Christmas Tree Learn how to buy a real Christmas tree with these easy tips. Photo: Reuters

It’s that time of year, when you and your family wrestle with the question of whether to go with a real or artificial Christmas tree. 

While cutting down trees may not sound like the most environmentally healthy thing to do, Home Depot notes that, thanks to the numerous farms dedicated to planting these trees, a real tree is made of more renewable materials than a fake one. Unfortunately, the convenience of going fake is still tempting. To help those on the cusp this holiday season, below are some tips to purchase your family the best real tree this season.

Measure Everything

It isn’t even worth going to a tree farm if you’re just going to try to eyeball what you need. Consider the height of the room and the width of the space you’re working with, and bring a tape measure with you. You can rule out a lot in an otherwise daunting stock of trees just by knowing what it is you want.

Sooner Is Better Than Later

The best time to buy a real Christmas tree is immediately after Thanksgiving. There are plenty of trees in the United States, so not all of them are gone. However, the longer you wait, the fewer quality trees there are. If you’re unsure where to buy a decent one, the National Christmas Tree Association has developed a tracker to help you find the best farms in your area.

What Type Do You Want?

There are many tree species that people label “Christmas trees.” Three of the most common are Scotch pines, Douglas firs and Fraser firs. As for which is best, it’s really a matter of personal preference. One good way to decide is to look at your decorations. If you prefer an ornament-heavy tree, the firs are much easier to decorate. Pines are better suited for hanging tinsel and garland. Make sure you’re aware of what kind of tree you’re being sold.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Its Age

This thing has to last though the holiday season. Obviously, freshly cut trees are better than ones that have been sitting around. Ask someone who works at your local tree farm when the trees were harvested. Eliminate options from oldest to newest. Trees typically last four to six weeks.

Checking For Health

You don’t have to be a tree expert to be able to tell when one isn’t worth your time. Give every option a good shake and look for falling needles. If an excessive amount of needles fall off, Home Depot notes that you’re better off moving on to something else. Additionally, you can determine if the tree is well hydrated by checking the outer branches. If they are brittle and snap easily, that’s a tree you should walk away from.

Once It’s Home

According to the Guardian, the work isn’t done once you unhook the well-measured and healthy tree from your car. The outlet suggests keeping the tree standing in water outdoors in a cold, shaded place for one day. Trees can dry out very easily if exposed to too much wind or sunlight. Before setting it in its place for the season, Perdue University's forestry site advises cutting a half-inch off the bottom of the trunk to open its pores. Set it in a stand of water and keep it topped off daily.

Safety First (Real Or Fake Tree)

Don’t become one of the many Christmas tree fire-related incidents this season. Keep your tree away from heat sources and check the lights for damage. It never hurts to keep a fire extinguisher nearby. After all, these things are known to light up like a -- well, you know.