplaces or other sources of heat that can quickly dry out the tree. When you bring out you electrical lights, be sure to check all strands and connections before decorating your tree. Don’t use any lights with worn or frayed cords. If you have doubts, replace them with newer tree lights, which usually don’t get hot. While there is a romantic notion of using candles on the tree, NEVER use lighted candles on your tree. As your day winds down and before going to bed at night or even when you leave home, be sure to ALWAYS turn off all decorations.

As you plan your holiday events, plan a family “trip to the country” and visit our local tree farms and choose your fresh tree while it is still growing in the field. For a listing  of statewide “choose and cut” operations visit http://www.ncfarmfresh.com/

Susan C. Condlin is County Extension Director for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.

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