Pining for Christmas

From tagging to recycling, your guide to bringing home a live tree


We go to Nagetuck Tree Farm in Tiverton. Always the day after Thanksgiving. The usual adventure starts, for us, with a walk to the fields. There is a hay wagon ride but save that for later. We walk up and down the rows looking for our "perfect tree.” It has to be around seven feet tall and just as round, very full. We bring bows with us to mark potential trees. After we find the tree, the tree is tagged with our information and we head back to the office to pay and set our pickup date. The trip back is usually the hayride. By the time we get back to the office we have rosy cheeks and a bit of a chill. We get either warm cider or hot chocolate. There is a wood stove and popcorn. They also have a gift shop with handmade ornaments and they also sell wreaths. The part I like best is the petting zoo! For us it's the Christmas season.

-Lorraine Miranda

Like the Miranda family, many families visit a farm once or twice each holiday season to secure a live tree for Christmas. According to the Rhode Island Christmas Tree Growers Association, Christmas trees are an important part of the state’s agricultural industry. Whether you decide to tag, cut, or visit a pop-up lot, here is a list of some handy things to know.

Tag, you’re it!
Offered by some Christmas tree farms, tagging or pre-tagging is when you visit during fall and are led to the lot of living trees and can designate the one you wish to have cut down for you at a later time. Tagging season varies from farm to farm and can begin in October or November. The return visit happens after Thanksgiving. As excited as you are to bring your tree home, you don’t want to risk it drying out before Christmas Day.

Scratch and sniff
In Rhode Island, different growers specialize in different varieties. This breakdown can help you find what you’re looking for in a tree:

Anybody there?
Before visiting a farm, it is best to call ahead for details such as hours, are credit cards accepted, and are there public restrooms. Many farms are also on social media, so check for recent updates and special activities, like hayrides or baked goods.

Shaken not stirred
You may want to ask for your fresh cut tree to be shaken to make sure you’re not bringing home a surprise pet, and request netting or baling, which is wrapping the tree for easier transport.

The big cover up
Consider bringing a blanket or plastic tarp along to protect the surface of your car’s roof. Also pack bungee cords, straps, and/or rope to secure the tree to your car’s rooftop.

Off the rack
Remember, you won’t have farmhands helping you take the tree off your car back at home – or lugging it up three flights of steps to your apartment – so be sure to enlist assistance from friends and neighbors ahead of time as needed.

Some farms provide a bow saw for customers to cut trees themselves. If you’re up to the challenge, bring a pair of heavy-duty work gloves and goggles.

Chop chop
Chances are the farm will do this for you without asking but be sure an inch is cut off of the bottom of any pre-cut tree or that a hole is drilled at the base, as this will allow the tree to take up water again and prolong freshness. Just like fresh flowers, you want the tree to be placed in water as soon as possible, even a bucket while you prep the stand.

Keep your cool
While the vision of a Christmas tree beside a fireplace might make for a nice greeting card image, you’ll want to keep your tree clear of any heat source to prevent premature drying.

Curb your enthusiasm
When you are ready to clean-up from the holidays, your tree can be recycled into mulch. Check your town website or the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation's website to get the pickup date. Before leaving your tree on the curb, remove any ornaments, hooks, and tinsel.

Christmas Tree Farms in Rhode Island
For a full list of farms, visit the Rhode Island Christmas Tree Growers Association.