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Tis the season to pick a tree

Now is prime time for putting up live Christmas trees.

It is true that trees have been going up in local homes since around Thanksgiving. But if you want a live tree to be looking its best on Christmas, you shouldn’t be in a hurry to put it up early in the season, according to Jeff Becker, co-owner of Becker Florist in Fort Dodge. He recommends putting up a tree around the week of Dec. 5.

Becker, whose business includes a Christmas tree farm north of Fort Dodge, provided some advice on selecting and caring for live Christmas trees.

Selecting a tree

Becker advises picking only trees that have a nice green color. There should be no yellowing in the needles.

Fir trees are more likely to have a straight trunk, he said. “There nothing more frustrating than getting a Scotch pine home and finding out it has an S-curve in the trunk,” he said.

Measurements

Knowing how high the ceiling is in the room where the tree will be set up is important. The sight of an evergreen tree at a tree farm is often deceptive. Becker said trees tend to look smaller outdoors, which can lead to surprises when they are brought indoors.

When picking a tree, people need to be aware of both its heighth and its width. Sometimes people will bring a tree home and find that it is so wide it almost fills up the whole room, Becker said. He recommends taking a tape measure along when going to pick out a live tree.

Care of the tree

The work isn’t done once the tree is home and set up. That tree will need some attention in order to look great and be safe. “The No. 1 thing is you can’t let it dry out,” Becker said. That message is echoed by firefighters everywhere.

The tree’s stand should be filled with water as soon as it is set up. Becker recommends checking and replenishing the water supply twice a day for the first three or four days. That’s a time when the tree is likely to be drawing a lot of water up its trunk. After the fourth day, it will be OK to check the water level once a day, he sad. The tree should not be placed near a heat duct, radiator or fireplace. Candles and space heaters should not be placed near a tree.

The condition of the trees needles when they are bent is a good reflection of how the tree is holding up indoors. Becker said the needles of a healthy fir tree should “snap like a carrot” when they are bent. The needles of a pine tree should bend but not break, he said.

Disposal of the tree

At the end of the holiday season, the city of Fort Dodge traditionally offers a tree disposal option it calls Operation Merry Mulch. Old Christmas trees can be placed a central location, usually Oleson Park, and Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department employees will grind them up to create mulch that will be used around trees and flower beds in the parks. Details of the program will be announced later this month.

Christmas Tree Facts

• Real Christmas Trees are an all-American product, grown in all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. Most artificial trees are manufactured in Korea, Taiwan, or Hong Kong.

• Real trees are a renewable, recyclable resource. Artificial trees contain non-biodegradable plastics and metals.

• For every real Christmas tree harvested, two to three seedlings are planted in its place.

• There are about 1 million acres in production for growing Christmas trees. Each acre provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.

• There are about 15,000 Christmas tree growers in the U.S., and over 100,000 people employed full or part time in the industry.

• There are approximately 100 choose-and-harvest farms in Iowa.

• It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of average retail sale height (6 feet), but the average growing time is 7 years.

• The top selling Christmas trees in Iowa are Scotch Pine and White Pine.

Information from the Iowa Christmas Tree Association

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