Christmas tree harvesting does not upset the ecology.
We may not be dashing through the woods in a one-horse open sleigh, but we can still have a fresh cut Christmas tree in Florida.
The family tradition of going to the forest, picking out a tree and cutting it down is still available to us.
Besides making memories while having a fun family outing, there are some other good reasons to choose a live Christmas tree. A single farmed tree absorbs more than a ton of carbon dioxide throughout its lifespan. With as many as 350 million Christmas trees growing on 500,000 acres of farmland across the United states, that can add up to 350 million tons of sequestered carbon dioxide. One acre of these trees provides enough daily oxygen for 18 people. That is enough oxygen for 9 million people! Add to this the space and habitat they provide for all kinds of critters and live trees are a sweet deal.
There are two tree farms close to Pinellas County: Ergle Christmas Tree Farm and Lazy Lay Acres, both in Dade City. You can get details at www.flchristmastrees.com/Index.htm
Christmas tree harvesting does not upset the ecology. It is the rule of thumb for tree farmers to plant two to three trees for every one that is cut. That means for the 33 million trees harvested, about 99 million will be planted this spring.
Real trees also can be recycled and this is a leading reason why many experts agree they are more environmentally friendly than their plastic counterparts. Trees can be recycled into mulch and used in landscaping and gardening, or chipped and used for hiking trails, paths and walkways. They also can be used for erosion prevention, lake and river shoreline stabilization, and fish and wildlife habitat. About 33 million real Christmas trees are sold in North America every year and about 93 percent of those are recycled.
Fresh trees also hold onto their needles, have a good fragrance, green color and will retain their moisture content. Moist trees are less likely to catch fire than dry or artificial trees. Keep your tree watered and away from heat sources which can dry it out or cause it to catch fire.
According to the National Christmas Tree Association, this industry provides more than 100,000 Americans with jobs, which is good for our economy.
If you feel badly about cutting down a tree, you might want to consider purchasing a potted tree for Christmas. Southern red cedar is a good traditional tree choice. Here are some non-traditional trees that would do well in our area landscape after the holidays (as long as they fit your site conditions): Dahoon holly, wax myrtle, myrsine and marlberry.
When you get a cut tree home, recut the stump at an angle (more surface area to absorb more water) and put it in a bucket of fresh water. Keep it in a cool, shady spot until it is time to decorate. Replenish water in the bucket often because trees can soak up a quart or more a day. When you bring the tree inside, cut the stem flush about two inches above the original cut so it will fit in the tree stand. Remember to give your tree a drink of water every day to keep it fresh and moist.
The Pinellas County Extension Service is just a phone call or visit away. We are located at 12520 Ulmerton Road, Largo, next to the Florida Botanical Gardens and are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. To speak with a horticulturist at our Lawn and Garden Help Desk call 727-582-2110 Monday, Tuesday or Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. You also can visit our website at www.pinellascountyextension.org.
Jane Morse, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Pinellas County Extension.