How to Choose & Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree

If you're fortunate enough to have coniferous trees growing on your property, consider harvesting one of them to serve as a Christmas tree.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: J. Keeler Johnson

Christmas is rapidly approaching, and if you’re fortunate enough to have coniferous trees growing on your farm, now seems like the perfect time to head outside and harvest one to serve as a Christmas tree.

Cutting down your own Christmas tree is an enjoyable and pleasant exercise that can involve the whole family while lending a distinct feeling to your annual Christmas decorations. After all, no two trees are identical, and having an old-fashioned real tree—complete with the fragrance of the needles—is a great DIY project that every hobby farmer should consider.

Of course, there are a few things to keep in mind before you head out and cut the first tree that catches your fancy. Here are a few tips for harvesting the perfect tree.

1. Use a Hand Saw, Not a Chainsaw

Half the fun of cutting your own Christmas tree is creating a memorable experience for everyone involved. There’s something about tromping through the snow and bringing back a tree from your own property that is thoroughly satisfying, and a noisy chainsaw kind of spoils the ambiance, at least in my opinion. That’s why I prefer to use a hand saw—it’s not hard to cut through a small conifer by hand, and it’s simpler too. Plus, everyone can take a turn.

2. Carefully Consider the Size of the Tree

A cute spruce tree can look pretty small set against the backdrop of a larger forest, but don’t let the illusion fool you—a tree that looks small out in the open can look enormous when brought back to your house (if it even fits through the door). Before you head out to pick your tree, measure the spot in your home where you plan to put it, then compare the measurements with any tree that you consider. You might be surprised at just how big each tree turns out to be.

3. Choose an Ideal Species

Some coniferous trees make much better Christmas trees than others, retaining their needles longer and offering a more pleasant fragrance. Learning to identify the different species will require a bit of research, but it could be worth it to ensure that you come back with a Christmas tree stalwart such as a fir or spruce tree.

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4. Bring a Sled or Cart

You might assume that a modest-sized Christmas tree won’t be difficult to carry back, but even small conifers can be tiring to carry for a lengthy distance, particularly if there’s deep snow on the ground. Having a large sled or cart will save you a lot of effort as you haul it back.

5. Have the Tree Stand Prepared

Obviously, you don’t want to bring back your Christmas tree and then have to search the house and tool shed to find the tree stand. Make sure an appropriate stand is waiting for your tree, because it’s important to get the cut tree into water as soon as possible.

Merry Christmas!

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