Throughout the state of North Carolina families share a holiday tradition by taking a trip to the local cut your own Christmas tree farms. Years ago we started this tradition with our daughters and have since passed it on to our granddaughter. The night before our search for the perfect tree I cook our traditional Martin-Webster Pre-Tree dinner of homemade chicken and dumplings and caramel apple pie for dessert. The next day we gather our Christmas tree road trip gear consisting of work gloves, cold weather jackets, hats, scarves and barn boots. We pack a picnic lunch and fill our thermoses with hot chocolate and coffee. Deciding on what type of tree to choose is the toughest part of our family tradition. The choices range from Norway and Blue Spruce, Douglas Firs and Scotch and White Pine. Many tree farms grow a wide variety of trees and are open to the general public throughout the months of November and December. We usually end up choosing my favorite – a 6-foot White Pine. Its long needles and dense branches remain fresh for weeks. If you choose to cut your own tree here are a few things you should know to ensure your family tradition is an enjoyable experience.
How to choose a Christmas tree: When choosing a Christmas tree it’s important to know the height of your ceilings. One year we found the most beautiful tree only to find it was 3-feet taller than our living room ceiling. Most trees are sold and priced by the foot. Why pay for the additional 3-feet only to saw it off and throw it away. Decide before hand where you are going to display your tree and purchase the correct size for the location.
What to look for: There are 3 things to look for and remember when choosing your Christmas tree. The first is smell, second flexibility and third the Needle Test. After your tree is cut it should give off a fresh cut pine scent. If it loses its scent a day or two after being indoors it may be an older tree. Before cutting it ask the tree grower when the tree was planted and how long it has been on the farm. Second is flexibility. The branches should easily bend without breaking or cracking. I use the loop test. If you can bend a branch into a loop without it breaking it’s good. Third is the Needle Drop test. Before cutting give the branches a good shake. If too many needles fall off choose another tree.
How to transport your Christmas tree: Bring along a large plastic tarp to cover the hood or inside of our car. Fresh trees will seep tree sap for hours after they’ve been cut. This sap is very difficult to remove from a vehicle’s exterior or interior. Most tree farms will help you wrap your Christmas tree. Some have binding machines that use a plastic mesh. Being Eco-friendly we opt to use natural packaging twine or cotton clothesline. If you own a pickup truck the tree should fit easily into the trucks bed without wrapping or binding.
Tree stands and daily care: Rule of thumb, the larger the tree the sturdier the stand. Large trees need a sturdier base than a small tree. If you traditionally purchase a tree 6-foot or taller you may want to invest in a cast iron Christmas tree stand. They range from $35-$50 and last for years. Let the tree settle overnight before trimming. Fill the stand with room temperature water. Keep a container of water nearby as a reminder. With all the holiday excitement it is easy to forget to rehydrate your tree. A fresh tree will absorb almost a quart of water a day especially if your thermostat is set above 70 degrees.
Christmas Tree Disposal: Remember to recycle your Christmas tree. Ask the farm staff if they have a return recycle policy. Some farms will take back your tree and mulch it for you. If not, contact your local waste management department. They will inform you when to put your tree out for community recycling.
North Carolina Tree Farms
Cast Iron Christmas Tree Stands