Christmas tree farm

It is Thanksgiving weekend, and in my mind, the official start of the Christmas holiday season. I have seen some vehicles with a fresh Christmas tree secured to the roof and suspect this number will most likely be increasing.

If you are heading out to get a fresh tree, there are several local farms producing trees either pre-cut or cut by you. The Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York website will help you to find a nearby tree farm by typing in your zip code. Depending on how far you want to travel within New York state, you can choose from hundreds of farms.

There are several reasons to consider a locally or at least New York-grown tree. They include keeping your money local, as Christmas tree sales generates an estimated $8 million economic impact statewide. Also, the fresher the tree, the longer it will hold its needles.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, in 2018, 28% of the real Christmas trees purchased were from Christmas tree farms, another 28% were purchased from a large box chain store, 23% from a retail lot, 10% from a nursery or garden center, and the remaining from not-for-profit groups, online, etc. While many local growers sell wholesale, these trees are often cut weeks in advance and their quality may decline.

A simple test to determine how fresh a pre-cut tree is as simple as bending a needle or two. If the needle breaks, the tree is not as fresh as bending a needle and having it spring back. This is also a good test for determining when your tree has been inside long enough and needs to be recycled. A second test is to pick the tree a few inches off the ground and bump the base of the trunk on the ground. If a few needles fall it is OK, but if there is a cascade of needles, take a pass and look for another tree on a different lot.

Worried about the number of “bugs” a fresh cut tree might contain? Some insects may have selected your tree to survive the winter prior to harvest. Generally, any insect that comes with your tree is not a threat to you, your home or its contents. To avoid any unwelcome guests, leave your tree in the garage or porch for a few days before bringing it into the house, allowing these insects to wake up there rather than in your home. Plus, this gives the tree time to adjust from the cold temperatures outdoors, and not be shocked coming inside.

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When you purchase a pre-cut tree, be sure to cut an inch off the bottom to allow the tree to take up water. If you cut your own tree, be sure to place it in water as soon as you arrive home. Trees will take up water, which helps them remain fresher through the holiday season.

I have heard people say that cutting a Christmas tree was bad for the environment. I would disagree, as these trees are grown on farms and are intended to be harvested. Christmas tree farms create local jobs and support the local economy, in addition to providing open space and wildlife habitat.

For those who are using a fresh tree in Cayuga County, please consider having yours recycled through the Trade-A-Tree program. Bring your Christmas tree, once it is free of decorations, tinsel, wraps and any other foreign objects, for a certificate for a Canaan fir transplant that will be available this spring at Cayuga County’s Soil and Water Conservation District’s tree and shrub sale.

Trees that are dropped off to the Trade-A-Tree program at the Natural Resources Center, 7413 County House Road, Auburn, will be chipped into mulch and used in public works projects. This is a good way to keep trees from being landfilled or dumped by the side of the road.

The Trade-A-Tree program is co-sponsored by the Cayuga County Solid Waste Management Program, the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County. It will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 26, 27 and 30, Jan. 2 and 3, Jan. 6-10 and Jan. 13-17

If you have questions about the Trade-A-Tree program, please call (315) 252-4171 ext. 3. This year, give back to the environment and let the Christmas spirit live on by recycling your New York-grown tree.

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Judy Wright is the senior agriculture specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Seneca County. For more information, visit senecacountycce.org or call (315) 539-9251 ext. 109.