Friday, December 9, 2005

How Early Is Too Early?

Here's a question from a Web site visitor:

I live in North Carolina and usually buy a real tree for Christmas, but the last few years they have been cut so early they dry out and rain needles before Christmas. I know part of it may be that my house may be dry, but I do cut the bottom and water every day until it stops drinking which is after a few days.

Then I check the water often. I would rather buy my tree closer to Christmas, but they've already been cut so I feel like I have to buy it early to water it. Then it won't last until Christmas, much less New Years. I've always taken mine down New Years Day or the day after, but the last few years they rain needles until I can barely make it until Christmas.

You are about to lose a lifetime customer, because I want better for my money besides wanting to enjoy the tree.


Answer: First, you shouldn't feel obligated to buy a tree early. It's more common for retail lots with cut trees, especially the bigger ones, to receive multiple shipments from the growers throughout the 3 or 4 weeks of the sales season. In fact, growers are still harvesting this week to ship loads of trees to retail lots. So, just because it's Dec 9, does not mean all trees on lots are "old" meaning they were harvested weeks ago. And we advise consumers to ask retail lot managers directly "Do you receive multiple shipments? Are they staggered? Do you receive trees from multiple farms?" Also, we advise consumers to look for indications that retail lots are doing the necessary things to store and display trees properly. Are they kept baled/netted until brought out for display? Are they stored mostly out of the sun and wind? If it's a warm climate, are the trees misted?

Once home, it sounds like you've done the necessary things to keep a tree fresh. It's not unusual at all for the water absorption rate to slow down, speed up, slow down, or any combination like that. As a tree loses moisture from evaporation out of the needles, it will move water molecules up through it's system from the base of the trunk (from the stand) but the speed of that process is influenced by a number of factors including temp of home, relative humidity inside the home, direct sunlight on the tree, and even the unique genetics of the tree itself. Even two trees of the same species from the same farm can perform differently sitting right next to each other in the same home.

I know that sounds like a lot of double-talk or mumbo jumbo...I just want to be thorough and try to explain all we know about trees and how they react in the home as a Christmas Tree. It is unusual for a tree, when properly cared for, to not maintain freshness and aroma for 4 weeks, the typical time inside. Losing some needles is natural and inevitable.