Harvesting your own tree is a beloved holiday tradition. For many of us, it is one which goes back generations. For others, it is a brand-new experience we’re looking forward to building on. Whatever the case, you will be pleased to know that many of our tree farms here in York Durham Headwaters will be open this season despite COVID-19 affecting the way we live, work and play. While they have had to modify certain features to meet health and safety requirements, they’re ready to welcome you for yet another year of outdoor cheer where you get to pick your perfect tree.
Of course, ‘perfect’ is a relative term. Some visitors like their trees tall and slender, others like them short and fluffy. Whatever your personal preference, we have a few tips for you, courtesy of Sarah Youmans of Spademan Tree Farm.
Why harvest your own tree?
From approximately the second-last weekend in November each year, visitors flock to this Port Perry farm to experience the thrill of choosing their very own tree. They come from all over Durham Region, and even as far as York and the Greater Toronto Area. Picking your own live tree is not just a transaction or a purchase. It’s an opportunity to spend time with your loved ones, outdoor in the crisp winter air. It’s about enjoying your surroundings and doing something that puts you in the mood for the holidays. It’s about building on your cherished traditions, or creating new ones.
“We aren’t in the business of selling trees,” Sarah says. “We are in the business of making memories. I think it’s important, especially in these days, that you keep your friends and family close and do things with the ones you love. Something like this for such a special holiday is a great way to get outside and socialize at a safe distance.” To that end, Sarah and her team are enthusiastic about opening, despite COVID-19 and the challenges it has brought to their operations.
If you will be harvesting your own tree this holiday season, here are Sarah’s top tips to keep in mind.
1. Know your trees
Believe it or not, there are differences between the various species of trees we put up in our homes. There is no one variety called “Christmas Tree.” Before you venture out, it is best to know what these differences are. At Spademan Tree Farm, you will find both white and blue spruce. The latter of these varieties is popular for its bluish hue and short, prickly needles. White pine, which Spademan also grows, is quite different from spruce, as easily identified by its long, soft needles. “They look like a big, fluffy tree,” Sarah says. Fraser and Balsam firs, other Spademan varieties, are prized for their needle retention. You will still have some droppage, but there will not be as much. Knowing which tree you prefer is not just about the look. It is also about how long you expect it to last, and how much care you are prepared to put into maintaining it.
2. Measure your space
So you’ve made it to the farm. You gaze out over vast expanses of Christmas trees, all waiting to be picked so they can bring joy to their new family. But a tree out in the field is not the same as one inside your home. “It can be quite deceiving, the size of the tree in the field,” Sarah points out. “Once you get it in your house and put it in the stand, a six-foot tree gets pretty big.” To make sure you choose the right size of tree, Sarah and her team suggest that you know your space. Do you have tall ceilings that can accommodate a greater height? Is your space narrow, requiring a slender tree? If in doubt, measure your space beforehand, and bring a tape measure with you. “The last thing you want to do is get your tree home and find out you’ve got a situation like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” Sarah laughs.
3. Water, water, water!
There is nothing more disappointing than finding your perfect tree, only to have it die on you a week or two after bringing it home. Water is the key to making your tree last, so be prepared to ensure the reservoir is always full. But one important fact that many people don’t know—especially if they are new to buying a live tree—is that you must give the trunk a fresh cut before putting it in the stand. A freshly cut tree will absorb water beautifully. A tree that has been sitting around for a few hours on the other hand, or even a few days (as is the case with pre-cut trees or if you are not ready to put your tree up right away), will not because the sap in the trunk will harden. Generally, an inch is the recommended amount to cut off. “If your tree is watered and given a fresh cut, it should last up to six weeks and sometimes even longer,” Sarah states.
- Dress for the weather. Spending time outdoors in winter can get cold. This seems like an obvious statement, but it is surprisingly common for visitors to come dressed in fashionable coats that aren’t warm enough. Many forget their mittens and hats, and many are wearing shoes that are inappropriate. Remember: ballerina flats and mucky ground do not an enjoyable experience make! (Nor do canvas sneakers or high heels or sandals or roller-skate shoes… etc. etc.)
- Consider bringing your own saw. Spademan Tree Farm provides saws for their visitors and sanitizes them after each use. But depending on how many visitors there are when you arrive, you may find yourself having to wait for one to become available. Bringing your own saw is not only allowed but encouraged. Of note, no motorized chain saws are allowed. Hand-held saws and sweat equity only, please.
- Determine ahead of time how you are going to bring your tree home. Do you have a trailer you can load your tree onto? Or a truck? If you are bringing your tree home on the roof of your car, make sure you bring some tie-down straps or bungee cords. Spademan Tree Farm does not supply these items (although if you are in a pinch, they have twine available).
Enjoy the video below from Elliot Tree Farm!
Spademan Tree Farm
545 Regional Road 21, Port Perry
Story by Katherine Ryalen