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Cut Your Own Christmas Tree

Cutting excursions are fun for the family; plus, fresh-cut Christmas trees are safer and smell better

Until 1970, when I published the first directory of Choose and Cut Christmas trees in Maryland, only two growers in the state were marketing their Christmas trees — with limited success — by inviting people to cut their own. Thinking it was a good idea, I convinced another 10 Christmas tree growers to give it a try. The directory was printed using a mimeograph machine and was distributed to local newspapers and county libraries.
    The program was so successful that we created traffic jams in small towns such as Libertytown, Unionbridge and Churchville. On the Monday morning following Thanksgiving, I received a phone call from the Maryland State Police telling me to please notify them in advance if the project was repeated the following year. Apparently they had to pay state troopers overtime to manage some of the traffic jams.
    In 1975, I turned the project over to a newly employed marketing person hired by the University of Maryland to promote Maryland-grown crops. The Choose and Cut directory is currently managed by the Maryland Christmas Tree Association.
    Choose and Cut guarantees you a fresh-cut Christmas tree and also provides your family hours of entertainment. It’s a pleasure to watch young children racing around the trees looking for that perfect tree and then having the family decide which tree they want to cut.
    Many of the Choose and Cut Christmas tree farms offer hay rides, fresh-made Christmas wreaths and roping, kissing balls, decorated swags and table decorations. Many also offer hot drinks and snacks for sale. Some Christmas tree farms even allow you to bring your dog, providing you keep it under control. All of the Christmas tree farms will provide you with a handsaw; no power saws allowed.
    Take your time in selecting that perfect tree. Trees look small when you have nothing to compare them to. Most ceilings are seven to eight feet high, so make certain that the tree you choose is neither too tall nor too small. Tall trees can always be made smaller, but small trees cannot be made taller. Let the tallest member of the family stand next to the tree to help you judge the height.

   How to Keep Evergreens Fresh and Fire-Safe         

    The needles and leaves of evergreen plants are alive and transpiring water both day and night. As soon as a tree or branch is cut, it is separated from its natural source of moisture, the roots. Refrigeration helps considerably in preventing moisture loss. Placing the cut stem in water also helps. The best method is to immediately plunge cut ends into a pail full of 100-degree water. Hot water forces the stems to absorb more.
    You’ll also want to cut an inch or so from the base of the Christmas tree soon after you bring it home and again just before you bring it into the house. That’s because pitch weeps from the cut stems of pine, fir and spruce trees, sealing off the cells that carry water up the stem.
    Freshly and properly cared for trees and greens are also more resistant to burning than trees and greens that have been cut and staked for weeks on an asphalt parking lot.