Is going out and getting a fresh cut Christmas tree one of your family traditions?
Buying a tree grown in New York helps support local farms and your local economy. According to the Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York, New York farmers produce 295,200 Christmas trees annually, generating direct tree sales of $13.8 million.
Buying a live tree helps keep the state’s landscape greener and creates habitat for birds and wildlife.
Live trees are a renewable resource and can be recycled, even turned into mulch, unlike artificial trees. Buying a local Christmas tree can also help keep invasive pests out of New York.
You may have heard about an invasive insect that is trying to take over Pennsylvania and could soon by setting up residence in New York state.
The Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is a very real threat to agriculture in New York, especially vineyards, fruit tree orchards, hops, the maple industry, and the timber industry.
How does this relate to buying a Christmas tree?
Spotted lanternflies are known to be good hitchhikers. Pennsylvania grows and sells many Christmas trees — it’s the fourth largest Christmas tree-producing state in the U.S.
Trees must be inspected if they are coming out of a quarantine zone, and while growers work with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to meet the quarantine requirements, the egg masses are well camouflaged. They basically look like a spot of grey mud on the trunk.
While unlikely, it’s possible that a tree with an egg mass could escape detection.
It is also highly unlikely that a live adult would be found on a tree at this time of year. But nevertheless, it pays to be vigilant.
Buying a locally grown tree eliminates worries about transporting potentially invasive pests.
Just like everything else, if you shop early, there will be a bigger selection of trees to pick from. If you aren’t ready to put your tree up, keep it in a cool, protected area — like your garage — with the trunk in a bucket of water.
When you are ready to decorate it, make a fresh cut on the base of the trunk. Remove about an inch, this will help the tree take up water and reduce the chance of needles dropping.
Fresh water is the key to keeping the tree inside.
Check and water your tree stand every day. You don’t need to add anything to the water, fresh tap water is best.
When out shopping for the perfect tree you are likely to find a variety of tree types, mainly fir, pine and spruce.
Some trees hold their needles better than others, some are more fragrant and some have firmer branches.
Fir trees tend to have soft, flat, needles, while spruces have sharp, pointy needles. Pine trees have needles that grow in bundles, and some can be several inches long.
Fir trees are popular, not only because they are soft and smell good, but they tend to hold their needles longer after being cut down.
The Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) may be the most popular species to use for a Christmas tree. A native southern tree, it has dark blue-green, flattened needles that are half to one inch long.
The tree has excellent needle retention along with a pleasant, fresh scent.
The pyramid shaped Fraser fir has strong branches that angle upward from the trunk, which are great for heavy ornaments.
If there is a tree that typifies what Christmas smells like, for many it would be the Balsam fir (Abies balsamea). It is named for the oily resin or balsam that develop in blisters on the bark.
Balsam fir has short, flat, dark green needles with a silvery cast that are rounded at the tip. The aromatic needles are long-lasting on the tree.
It has firm branches for hanging ornaments and it has an attractive form. The branches are also popular for wreath making.
If you suffer from allergies to fragrant trees, the white pine (Pinus strobus) may be for you as it has little or no fragrance. White pine has soft, flexible, blue-green needles that are 2 to 5 inches long.
When sheared it has a very full appearance and will keep its needles throughout the holiday season. It is not a good tree for heavy ornaments as it does not have firm branches.
The most commonly grown Christmas tree is the Scotch or “Scots” pine (Pinus sylvestris). It is known for its dark green foliage and stiff branches which are good for decorating. When kept in a water filled tree stand the needles will stay fresh for 3 to 4 weeks.
Needle retention is excellent as the needles hold on even when the tree is dry. The fragrance will last through the entire holiday season.
Where you place your tree can also affect its longevity in the house.
Pick a spot that is not near a radiator, heat vent, wood stove, or fireplace as these can dry the tree out. Direct sunlight can also dry it out so try not to put your tree in a sunny window.
Stay safe this holiday season.
Make sure that your tree is secured in a sturdy tree stand away from open flames, such as candles and fireplaces.
Check that light strands are not worn or frayed. Lights that produce low heat, such as miniature lights or LED’s, will help reduce tree drying. When you leave home or go to bed turn the tree lights off.
Last but not least, take your tree down before it dries out. A properly cared for tree may last up to five weeks.
Have a gardening question? The Master Gardener office is open.
Please wear a mask when visiting the CCE office and check in at the reception window.
Master Gardener volunteers are normally in the office 10 a.m. to noon Monday to Friday.
You can stop in at our CCE office at 420 East Main Street, Batavia, call (585) 343-3040, ext. 127, or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us at noon Thursday via Zoom for one more Garden Talk this year. Our Master Food Preserver volunteer will be presenting “Gifts from the Kitchen.”