While driving down the dirt lanes of the Sorghum Mill Christmas Tree & Blackberry Farm in Edmond on a four-wheeler, it's hard not to get into the spirit of the season. Evergreens rise up on all sides, whispering in the winds to be chosen. With acres of trees and a growing time of three to six years, there are thousands to pick from, in all sizes and pine varieties.
"The trees love Oklahoma's heat as long as they get plenty of water," said John Knight, the owner of Sorghum Mill, 7121 Midwest Lane.
This time of year, they get plenty of attention, too. Families flock to the tree farm with their cameras in tow to capture the holiday tradition of selecting just the right tree, while sipping apple cider and hot cocoa. It's a nostalgic, and even romantic, occasion that can't be duplicated by pulling the artificial tree out of the attic and dusting it off.
With the sustainability movement growing in popularity, green is the way to go for eco-friendly families. A fresh tree comes from the earth and returns to the earth as mulch, once recycled.
Fresh trees also provide an economic boost for the hourly workers and college students employed by the tree farms. On a recent visit, several burly men were busy unloading trees, tagging and prepping the farm for the holiday rush.
Beginning in November, families can pre-tag their tree, saving it for cutting and taking it home anytime after Thanksgiving. Often families mark their trees with a ribbon or ornaments. The day after Thanksgiving, Sorghum and the other 21 tree farms spread across 16 counties in the Oklahoma Christmas Tree Association open for business.
Trees come in two varieties: choose-and-cut or pre-cut. Sorghum Mill offers both. Knight brings his pre-cut trees in from Oregon and North Carolina, including four types of firs. The massive, majestic fir tree is a popular pre-cut choice, but can top 250 pounds for a 10-foot tree.
Once the tree is selected, the staff preps it: shaking the needles, sending it through a table baler and drilling holes in the bottom so it can drink up water. They wrap it, tie it and put it on the car or in the trunk. Stands of all sizes are also available for purchase, or they are available at most hardware retailers.
While you're at the farm, don't forget fresh wreaths, garland, door swags and mantle pieces. Most Oklahoma tree farms provide other types of greenery.
If you need assistance decorating your new tree and hanging those boughs of holly and holiday lights, several local businesses can help, including lawn companies like Evergreen Landscaping, owned by Jacob Vorderlandwehr.
"Safety is important," he said. "Falls are the No. 1 reason people visit the emergency room. If you're hiring a contractor to do the work, make sure they are licensed and insured, since hanging lights in trees and on roofs can be dangerous."
Vorderlandwehr is seeing an increase in the number of clients requesting LED lights, which are more energy-efficient, brighter and longer lasting.
For recycling that fresh tree at the end of the holidays, check with local recycling centers. Knight invites his customers to return their used trees to his farm where he'll chip it into mulch for his grounds. "Malena Lott
Keeping it green
As a fresh tree newbie, my greatest fear was killing the tree long before Santa sweeps down the chimney. Knight offered these tips on ensuring longevity:
Place it in water immediately upon returning home.
Water it daily and never let it run out of water or the tree will form a new seal and begin to die. If you have pets, be sure they aren't drinking all the water in the bucket. Refill daily. Some trees can drink up to a gallon a day.
Do not place it in direct sunlight, especially from the west.
Do not place it near a fireplace if you plan on using the fireplace.
Do not place it near a vent.
Do not keep your house above 68 degrees. The optimum room temperature for the tree is 66 to 68 degrees.
Metro tree farms
7121 Midwest Lane, Edmond
Coffee Creek Christmas Tree Farm
13899 E. Coffee Creek Road, Arcadia
All Pine Products
2205 S. Mustang Road, Yukon
Goddard Tree Farm
1509 48th Ave. N.E., Norman
See the full listings of Oklahoma tree farms, including maps, hours and more tree tips at www.okchristmastrees.com.