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MSU expert offers tips for selecting, maintaining and recycling a real Michigan Christmas tree

Fraser fir, Scotch Pine, Blue Spruce and White Spruce are just a few of the tree varieties grown in Michigan and shipped across the Midwest, Texas and Florida each holiday season says MSU Christmas tree expert, Dr. Bert Cregg.  “And harvests start as early as late October.”

Cregg, a professor in the Departments of Horticulture and Forestry at Michigan State University, talks with Greening of the Great Lakes host, Kirk Heinze.

Although Michigan’s recent hot, dry summer had impacts on the evergreen tree population, Cregg is confident that producers’ coping strategies throughout the spring and late fall have ensured the large, diverse selection of trees consumers expect.

Warmer weather can make it easier for Christmas tree farmers to work, but it can also affect trees and their needle retention,” Cregg explains. “Growers are aware of this. They’ll typically harvest trees that hang on to their needles first and work their way to trees that may have some needle retention issues.”

“I think people should have a good experience no matter where they get their tree,” he confirms.

Aside from what producers can do, Cregg shares advice for how people can enjoy a vibrant, healthy tree throughout the holidays.

“The message we’re trying to convey this season is a three-step process of fresh tree, fresh cut and fresh water.”

Trees freshly cut from choose and cut farms will typically last longer, he says. However, there are also smart ways of selecting pre-cut trees.

“I do the pull test. I grab one of the shoots of the tree with my thumb and my forefinger and give a good tug on the branches - those needles should stay on,” he says.

After taking the tree home, Cregg advises cuttting another inch off the base so it can get the most water from the stand.

Lastly, keeping freshwater in the stand is important. The stand should be checked daily, and big enough to hold a quart of water per inch diameter of the tree.

When January comes, Cregg urges citizens to properly dispose of their tree and not let it end up in a landfill. Many communities have Christmas tree recycling programs with pickup and drop-off locations, he says. Recycled trees are often ground up and used as mulch in local parks.

For more information about farm locations, tree species and care visit the Michigan Christmas Tree Association.

Greening of the Great Lakes airs inside MSU Today Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on AM 870.

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