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As Turkey Time Ends, Tree Time Begins

The Thanksgiving turkey is barely cleared off the table when many Georgians bring in the
Christmas tree.

"Live Christmas trees have an attractiveness, fragrance and tradition that can't be matched with
artificial substitutes," said Dave Moorhead, an Extension Service forester with the University of
Georgia D.B. Warnell School of Forest Resources.

Jim Lindquist, owner of Lindquist Christmas Tree Farm in Senoia and president of the Georgia
Christmas Tree Association, says the average cost of a pine this year will be $20 to $25.

"Leyland cypresses will probably be $30 to $35 for an average 6- to 7-foot tree," he said. "And
the imports like Fraser firs will be more, because you have to figure in transportation costs."

Moorhead said Georgia farmers provide about a third of the more than 1 million trees Georgia
families buy for their holiday decorating. Most Georgia farms sell choose-and-cut trees. Prices
vary from $2 to $7 per foot.

"Whether you select your live Christmas tree from a retail lot or cut your own at a farm, follow
basic guidelines to make sure you're getting a good tree," he said.

"Tree shape, height and foliage characteristics are important features to consider when you select
the tree," he said.

* Check the height of the ceiling in the room where you will display your tree. Select a tree at
least one foot shorter than the ceiling height.

* Gently pull along the needles for the length of a branch. They should bend but not break or fall
off.

* Shake or bounce the tree to be sure the needles are firmly attached. If the tree is fresh, few
needles should fall off. Some loss of needles inside the tree is common.

* Avoid trees that look wilted.

* Make sure the handle of the tree (the remaining trunk) is straight. The handle must be 6 to 8
inches long to stay in a stand.

* Check for insects and dead needles inside the top of the tree. Have dead needles shaken or
blown out when you buy the tree.

If you don't realize your tree has insects until you get it home, try to shake them off by bouncing
the tree on the ground. You can spray the tree with an indoor-outdoor aerosol insecticide that
contains Pyrethrin before taking it inside.

If you don't see the insects until the tree is inside your home, spray it with an indoor-approved
aerosol insecticide. Carefully follow the label directions.

"You'll know you have insects in your tree if sticky drops appear on the floor and on the presents
around your tree," Moorhead said.

If you don't plan to put your tree up right away, cut 1 inch off the base, put the tree in a bucket of
water and stand it in a shady place.

"When you do bring the tree indoors, cut another one-half to 1 inch off the base of the trunk,"
Moorhead said. "And put it in a tree stand that holds at least one gallon of water."

Never place a tree near a fireplace, heater vent or any heat source. And always keep the tree
well-watered.

"Check the water level in the stand several times each day," Moorhead said. "Trees can use
several quarts of water every day. And you never want the water level to fall below the base of
the tree."

If the water level does get below the base, the cut end can seal over and prevent the tree from
taking in water.

Over the years, all sorts of gimmicks have been concocted to make a tree last longer. Don't
bother.

"Adding aspirin, soda water, bleach or sugar to the water in the tree stand," Moorhead said, "is
no more effective in keeping the tree fresh than adding just plain water each day."

(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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