Choosing a Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree canva

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s that time again, when we move into the Holiday Season. Typically, Thanksgiving weekend is the time when people begin to put up their holiday displays in and around their homes. These displays almost always include a Christmas tree. Getting a fresh tree from a local farm is an enjoyable experience for the family to do together.

There are 25 Christmas tree farms in Nebraska. A few of these farms are located very near us in southeast Nebraska. To get a tree from a local tree farm you can visit: Pinecrest Tree Farm in Blue Springs, Kohout’s Christmas Trees near Dorchester, Walnut Grove Tree Farm in Raymond, or Prairie Woods in Hallam, to name a few. There are many other listed, to find a tree farm closest to you, visit the Nebraska Christmas Tree Growers Association online at:

When choosing your Christmas tree, choose one that suits your room size and desires of your family. Make sure that it will fit in the room you plan to place it in and that it won’t overtake the room. It might be a good idea to take a few measurements before leaving home. The most common tree species used for Christmas trees in Nebraska include:

  • Balsam Fir
  • Blue Spruce
  • Concolor Fir
  • Douglas-Fir
  • Fraser Fir
  • Scotch Pine
  • Eastern White Pine
Christmas tree farm, flickr, UGA College of Ag & Env
Flickr image courtesy of UGA College of Ag and Environmental Sciences-OCCS per CC license

It takes about 7 years for a Christmas tree farmer to grow his or her trees from seedlings to retail sale height, which is about 6 feet, according to the Nebraska Christmas Tree Growers Association. They also say that for every real Christmas tree harvested, 2-3 seedlings are planted in its place. This helps to ensure future years of tree sales and tree replacement is always a good practice.

Be sure to keep live trees watered throughout the holiday season. If they don’t have water they will dry out quickly and not look as fresh and beautiful. When you purchase a real Christmas tree, be sure to make a new cut on the trunk of the tree to open up the stem for water uptake. Christmas trees rarely, if ever, start fires in our homes, except in the famous National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, but they need to be watered to help them retain their color and keep your floor from getting too messy from fallen needles. Even if they don’t start fires, it is best to place your tree in your home away from fireplaces, air ducts, and televisions.

After the holiday season, it is best to recycle your Christmas tree. There are many ways to recycle your trees that give it better use than just taking it to the local landfill or burn pile. Many people take their trees out to local lakes to the areas designated for Christmas tree recycling. The trees are placed on the ice in the winter and when the ice melts in the spring, they fall into the lake for fish habitat. You can also chip your old tree and use it for mulch in your garden in the spring. These recycling methods will help you to enjoy your Christmas tree all year long.

Deer, Rabbits, Voles, Oh My!!

With November here, we can expect cooler temperatures and more interactions with wildlife. Often times these interactions are with the deer, rabbits, and voles chewing on our plants. These pests can cause a great deal of damage and can be controlled in our landscapes to protect our plants over the winter months.

My beautiful picture

Deer can really be a nuisance to plants in all seasons of the year. They can chew off the ends of small twigs and bucks can rub their antlers on smaller trees, injuring the bark. I get a lot of calls from people who want to know what the silver bullet is to reduce the amount of damage that deer do to our vegetable gardens and trees and shrubs each year. The sad truth is that there is no real cure for deer damage to our plants. Exclusion is going to have the biggest impact on deer damage to our plants

Deer Rub on Tree, Photo from USDA Forest Service - North Central Research Station , USDA Forest Service,
Deer Rub on Tree, Photo from USDA Forest Service – North Central Research Station , USDA Forest Service,

Excluding deer from our plants is sometimes a difficult task, but it can be done, in smaller areas, like around acreages. There are fences that can be utilized but they need to be at least 8 feet tall. Another type of fence that has proven quite effective is an electric fence that has small squares of aluminum foil coated with peanut butter, placed sporadically on the fence. This technique is used to eventually train the deer to stay away from the fence, even if the electricity is not turned on. This electric fence technique should not be used in an area where a child or a pet can get to the fence so that they do not get electrocuted. The commercial spray repellants available for deer are not effective.

Rabbit Protection Fence, Photo from Lancaster County Extension
Rabbit Protection Fence, Photo from Lancaster County Extension

Rabbits can also be quite a problem in areas where deer are a problem. Rabbits will chew on small plants. In the summer they chew many of our plants off at ground level, and in the winter months they gnaw on the thin bark of young trees to feed on the green inner bark areas. Rabbits can be excluded by surrounding a garden or landscape area with a low fence, at least 2 feet tall. Cylinders can be placed around young trees to reduce damage during the winter. Habitat modification is another good way to control rabbits, remove brush piles, debris, and other cover that rabbits prefer to live in during the winter. As with deer, the commercial spray repellants available for rabbits are not effective.

Vole damage, NebGuide
Vole Damage Photo from NebGuide “Controlling Vole Damage” by S. Vantassel, S. Hygnstrom, D. Ferraro

Voles are another species of wildlife that can do a great deal of damage to our plants in the winter months. If we receive enough snow cover, voles may feed on trees and shrubs, they will also gnaw on tree bark and roots, and potentially kill plants. To help prevent this, keep tall grass and weeds removed from around the trunk of trees and avoid mulch layers deeper than three inches. Placing hardware cloth around tree trunks will prevent vole feeding.