By Nick Austin
Eyewitness News

CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB-TV)--Even though Tennessee Valley residents haven't carved their Thanksgiving turkeys yet, Christmas is on many of their minds, and what's Christmas without the perfect tree?

McDowell's Big Fork Nursery on Suck Creek Mountain is one farm whose tree crop has not been hurt by the lack of rain the past several months.  What owner Burnie McDowell's trees needed was a cooperative spring season, and he got just that.  Workers on his 200 acre layout have already started prepping Christmas trees for sale, the sounds of electric trimmers filling the air.

"We've got about 150,000 trees," says McDowell.  Choices on his land include blue spruces, white pines, hemlocks, and Norways.

He says even though there are still two weeks until Thanksgiving, it's not too early to buy a tree that's just right for you as long as it's harvested a certain way.

"If I was to buy a Christmas tree right now, I'd buy a 'balled-in-burlap' tree," says McDowell.  That means the tree is dug out of the ground rather than cut at the base.

"If you go back to cutting a tree, I would suggest they wait closer to Christmas," explains McDowell. 

This is because a cut tree needs constant nourishment in the form of water, so painstaking maintenance is required.  A cut tree purchased closer to the holiday will last three to four weeks without babysitting.  However, a 'balled-in-burlap' dug tree will last almost forever.

If you decide to buy early, let your eyes be your guide to finding the tree that will be the envy of your neighborhood.  "I want it to be a dark color, and then I like a single stalk in the top," says McDowell.  "I'd want the tree to be well-manicured at the ground."

McDowell also says that most retailers in the area won't have live trees until late in the month.  So your best bet for an early buy is a local tree farm.