Buying a natural Christmas trees at a local grocery store, big box store, or parking lot location is definitely convenient, but did you know most of these trees come from tree farms on Canada’s east coast or Quebec?
If you want a guaranteed-fresh and grown-in-Ontario Christmas tree, head out to a local tree farm and cut your own (most farms also offer pre-cut trees). There are more than 600 Christmas tree farms in Ontario, including six in the Kawarthas, that produce more than a million trees each year and generate around $12 million for the economy.
Besides helping the local economy, buying a farm-grown natural Christmas tree has other benefits. Christmas trees are one of the most environmentally friendly crops. It takes up to 10 years to grow each tree and, during this time, the trees remove carbon dioxide and airborn pollutants from the atmosphere (up to 13 tons per acre!) and provide protective havens for a wide variety of birds and mammals. It’s also a sustainable crop — for every tree that’s harvested, at least three seedlings are planted in its place.
Natural Christmas trees are also 100% recyclable and biodegradable. Most municipalities — including those in the Kawarthas — collect discarded natural Christmas trees and chip them for use as mulching materials. Discarded natural trees can also be used as bird feeders, wood products can be made from their stems, or they can be used as wildlife cover in fish ponds and woodlots.
Tree farms in the Kawarthas are open for business, and some farms also offer goodies like hot chocolate and apple cider as well as fun activities for the family such as hay rides.
Here’s where you can harvest your own Christmas tree in the Kawarthas:
Note: Murray Tree Farm in Apsley is closed for the 2016 season, but will re-open in December 2017.
Common types of Christmas trees
If you do decide to harvest your own tree this year (or buy a pre-cut one), here’s a quick primer on the most common tree species available:
Scots Pine (Scotch Pine) – The most popular Christmas tree in Canada, the Scots Pine is a thick and hardy tree. It resists drying and holds its needles well over the holidays. However, the needles are tough and very pointy.
Balsam Fir – Almost as popular as the Scots Pine, the Balsam Fir holds its dark-green needles well and is a good choice if the decorated tree will be left standing for a longer period of time. Balsam fir branches work well for lighter Christmas ornaments, and the tree has a strong fragrance.
Fraser Fir – A Christmas tree that’s become very popular in recent years, the Fraser Fir is known for holding its attractive dark blue-green needles and its pleasant scent. Fraser Firs are generally more expensive than other trees as the species has a much longer growing cycle.
Norway Spruce – The traditional Christmas tree in Britain, the Norway spruce is attractive but has a tendency to drop its needles, particularly towards the end of the holidays — especially if the tree is not cut fresh and kept properly watered.
White Spruce – The dense foliage and symmetrical proportions of the White Spruce make it a very beautiful Christmas tree. The tree has a strong scent and its strong slender twigs hold ornaments well. However, the White Spruce is very thirsty and must be watered regularly to prevent it from losing its needles.
Caring for your tree
After you get your tree, here are some tips to keep it fresh and safe:
- If you aren’t setting up the tree immediately, store it outdoors. Keep it in a protected area, away from the wind and sun, to help the tree retain its moisture (an unheated garage is ideal, particularly to keep the tree free of snow). If you plan to store it outside for several days, make a straight cut across the butt end of the tree about one inch from the end, place the butt end in a container of water, and store the tree upright.
- When you bring the tree into the house for decorating, make another fresh cut across the trunk, about an inch from the original cut.
- Trees can drink up to four litres of water per day, so be sure to use a large stand that can hold that much water. Check the water level daily and supply fresh water as needed. Don’t allow the water level to drop below the bottom of the tree, as a seal will form on the bottom and the tree will stop absorbing water (you’ll have to make a new cut).
- Use only fresh water. Don’t add sugar, molasses, bleach, honey, floral preservatives, or other substances to the tree’s water. Experts agree that these do nothing to maintain the freshness of the tree.
- Place your tree away from fireplaces, radiators, television sets, and other sources of heat. Turn off the tree lights when you leave and before you retire at night. Under no circumstances should you use lighted candles on a Christmas tree.
- A well-maintained tree should normally remain fresh at least three to four weeks before drying to an unacceptable level. Test the dryness of the tree by running your fingers across the needles. If they break easily or fall off in your hand, the tree is dry and should be discarded.