All you wanted to know about cut-your-own Christmas trees but were afraid to ask
Scotch pine or Fraser fir? Ax or saw? Do I need rope? What if the tree falls on me?
Christmas is a scant two weeks away and your house is bare of yuletide ornamentation. So bare, the Grinch wouldn’t feel even a twinge of jealousy.
If that’s the way you want it, OK. No judging. But if it’s because you haven’t been able to make up your mind between an artificial tree or a real tree, we understand. It can be tempting to own a fake tree that you can pack away at the end of the season and use again next year.
But maybe this year you’re craving authenticity, and you can’t get any more authentic than to cut your own Christmas tree.
If you’ve never cut your own, here is everything you need to know in the days remaining. (Remember, if you buy one now, you can leave it up for at least a week or two after Christmas, thereby getting a full month of enjoyment.)
First: Scout out your home for the best place for a tree. How high are your ceilings? How wide a tree would fit in that space?
Second: If you don’t have a tree stand yet, get one. Lowell Dittberner, vice president of Plants Beautiful in Parkers Prairie, which sells pre-cut and cut-your-own trees, recommends getting a stand that holds 1-2 gallons of water so you don’t have to refill it four times a day. Christmas trees can guzzle water like a wet-vac.
Where can I cut my own tree? There are several cut-your-own Christmas tree farms near Alexandria. Plants Beautiful is about eight miles east of Parkers Prairie on County Road 42. Evergreen Park is at 230 17th Ave. NW in Glenwood, west of Midwest Machinery. Riverpine Christmas Trees is about 12 miles south of Glenwood on Minnesota 104 S.
Things to bring: Gloves to protect your hands from cold, needles and sap. If it's dark, a headlamp or flashlight. Rope or ratchet straps to tie the tree to the top of your car, a trailer to carry the tree in, your own saw. Cut-your-own tree farms generally supply handsaws, and mesh wrap trees and and help secure them to your vehicle.
Ax or saw? Saw, either hand powered or a Sawzall. An ax will butcher the trunk and you’ll have to smooth it out with a saw anyway in order to fit it into your trunk.
What kind of tree? It depends on what you’re going for. Balsam firs emit the most pungent scent for a classic Christmas-y feel. However, Fraser, Frosty and Siberian firs hold their needles the longest. Frasers also have the sturdiest branches for hanging ornaments. Dittberner says there’s a new tree out now, called a Balsam-Fraser hybrid, that combines the best traits of both.
What if the tree falls on me? “It shouldn’t hurt you too bad,” Dittberner said jokingly. He clarified: “Most people are cutting down a 7- or 8-foot tree and it won’t hurt you.”
What if I find a hornet’s nest inside once I bring it home? This actually happened to a colleague. But fear not. No. 1, it’s very rare and No. 2, if it does happen, the nest will be empty as hornets hibernate elsewhere during the winter.
What if I bring the tree home and find a bird’s nest? Consider it a sign of good luck, Dittberner says. Something that we could all use more of in 2021.
Can I just bring it in and stick in a stand right away? That depends. How long did it take you to get home? Sap can seal over a fresh cut in an hour and prevent the tree from taking in water, Dittberner says. He advises cutting a slice off the bottom once you get it home, then putting it in the stand.
What about watering? Do not let the tree run out of water. If it does, the cut will heal over and it won’t absorb enough water. If this happens, it would make a good YouTube video if one person holds the tree up while a second person takes a saw to the trunk while trying not to shake all the ornaments loose of the tree. Best not to let it happen.
What do I do with my left-over tree? One of our friends burns his on New Year’s Eve. If you have enough land, strip them completely of any ornament, tinsel or wire and set them outside. They can make nice homes for wildlife. In Douglas and Pope counties, the solid waste system will compost them and use them for erosion control, said Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Environmental Coordinator Nathan Reinbold. In subsequent years, they’ll become compost for farms and gardens. They can be dropped off at 2115 Jefferson St. in Alexandria, or across the street from the courthouse in Glenwood.