How to Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree

Here are some tips for participating in a classic holiday tradition.

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Time

A few hours

Complexity

Beginner

Cost

$50 -120

Introduction

Cutting down your own Christmas tree is a joyous holiday tradition. It’s the perfect opportunity to get outdoors for a fresh air adventure and to connect with nature. There is no better way to kick off the holiday season with friends and family.

Some might think it’s not good for nature and the environment, but really, it’s OK. Artificial trees are convenient but typically last less than a decade before going to the landfill. A real tree can usually be found on a local tree farm where it provides natural wildlife habitat and clean air, and prevents soil erosion. They grow for an average of eight years before being harvested. Completely biodegradable and recyclable, they have far less impact on the environment than an artificial tree.

Some state and national forests do allow cutting for Christmas trees. If you decide to go for this full-on outdoor experience, be sure to check on regulations and possible permits.

Tools Required

  • Hand saw
  • Tarp or drop cloth

Materials Required

  • Twine or rope

Project step-by-step (7)

Step 1

Before You Leave the House

  • Find a tape measure and note the dimensions of the space where you want your Christmas tree.
    • Pro Tip: The height and width of the intended space inside your home are important, but also consider the measurements of doorways and passageways leading to it. Be sure to bring that tape measure with you when you venture out to cut your tree.
  • Most tree farms provide a saw to cut down the tree and twine to tie it to the top of the car to transport home. But if you have a favorite saw and some twine, rope, or tie-downs on hand, throw them in the car just in case.
    • Note: Also, not a bad idea to grab a tarp or heavy drop cloth. It can be handy for safely dragging the tree to your car and/or lining the inside of your vehicle if the tree will fit in your car.
  • Lastly, check the weather. Dress appropriately and grab some gloves. It’ll likely be cold and possibly wet out there, and you don’t want to let that spoil your fun.

Step 2

Decide on What Type of Tree

  • Tree farms these days feature lots of Christmas tree species. It helps to do some research and have an idea of what type of tree you’re looking for. That decision can be based on the look, cost, quality and supply of the species.
    • Note: The more popular species are Balsam, Scotch pine, and Frazier Fir, but don’t overlook lesser-known species. It helps to ask someone at the tree farm what’s best and most available. Most farms should have a map of the location of each species. So get a lay of the land, do a walk-through and select several candidates before cutting.
      • Pro Tip: Be aware that people often come and pre-tag their trees earlier in the fall. If you show up shortly before the holiday, there may well be less to choose from.

Step 3

Check for Height, Health and Fullness

  • Once you find a potential tree, measure it up to be sure it will fit in your house. Be sure to factor in the height of your tree stand.
  • Then check to see if the tree is healthy. Look for bald spots, brown patches or dead limbs.
    • Note: It’s nice to have a tree full in appearance, but if it’s not perfect in this regard, remember you can always put a lesser side of the tree against a wall in your home.
  • Lastly, before cutting, check to see there are no birds’ nests or other critters in the tree.

Step 4

Cutting

  • When cutting the tree, do it close to the ground. This can allow for another tree to potentially sprout from the stump.
    • Note: This also makes less work for the tree farmer when he grinds the stump to make space for a seedling.
  • When you start cutting, it helps to have someone pull the tree slightly from the opposite side. This prevents your blade from binding as you work your way through the tree. When you are near the end of your cut, have that person hold the tree up so it doesn’t tip over. This allows a clean finishing cut without tearing or splintering the bark.
  • Give the tree a shake so any loose debris falls out. If there is fresh snow on the ground, you can drag the tree out with little damage.
    • Note: Otherwise you can carry it, or drag it on a tarp or a provided cart or sled.
Be careful not to damage branches as you make your way back to the car.

Step 5

Bringing it Home

  • Many tree farms will shake, bag and tie your tree to the roof of your car. But if not, keep these things in mind:
    • Face the stump forward so the tree isn't wind damaged on the trip home.
    • Thread tie downs or rope through branches to make contact with the trunk and better hold the tree.
    • If you can fit it in the car, lay out a tarp or blanket to catch the needles.

Step 6

Once Home

  • If your tree is wrapped up in netting, keep it that way to make it easier getting it into the house.
    • Pro Tip: If you’re not putting it up immediately, store it outside; the cold will help preserve it.
  • Once you bring it in, give the stump a fresh cut before putting it in the stand. (Less than one inch will do.) This will maximize its ability to draw water.
  • Most importantly, keep it watered daily. This is the only way to keep your tree fresh.
    • Pro Tip: Check humidity in the house and make sure it’s not too dry. Try to keep the tree away from heat supply vents, radiators and other heat sources that will dry it out. It's always best to place it on an outside wall and window where it’s slightly cooler.

Step 7

Preserve the Experience