The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of Christmas tree sales in Oregon this year, according to Oregon State University Extension’s Christmas tree specialist.
Supply should still be adequate — even better than the last few years – but some U-cut farms will bow out this year, said Chal Landgren, a professor in OSU’s College of Forestry at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora.
“There will be some U-cut farms that don’t open,” Landgren said. “Some U-cuts will go by reservation. But there should be plenty of trees for the holidays.”
Oregon leads the nation in Christmas tree production. But in recent years, drought and a shortage of seedlings caused a situation where demand outstripped supply, Landgren said. Because of the pandemic, however, tree farms have had to change the way they work.
Although it’s a seasonal item, Christmas tree production is a year-round operation. As late as March, tree farms had multiple workers traveling together in a single vehicle. That ended with pandemic restrictions and protocols that slowed down the work.
Landgren points to the NW Christmas Trees site, which features an extensive list of U-cut farms and contact information so that visitors can call ahead to see if they are open.
Landgren offers some tips for those who will be buying a natural tree this year.
- To tell if a tree is fresh, look at the base to see if the needles are firmly attached.
- Run your hand over a branch to see if needles are dry and break off easily.
- Branches should be flexible. Shake a branch to see if it moves easily. Check the smallest branches, which dry out first.
- If it’s been more than an hour since you cut the tree, cut a little slice off the base. If it will be a few days since you brought the tree home, slice off the base and keep it in a bucket of water.
- Use a tree stand that’s appropriate for the size of the tree.
- It’s very important to keep your tree watered, Landgren said. Don’t let it dry out or it will start to lose needles. Don’t add anything to the water.
- Some trees will last longer than others. Nordmann, Turkish and Noble can last all of December if kept watered. Douglas-fir, which are less expensive and have a distinctive Christmas scent, don’t last as long,
- Don’t put the tree near any heat source.