Last year, Christmas tree farms saw a boom in sales as the pandemic loomed and holiday revelers set their sights on outdoor activities.
Christmas tree sales were up 25% across the state in 2020, according to Mark Hansen, who co-owns Hansen Tree Farm in Ramsey with his brother Dave. This year, tree farmers are expecting another round of high-volume sales. And that means it's best not to wait until the last minute to snag a tree.
"Last year some farms ran out of the larger trees, and they closed early. Will that happen again this year? I don't know," said Dave Hansen.
Planning ahead also means checking in with cut-your-own tree farms for hours and restrictions before heading out. At Krueger's Christmas Tree Farm in Lake Elmo, customers are being asked this year to reserve a time slot. Owner and Minnesota Christmas Tree Association president John Krueger said such a practice is more common on the coasts but is starting to gain traction locally.
"It's just like if you're going to get a haircut or go to dinner. You pick the slot that is available to you and that way you can plan your day and know that when you get here the lines won't be as bad," Krueger said. "And it helps us with providing staffing and parking."
Last summer's drought had an impact on how tall trees grew, so shoppers may see smaller pines and spruces than last year. And while it will be up to individual businesses, prices could be higher.
"What little rain there was just missed us. It was a brutal drought year up until the fourth week of August," said Dave Hansen. "So prices are up a little bit just because of demand and reduced supply. And instead of a 9-foot tree, you might have to be happy with an any-foot tree."
A bit of good news: Because there was a good amount of rain in late August, September and October, "trees are healthy and should have strong needle retention. We're going into winter in good shape," he said.
Speaking of good shape, to help your tree stay healthy throughout the season, local tree experts offered these tips on how to maintain your holiday centerpiece once home:
When finding a place to put up your tree, choose a spot away from heat sources. Heat sources, such as supply vents, space heaters, fireplaces and even electronics such as televisions and computers, can speed up evaporation and cause moisture loss. If possible, run a humidifier in the room where the tree is located to prevent it from drying out, said Krueger.
Give the tree a fresh cut
Once you've arrived home and found the perfect spot for your tree, re-cut the trunk right before putting it into the stand. This includes pre-cut trees as well as those cut from a tree farm. A fresh cut will reopen the tree stem, allowing it to drink more water. The cut should be at least 1 inch from the bottom.
Once the tree gets a fresh trim, place it in a stand and fill it with water. Use a stand that holds a large capacity, or at least one gallon of water, according to the Minnesota Christmas Tree Association.
Check water every day
Even if the stand seems to have plenty of water in it, checking it once or twice a day is essential. That's because when a tree does need water, "it's going to take a big gulp and that's when you'll see the water level drop," said Dave Hansen. "It may be the first day or it may not be until the third day, but it's going to happen. Eventually, it stabilizes after a couple of weeks."
No sodas needed
Local experts said they often get asked if adding carbonated drinks, sugar tablets or even whiskey will help spur a Christmas tree's growth. The answer: No.
"What they probably observed was the tree taking a gulp that would probably have happened anyway," Dave Hansen said.
Krueger added that trees are already healthy going into the season and what they really need is to be kept hydrated. "The main thing is to have it in a stand that holds water and keep it filled — with water. The tree has enough nutrients stored within itself that really all it needs is water."
Dispose of the tree properly
When it comes time to wrap up the holidays, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency asks residents to help protect the environment by disposing of trees through their city or county's curbside pickup or dropping it off at a designated site. If an organized pickup or dropoff isn't available, visit the Pollution Control Agency website for additional recommendations.