In part one, we outlined three reasons to buy real this holiday season. In part two of our “Choose Real, Choose Local” series, we focus on the care and recycling of Christmas trees.
A Christmas tree is so much more than a holiday decoration. Your purchase supports a local farmer, your local economy, and the environment throughout the tree’s lifecycle. To learn more about tree care and recycling, we talked with Deb Krueger from Krueger’s Christmas Trees and Jan Donelson of Jan’s Christmas Tree Farm.
There are many reasons to buy local, and producers want to provide a positive experience for your family. As Krueger said, “We focus on education at our farm.” If you have not already purchased your local tree, be sure to choose a tree from a reputable tree farm in the Minnesota Grown Directory or choose a farm who is a member of the Minnesota Christmas Tree Association. “We support one another within the [MNCTA] association,” said Krueger. “The importance of MNCTA is the awareness, support, and being a part of something bigger than our farm.”
Longevity of your tree will depend on the variety you chose. After being cut, Krueger estimated that a Frasir Fir will last 6-8 weeks, a Balsam Fir will last 4 weeks, and a Canaan Fir will last 6 weeks. Discernibly, Krueger mentioned that Spruce trees do not last very long once cut and home. Be sure to plan ahead to have a full and healthy tree throughout the season.
The weather during the growing season can also impact the needle drop of your tree. Donelson was featured in a recent Grow with KARE segment in which she shared that needle dropping is normal for a tree and that the temperature during cutting and processing can impact its longevity. It is best to cut when the temperature is in the upper 20s to lower 30s.
“Your tree is a living product,” said Donelson. “It does have an expiration date that will depend on your care.” There are a few care tips to help your tree last that Krueger recommends. Once you are home, immediately place your tree in a non-drafty and cool area. It should also be out of direct sunlight and away from furnaces, fireplaces, and stoves. It is also crucial to make a ½ inch cut on a tree if you bought it pre-cut. Like a flower, when the cut is left exposed to air, the exposed cells become blocked to water uptake. Talk with the owner of the farm — they may be able to make this cut for you.
Water is the breath of life for your tree. Use hot water on only the first filling of the tree stand to “get the sap going and acclimate the tree to your home.” The amount of rain during the growing season will impact the amount of water needed for the tree. Krueger emphasized the need to keep an eye on the water level in the tree stand throughout the first few days. If it was a wet growing season, the tree will not absorb water as fast. Contrarily, after a dry growing season, check on the tree stand every thirty minutes for the first week to ensure the tree is hydrated.
After the holiday season, complete your tree’s lifecycle by recycling. Contact your local municipal center or city government to learn how Christmas tree recycling works in your area, or check your local paper. Some cities offer curb-side tree pickup or a drop-off location for post-holiday trees. Recycled Christmas trees are made into mulch or woodchips for gardens, playgrounds, or hiking trails. Over time, the tree will decompose and return nutrients back into the ecosystem.
A 2016 University of Minnesota Extension article suggests other ways to repurpose your real Christmas tree. After taking off the decorations, place your tree outside for the birds to sit in. Attract the birds to the tree by placing bird feed within the tree. The biggest caution of repurposing your tree is to dispose of it before the weather warms as insects or disease could infest your tree.
Remember to remove all decorations from your tree before recycling or repurposing your tree. To recycle your lights, check out this Recycle Minnesota website for more information on drop-off locations in your area.
Choosing real has impact for your community from start to finish. Whether that’s supporting the farmer and local businesses, helping the ecosystem, or repurposing your trees after the holiday season, choosing local is a great choice. Thank you, Deb Krueger and Jan Donelson, for your insight on choosing real Christmas trees this holiday season.