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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Pick the Perfect Tree!

Pick the Perfect Tree!

So you’re sick of plastic and you’ve decided you want to have a real Christmas tree this year? Real trees are a great choice. Not only do they look more authentic and smell fantastic, but Christmas tree farming is also an environmentally-friendly industry that promotes green spaces.

It won’t do to just march out and pick any old tree from outside your local big box store, though. You want to pick the freshest, healthiest tree you can so that it looks its best throughout the holiday season.

Here are a few pointers to help you choose the tree that’s right for you:

- Be sure to measure your space. Before you ever set foot to the tree farm or retail lot, take careful measurements so that you know the maximum size, both height and width, you can accommodate in the space you have allotted. That massive tree may look beautiful on the lot, but it won’t do you much good if it won’t fit in your house. Sure, you can trim off excess length from the bottom, but then why pay extra for a bigger tree? Don’t forget, too, that a tree that is short enough may still be too wide for the space you have available.

- Think about what type of tree you want. Some tree farms specialize in a single variety, while others grow a more diverse selection of trees. The National Christmas Tree Association website features a primer of the different species of trees commonly sold. Different species have different attributes — more closely spaced foliage, stronger branches, longer needles, etc. Give some thought to what type of decorations you plan to use, and consider whether they will look good or hang properly on any given tree.

- Test for freshness. All trees lose some needles, but you don’t want a tree that’s going to look sad and bald by the time Christmas arrives. Be sure to test the branches and needles for freshness. First, bend the outer branches. They should be pliable, bending easily and springing back into place. If they are brittle and break easily, the tree is too dry. Next, run you fingers over a branch. Most of the needles should stay attached. Other indicators of a tree that is too old or too dry include a large pile of needles on the ground around it, discolored foliage, a musty odor, brittle needles, and wrinkled bark. If you have any doubts about the freshness of a particular tree, choose a different tree. If you have doubts about every tree on the lot, try a different lot, or a tree farm, where you can either cut your own or get a more recently cut one.

- Check the trunk. While all pines have a little crook to their trunks, try to pick a relatively straight tree. You’ll also want to make sure that there is enough of a base to fit in your stand.

Once you’ve picked the perfect tree, the retail lot or tree farm should wrap it up for you so it’s easier to get home. Some sellers also provide a shaking or blowing service to remove dead needles before the tree leaves the lot. This will reduce the amount of mess you tree makes after you get it home.

Now that you’ve chosen your tree, don’t miss our advice to help keep it looking fresh throughout the season.

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.