8 expert tips for safely chopping down your own Christmas tree

By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer

If you’re planning to visit a tree farm to cut down your own Christmas tree, being properly prepared will make the process much easier.

In the United States alone, you have more than 15,000 Christmas tree farms from which to choose, according to the University of Illinois.

Once you’ve narrowed down the location of your new Christmas tree, keep the following eight tips in mind during the entire tree-chopping process.

Chevy's Joe LaMuraglia secures tree to vehicle

Chevrolet's Joe LaMuraglia demonstrates the proper way to secure a Christmas tree to a vehicle's cross rails. (Photo/Weber Shandwick)

1. Be prepared for the outdoors

Experts recommend bundling up in warm clothing and wearing the appropriate footwear, including boots.

“You will be spending a considerate amount of time outdoors, because no one just goes and picks the first tree they see,” said Gena Lorainne, horticulturist and planting expert.

Keep your hands warm and free of tree sap with a good pair of gloves.

“Whether it’s snowing or wet outside, be sure to bring a piece of cardboard to kneel on while you cut your tree down,” said Chevrolet East Coast Communications Manager Joe LaMuraglia.

Most choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms will provide you with a saw to use.

2. Measure your space

You don’t want any surprises when it’s time to transport your tree home, so experts recommend properly measuring the space in your home as well as inside or on top of your vehicle.

This helps you choose the tree with the best fit for your space.

“There should be enough open space around the tree and for the star on top of it,” Lorainne said.

“Make sure that the trunk is straight and there will be a handle long enough to accommodate the tree stand,” she added.

3. Choose wisely

“Tree farms have a lot of options to choose from, so take your time and inspect the trees before you pick one out,” LaMuraglia said.

The National Christmas Tree Association recommends testing out the branches to make sure the tree isn’t too dry or unhealthy.

Run your hands through the branches to check for needles that easily fall off, which is a sign of a dry tree.

Branches that snap at the tips also indicate a tree that lacks moisture.

Musty odor, dull colors and wrinkled bark are telltale signs you should pick another tree, according to Lorainne.

4. Consider your decorations

“Think about what type of ornaments you intend to use,” Lorainne recommended. “Some Christmas trees have delicate branches, and they can snap easier if you put too many decorations on them.”

Experts recommend asking the tree farm’s attendants for more information on the different types of trees that might best suit your ornaments.

5. Cut your tree safely

To avoid the risk of injury, always ask for help with chopping down your tree if you’re unsure you can handle it yourself.

“[As you kneel on your cardboard,] cut your tree low to the ground and straight across,” LaMuraglia said.

“Have a buddy pull the tree slightly away from the side you’re cutting to prevent the saw from binding and to make it easier to cut all the way through,” he added.

6. Prepare for transportation

All trees should be put into netting or a sleeve for easy transport, LaMuraglia recommended.

He also advised ensuring the tree isn’t longer than the roof of your car once its wrapped up for a safe drive home.

If placing your tree on the roof of your car, always use cross rails that are properly installed.

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Place the stump end of your tree towards the front of your vehicle, LaMuraglia said.

“It’s the most aerodynamic and fuel-efficient way to transport your tree home,” he added.

If you’re placing your tree inside your vehicle, make sure you place a tarp inside the vehicle to provide a place for loose needles to fall.

7. Secure your tree

Experts recommend placing your tree directly over the cross rails, looping your twine over and around tightly in a figure-eight motion.

This will help protect the tree from moving around while you drive, according to LaMuraglia.

8. Water your tree

It’s essential to get your tree into water soon after it arrives in its new home.

Keep in mind to place the tree away from heat sources, including fireplaces or radiators, which can dry out the tree.

The tree will drink up a lot of water the first couple of days, so make sure to check on the water level throughout the season,” LaMuraglia said.

This ensures that you keep your Christmas tree alive and healthy throughout the holiday season, he said.

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