April's Ag Advice by April Borders The winter season is truly here. Soon there will be lots of snow on the ground and thoughts of Christmas will be filling our dreams. With the Christmas season quickly approaching, the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree will soon be under way.
A real Christmas tree is a holiday tradition for about 36 million families. The choosing of the prefect Christmas tree is a wonderful opportunity to spend time together as a family.
The best way to buy a tree is to select the freshest tree possible. Ideally you should go out to one of South Dakota choose-and-cut farms and harvest your own tree. We have several of these farms close by and it is a wonderful experience to cut your own tree. For me it brings back many memories of my childhood and time spent with my family.
If you cannot cut your own then the next best thing is to go buy one. When buying a harvested tree, check the needles to be sure that you are picking out a fresh tree. Some trees were harvested as far back as October. The needles will be flexible on a fresh tree.
Some pines and spruce needles are naturally fairly stiff, but even with these they should bend with a slight pressure rather than break. When you shake the tree it is normal for some needles to drop, but if a lot break free, its days are numbered.
What is the best tree to buy? There is no perfect answer to this question. Everybody has their own personal opinion as to the perfect tree. One tree that does come close to being perfect is the Fraser fir. These firs have excellent needle retention (should last for at least four to six weeks), a wonderful fragrance and the branches are stiff enough to support heavy ornaments. Scotch pine is a close second with many similar characteristics.
If you plan on having a spruce, make sure it is fresh, as needle retention is not that good and the tree starts to shed after a couple of weeks in the house. Shedding spruce needles are one of the last things that you want to step on with your bare feet. They really hurt!
Once you get your tree home, recut the base by about 1/2 inch so you have unsealed pores in the trunk. The angle of the cut is not important. Then place your tree in a stand that will hold at least one gallon of water. Once the tree is up, add warm water and check it frequently. A fresh tree can take up to a gallon of water on the first day.
Check the water daily and add water as needed (cold or warm). Never let the base dry out. If the base dries out for more than four hours the pores in the trunk will seal over and the tree will not absorb any more water unless you recut the base. This is not an easy task to do once you have the lights and ornaments up.
Water is the key to keeping the tree fresh. Additives like aspirin, bleach, sugar and 7-up do not increase longevity. (The 7-up might make your dog or cat happy if they drink out of the stand!)
Take time to chose your perfect tree and remember to keep it watered. Then you'll be able to enjoy it all season long. I hope that hour holiday season will be bright and happy.
The 2002 Soybean Management and Area No-Till Clinics will be Dec. 17-18 at the Davison County 4-H Fairgrounds in Mitchell. Cost is $25 for both days if received by Dec. 9.
For more information contact the Clay County Extension Service.