PICK A WINNER
Whether you’re at a farm or on a lot, look for trees that are lush without any brown branch tips. A trick to determine if the tree is fresh: Pick a few needles and bend each in half. Fir tree needles should snap cleanly; the fir is too dry if the needles arch without breaking. For pines, it’s the opposite—the needles should bend without snapping.
KEEP IT IN SHAPE
Many farms will shake your tree to remove loose needles and insects and then wrap it in twine for the ride home. When placing the tree on the top of your car, face the cut end toward the front so branches aren’t bent the wrong way during the drive.
RECUT AT HOME
Within a few hours of a fresh Christmas tree being chopped down, the trunk seals itself off, preventing water from passing through. Use a small handsaw to remove an additional two inches off the base, then place the tree in water.
CHECK WATER DAILY
Your tree is thirstier than you might think: In Sunset tests, a Douglas fir with a 41⁄2-inch trunk took up a gallon of water in its first 24 hours at home.