By REBECCA NORTON RYAN
Member of Warren Garden Club and Penn State Master Gardener
Choosing the family Christmas tree is one of the highlights of the festive season. While very small children may not be able to enjoy this outing, school age children will love seeing all the trees and cheering on the adults while the tree is harvested or chosen from the tree lot.
It's always fun to go to a nearby tree farm, choose your tree and cut it down. Many of these tree farms offer wagon rides so don't forget the camera. These pictures could be next years Christmas card. When you have selected your tree the employees may clean and wrap the tree with netting, to make it easier to get home. Week days can be less crowded than weekends. These afternoon excursions make wonderful memories for adults and children alike.
When going to a tree farm remember trees look smaller outdoors. Be sure to measure your space so you don't get a tree that is too large. Dress for the weather with sturdy coats, boots, hats and gloves. Remember you are going to be in a farmer's field which could be uneven and sometimes very wet. Some tree farms supply saws with which to cut your tree. Your own saw will be sharper and available when you get to your tree. Don't be alarmed at a few brown needles. At this time of year trees normally shed a few of their oldest needles.
In the last few years we have been visiting our local market where we buy our tree from the same family that provides our bedding plants throughout the spring and early summer. As we leave we wish them a good winter, promising to see them in the spring for our Easter flowers.
As you select your tree keep in mind the size of the space and the room in which the tree will be displayed. You need to look for a straight tree with good color. Again it is possible to see a few brown needles as well as a few green needles that by its nature the tree will shed at this time of year. The attendant at the lot will probably offer to make a fresh cut on the trunk of the tree. The reason for this fresh cut is because in time the bottom of the tree will callus over making it nearly impossible for the tree to take up water. A new cut will allow the tree to stay fresh.
Many people mistakenly think that buying a real tree somehow destroys a tree growing in the wild. Christmas trees are grown on farms by an independent business man and harvested in much the same way corn, tomatoes or green beans are harvested. Because the farmer lives on his property with his family he is unlikely to use harmful pesticides and other chemicals. Buying a live Christmas tree whether in a "choose and cut" farm or from a tree lot is a way of supporting our local farmers.
Many people must use an artificial tree because of allergies. However keep in mind that trees do not have pollen in December and any pollen on the tree would have been washed away with summer and autumn wind and rain. An artificial tree spends 11 months in a storage room where it can pick up mold spores and dust mites. Chemical and other manmade materials are used to manufacture the artificial tree, some possibly harmful. Lastly, an artificial tree is not biodegradable and will always be part of the landfill. A real tree will biodegrade and enrich the soil as it does so.
As soon as you get your tree home, stand it in a bucket of water until you bring it into the house. You need to keep the tree hydrated to prolong its life throughout the holiday season. When you do bring the tree into the house make another fresh cut and then place the tree in a stand with a water reservoir. While the tree is in the house keep it well watered. Every season we hear of various concoctions of water, sugar, aspirin even soda pop. Plain water works just fine.
Be sure to place the tree away from fireplaces, candles and portable heaters. Check to make sure your lights are in good condition with no broken or crumbling connections or wires.
I love my Christmas tree. When the family, whether children or spouse, lose interest I enjoy placing my special ornaments on the dark and spicy tree. I do insist on a fire in the fireplace, holiday music and above all, a peaceful atmosphere.