NDSU Extension - Traill County


| Share

Traill County Extension

Home page of NDSU Extension Service - Traill County

Soil field Day


Christmas Tree with Fireplace

Real Versus Artificial Christmas Trees - Let the Fir Fly

As Thanksgiving has passed we are all getting ready to, if we haven’t already, set up our Christmas trees! Some families have the tradition of going out and getting a real tree every year; my family has had the same artificial tree for the last twenty years. This year was the first I have had my own Christmas tree and I am so excited to decorate it!

The following was written by Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension Horticulturist.

I chuckle whenever I’m reminded of the origins of America’s artificial Christmas trees. They were invented when a toilet bowl brush manufacturer created a tree from brush bristles in the 1930’s. I guess when an artificial tree eventually loses it‘s holiday luster, the branches can be repurposed for bathroom cleaning.

Real and non-real Christmas tree enthusiasts both have legitimate reasons for their choice. When my wife, Mary, and I sold Christmas trees we heard many stories opposing real trees. Fluffy always tipped over real trees as she climbed inside the branches. Little toddler Dexter might chew on its branches. Some couples needed a marriage counselor on call, as they attempted jointly to stabilize a real tree upright in its stand.

What about the environmental impact? Isn’t it a shame to cut all those trees for just a few weeks of indoor enjoyment? Christmas trees are planted purposely as a crop. We needn’t weep over their harvest any more than we’d weep over the cutting of wheat to make bread. They aren’t pillaged from native forests.

There are 12,000 Christmas tree growers in the United States growing 400 million trees. The trees purify the air and groundwater, stabilize soil and provide home for wildlife. As trees reach harvest size, replacements are planted.

Real trees aren’t 100 percent environmentally-friendly. Pesticides are often used. Cultivation requires tractor fuel. Trucks burn gas hauling trees to market. Even cut-your-own tree operations require fuel consumption as buyers drive to the tree farm. And of course, a new tree must be purchased every year.

Artificial trees, on the other hand, are used for an average of 6 or more Christmases by Americans. Their environmental toll includes shipping on diesel freighters from coal-fired Chinese factories, where 80 percent are made. Their polyvinyl chloride plastic is non-biodegradable in the eventual landfill.

So which scores best environmentally? There’s discrepancy in data, especially since the manufacture of most artificial trees is in China.

There’s a break-even point in the discussion. Most sources conclude that real trees leave a smaller carbon footprint than artificial trees, unless the artificials are used for at least 9 years, possibly longer (some sources indicate up to 20 years.) When kept for between 9 and 20 years, artificial trees result in a lower carbon footprint than purchasing real trees year after year.

Real Tree Types.
1. Fraser fir is the national favorite. They’re full, symmetrical, straight-trunked and can last from late November through New Year’s Day.

2. Balsam fir is lighter green in color with needles arranged flatly along branches. Perhaps the most fragrant tree, they’ll remain fresh three weeks indoors, sometimes longer.

3. Noble fir is much like Fraser in longevity, but looks almost like Colorado spruce, but softer.

4. White pine has a distinctive soft look with needles about four inches long. It’s flexible branches necessitate decorating with lightweight ornaments.

5. Scotch pine is usually less expensive than the others. Three inch needles tend to be prickly. Watch carefully for crooked trunks.

How to Choose a Fresh Tree.
1. The freshest trees will feel moist and pliable. Branch ends should bend without breaking, unless temperatures are cold. Branches of frozen trees are often brittle, which makes determining freshness more difficult.

2. Fresh trees are heavy for their height. Dry trees are light.

3. Previous year’s old brown needles on the tree’s interior don’t necessarily mean the tree is dry. It’s normal, and they’re often shaken out by the retailer as they prepare trees for sale.

4. Green, current season’s needles shouldn’t be dry and shedding. But even fresh fir trees will drop some needles if jostled.

Care at home.
1. Cut an inch from the base and place in water as soon as possible. Water-absorbing pores begin to close when they‘re exposed to air

2. What to add to the water? Home remedies like aspirin, vodka, 7Up, vinegar, sugar and bleach can do more harm than good, as proven by exhaustive research. Plenty of water, either warm or cold is the best recommendation. Commercial Christmas tree preservatives haven’t been verifiably proven to help, but I think they’re a good idea.

Dakota Gardener: Invite Songbirds to Your YardSong Birds

By Tom Kalb, Horticulturist NDSU Extension.

Would you like to get closer to nature? Put up a bird feeder.

Birds are wonderful to watch, especially in winter. Our feathered friends provide bright flashes of color, wonderful songs and curious movements. It’s a fun activity for everyone in the family.

Now is the time to take action. The weather is getting cold outside and birds are looking for a place to stay warm. Here are a few tips:

Provide good food. This is the most critical factor. Birds won’t visit your station if they do not like the food you offer. Black-oil sunflower and white proso millet seeds are highly desired by most birds. These seeds are rich in calories, which birds need to stay warm, and provide the best value.

Cracked corn and safflower seeds are useful additions to a seed mix.

Niger thistle is preferred by goldfinches and house finches. Blue jays love peanuts.

Avoid seed mixes with wheat, millet, oats and rice. Birds pick through these inexpensive mixes, making a mess on the ground below.

Feeding songbirds can get expensive. Make a commitment to feed birds all winter or don’t feed them at all. Birds are especially vulnerable to hunger in late winter, when food sources in nature are most lacking. Buy seed in bulk to save money.

Get a variety of feeder boxes. A traditional wooden feeder mounted on a pole will attract most birds. This feeder typically has a wooden roof and a clear plastic hopper that sits upon a shelf used by hungry birds for perching. The seeds drop down to the birds by gravity. This popular feeder is the best feeder to select if you use only one.

You can attract a wider variety of birds by adding other feeders. Nylon-covered wire cages filled with suet will attract woodpeckers and chickadees. Hanging tube feeders will attract finches.

Keep it safe. Birds won’t come to your station if they feel it is a dangerous place. Mount your feeders at least 5 feet high to discourage cats and other predators. Some type of cover, such as trees or shrubs, should be within 5 feet. This cover will provide a place of sanctuary for birds when threatened by predators.

Get a front-row seat. Place the feeder near a window where you can sit comfortably and watch the birds.

Millions of birds die from flying into windows every year. Place the feeder within 3 feet of a window or more than 30 feet away from a window. Birds that strike a window from a short distance are less likely to get harmed.

Give them water. All creatures need water to survive. Choose a bath with a rough surface and gentle slope, and one that is no more than 2 to 3 inches deep. Add branches or stones that emerge from the water to let birds drink without getting wet. Keep the bath full. Thermostatically controlled heaters will keep water from freezing.

Invite songbirds to your yard this winter. You and the birds will feel warm and happy.

To learn more about establishing a successful bird feeding station, go to https://feederwatch.org.

What kind of birds are you looking to attract?

Traill County Courthouse


NDSU Extension/Traill County
114 Caledonia Ave. W.
Box 730 (mailing address)
Hillsboro, ND 58045
Phone:  701-636-5665   
Fax: 701-636-5666

Office Hours:
8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday
Summer Office Hours:
(Memorial Day - Labor Day)
7 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.,  Monday-Thursday
8 a.m. - Noon, Friday

Related Links:
NDSU Extension
North Dakota Department of Agriculture

Traill County
City of Hillsboro
Cities of Mayville-Portland
City of Hatton

Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.