KITCHENER -- Local tree farms are warning people to come early if they want to get a real tree for the holiday season.

They'll be a hot ticket item for Christmas 2020.

Gerard Demaiter, owner and manager of Benjamin Tree Farm, said people showed up to buy a tree while they were still setting up for this year's sales.

"This year we did expect a lot of people to be in the holiday season," he said. "There's no vacations, everybody's at home, everybody is looking forward to something they can really do and enjoy."

Picking out your own tree can still be special, even in the time of COVID-19. Demaiter said people will be asked to physically distance while browsing the trees.

He said they also bought about $2,000 worth of hand sanitizer and hired more staff to serve treats safely.

Saws are sanitized, or people can bring their own.

Tree farms are warning about potential shortages this year, attributing them to decisions made a decade ago during an economic recession. It takes 10 to 12 years to grow a Christmas tree.

"We have less trees than normal," said Peter Williams, manager of Madeira Farms.

Madeira Farms in Rockwood opens at the end of November and Williams said people shouldn't dawdle.

"If it's an essential part of your holiday, I'd plan to come as early as makes sense," he said.

They're encouraging touchless payment and also plan to be open more afternoons this year to spread out crowds.

Demaiter has a simple tip for anyone buying a real Christmas tree this year: make sure it's getting plenty of water.

"A lot of trees will drink all the water overnight and in the morning the tree stand is empty," he said. "That gives it time for the tree to dry out."

He added people should make sure their tree stand holds plenty of water and never dries out.

Anyone buying a tree now should consider a longer lasting option.

"If you're looking to get an early tree to enjoy the season longer, definitely going to a Fraser fir would be worth the upgrade," Demaiter said.