By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
Picking a Christmas tree can be one of the highlights of the holiday season. But when you’re confronted by acres of pines, firs and spruces, it’s hard to know which is the perfect tree.
The “right tree” is all about personal preference, said Dave Reese, owner of Kaleidoscope Farms and vice president of the Ohio Christmas Tree Association.
“Color, needle length, density, straightness, scent or aroma, they’re all different,” he said. “They’re all wonderful, but they’re all different.”
Some trees are taller and more slender, while others are fatter and wider. Reese said he has about 11 kinds at his tree farm on County Road 54 near Mount Cory.
“People can come and see what appeals to them,” he said. “They can see what they like best.”
Allen Price, owner of the Homestead Fall Farm near Alvada, said his employees talk to customers when they arrive at the 14-acre farm on Township Road 258 to find out what characteristics appeal to them.
“We kind of guide them to where they might find a tree they like,” he said.
Price said shoppers also need to consider size when perusing trees so they need to know how tall their ceiling is and how large of a space they have at home.
“Trees out here are smaller than they seem,” he said. “Once they get them in their house, they grow.”
Reese said once you’ve found a likely prospect, look for signs of freshness, including flexibility of the needles and how tightly they hang onto the branch. Also look for a fresh color, he said.
“All those things denote freshness,” he said.
A cut Christmas tree will last the entire holiday season without becoming excessively dry or dropping an excessive amount of needles provided it’s fresh when purchased and given proper care, according to the Ohio State University Extension website.
The easiest way to evaluate how firmly the needles are attached is to lightly grasp a branch of the tree and gently pull the branch and needles through your hand, the website said. If the tree is fresh, very few needles will come off.
Another way to evaluate the needles is to shake or bounce the tree on the bottom of its trunk and observe needle drop. If only a few green needles drop, the tree is probably fresh. Don’t be concerned if excessive numbers of brown needles fall as these are the needles that the tree sheds every year.
Other methods for determining freshness include tree color, aroma and the dryness of the bottom of the trunk.
The Ohio Christmas Tree Association website advises shoppers to check the trunk to be sure that it is straight. Pine trees will usually have some crook in their trunks. Also make sure that the tree has a long enough trunk to accommodate your stand.
Visitors can choose and cut their own tree at both the Kaleidoscope and Homestead Fall farms.
A fresh cut is essential to making sure the tree can absorb water, Reese and Allen said. The dried sap will form a seal that can prevent the tree from absorbing water.
“If it’s a precut tree, we’ll put a fresh cut on it,” said Reese. “That opens the fibers of the wood that might have been clogged with pitch, so that opens that up. Or, if it’s fresh cut right out of the field, that’s not a problem.”
Whichever is the case, the tree needs to go right into water as soon as you reach home.
“Whether it’s a bucket or a tub of water out in the garage if they don’t want the tree up right away, or if it’s in the tree stand, don’t let the water run out,” said Reese.
As far as additives available in purchase to prolong the freshness of the tree, research has shown that plain tap water is best. Some commercial additives and home concoctions can actually be detrimental to a tree’s moisture retention and increase needle loss, the extension website said. Water holding stands that are kept filled with plain water will extend the freshness of trees for weeks.
The amount of water a tree takes up in a day depends on how hydrated the tree is, how much rain there has been and the kind of soil in which it grew. Reese said keep an eye on the bucket or the tree stand and don’t let the water level fall below the bottom of the trunk.
Make sure the site you’ve selected for the tree isn’t by a furnace vent, radiator or fireplace, Price added.
“Pick a cool area in your house,” he said.
If possible, turn down the temperature or partially close the heat vents in the room where the tree is located, the OSU Extension suggests. And avoid placing the tree in front of a window that receives direct sun.
“The lower the temperature and the higher the humidity, the longer a cut Christmas tree will last,” the extension website said.
Recut the trunk if it has not been done previously. Then use a tree stand that is large enough and strong enough to hold the tree, and be sure that the stand will hold an adequate amount of water. A one-gallon stand is the suggested minimum, or even more for larger trees.
Water is important because it prevents the tree from drying out and the needles from becoming brittle and dropping off and the branches from drooping. The tree will absorb a large quantity of water, particularly during the first week, the extension website said.
“Some varieties are better than others (for lasting),” Reese said. “If you cut a tree fresh out of the field, I don’t see any problem, if you don’t let it run out of water, I think it would easily last a month. Some last longer than that.”
The Ohio Christmas Tree Association was founded 52 years ago and its membership is comprised of people who have Christmas tree farms and those who sell Christmas trees.
“Our biggest competition is the artificial tree and I think we all believe the best way to compete is to provide a quality real tree,” said Reese.
If you have a quality real tree, there’s no competition, he said.
Reese joined the association even before he planted his first tree 30 years ago. Kaleidoscope Farms have since grown to 26 acres of Christmas trees.
“The advantage of a real tree over artificial, that’s what we’re all about,” he said.
Christmas trees are a renewable, recyclable natural product and it’s much better environmentally to use a real tree and recycle it after the holidays, Reese said.
“The real tree is renewable. For seven to 10 years it’s growing in the field taking in carbon dioxide, pumping out oxygen, and holding the soil in place,” he explained.
While it’s growing, the tree also provides shelter for wildlife.
“It’s locally grown, and then when it is harvested, we can offer the family a fun experience, more than just coming to get a tree or pulling it out of the attic of whatever,” he said.
Findlay and Hancock County residents who want to recycle their live Christmas trees after the holiday can take them to one of several sites where the trees are used as wood chips and mulch for landscaping; for creating wildlife habitat; and in ponds for fish management.
Artificial trees will never break down in a landfill, Reese said.
“That’s where they end up and hopefully every one does because I want them to have a real tree,” he said. “So it’s just 100 win, win, wins for the real tree compared to the artificial.”
Both farms will be open through Saturday.
Online: http://kaleidoscopefarms.blogspot.com/ https://www.facebook.com/TheHomesteadFallFarm Wolf: 419-427-8419 Send an E-mail to Jeannie Wolf
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