Controlling Moisture Loss in Christmas Trees
A freshly cut Christmas tree can lose over half the water it contains in one day of neglect. That's one day exposed to sun and wind. In a few days of dry conditions, a tree can easily go from being fresh to...FRIED! Living trees are perishable. Dry trees lose color, branches stiffen, needles shed, and foliage can sun-scald. Any loss of moisture without the means of replenishing water degrades tree freshness. With average care, any single day might not be stressful enough to fully sap freshness, but water losses are cumulative. At some point, your trees will lose the ability to easily take up water and your customer's experience with the product will be compromised.
The principles of keeping trees fresh are straight-forward – keep trees cool, shaded and moist. Making that happen on retail lots can be difficult. But if chain store lots that handle 8,000 trees can put good tree care practices into place, independent retailers should be able to meet or exceed the care provided by mass merchants.
Any practice that protects trees from drying can make a difference. Shade can be provided by a tent, trees, or from the north side of a building. Water can be provided using saturated mulch, a shallow pool, a tree stand, or hand watering. Wind can be blocked by a fence, shade cloth, tent walls, or a stand of trees. Remember, the trees at the edge of a pile will suffer greater exposure and greater moisture losses than the average tree in the middle.
The freshness of your products depends on the care you provide. You make the choice to add, maintain, or subtract water from the trees on your lot. You either make it a priority with your staff or not. Your competition can also choose to make it a priority. You may use tree quality as a way to distinguish yourself from the competition, but keep in mind that freshness cuts across all grades of tree. Consumers will have a better experience with a fresh #2 tree than with a dry premium. Savvy consumers will look for fresh trees and the signs that you are taking steps to keep your trees fresh.
Consider your retail lot in light of good and bad examples listed in the table below. Moisture loss percentages are theoretical and could be much greater for any single stage or practice.