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Picking the perfect tree

Extension advice

POSTED: December 4, 2017 7:00 p.m.
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Ashley Hoppers is UGA Extension Service agent in Liberty County.

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Since last weekend, I have noticed peculiar things happening in Coastal Georgia. Seemingly overnight, trees and shrubs are now adorned with shining ornaments, lights and garlands.

The trees and streets also seem to glow and sparkle at night! To my cat’s satisfaction, one of these glowing trees has even made it into my home. Could this mean that the holiday season is upon us?

Given the clues, it does appear that Christmas is fast approaching. Not all of us celebrate holidays the same way, but many will be looking for the "perfect" Christmas tree. For those on hunt for the perfect tree, you may wonder what to look for.

There are many options when it comes to picking the tree that is just right for your house. As usual, the Liberty County Extension office is more than happy to answer where, how and what to look for in the perfect Christmas tree.

First, decide where you will put the tree. With this in mind, you will know what height you need and whether all four sides must be suitable for display. A tree that will be placed in a corner may actually only need three good sides. One will be hidden from view.

Check your tree stand before you go shopping. Will you need a new stand too? Some tree lots sell stands, as well. Whether you buy your stand or build one, be sure it can hold at least a gallon of water.

As for options, if you choose a live tree, you can either buy from a "pick your own" farm or a pre-cut lot. There are advantages to both. Trees tend to be fresher if you cut your own, and farms may also offer activities like hayrides and decorations. The advantage of a pre-cut lot is that you can buy from a wider selection of trees, and it may be more convenient and faster to buy.

Either way, take your family to make the trip more fun. Visit the Georgia Christmas Tree website at www.gachristmastree.com for locations of farms and the varieties that are available.

Once you have selected what you deem the perfect tree, it is important to check its freshness. One easy way is by running your fingers down a branch. The needles should adhere to the twig. Brittle branches and shedding needles are a sign of dryness. Additionally, fresh needles bent between the fingers will not break.

Another freshness test is to lightly shake or bounce the tree on the ground. If only a few needles drop off, then the tree is fresh and with proper care it should stay fresh indoors throughout the season.

You should also check to be sure the limbs are strong enough to hold ornaments and strings of electric lights. The tree should have a strong fragrance and a good, healthy green color. The base of the tree should be 6-8 inches long and straight. Make sure that the base will fit easily into your stand.

Before you bring your tree inside, check for insects. Chances are that you will not find any bugs at this time of the year, but it’s always a good idea to look, just in case.

Aphids, spiders and various other insects sometimes manage to escape the cold and then hitch a ride inside your house if you aren’t careful. To prevent this you can simply prop your tree up outside and give it a good hosing with water before bringing it inside. This not only eliminates insects, but dust and dirt as well. Be sure to let the tree dry before bringing it inside and decorating with lights and ornaments. If you don’t want to bother with hosing it off or if you just can’t wait to get the tree inside, give it several hard shakes.

If you buy a pre-cut tree or if the stump has dried out, cut an inch off the base. Immediately put the tree in a bucket of water or into a stand with water. Once the stump is re-cut, do not allow it to stay out of water or let the water supply fall below the level of the cut.

The best way to keep the tree fresh is to keep it well supplied with water. A tree can use several quarts a day, so check it frequently! Be sure the tree is well supported and away from fireplaces, radiators, electric heaters, TVs or other heat sources. Heat not only poses a fire hazard, it also dries out needles, causing them to brown and drop prematurely.

Lastly, if you choose a live tree, don’t forget to "treecycle" it after the holiday. Trees are a renewable resource and there is an opportunity to give your tree another life by recycling it.

This can be done locally at the "Bring One for the Chipper" sponsored by Keep Liberty Beautiful, Georgia Power, Georgia Forestry Commission and Brewer’s Christmas Tree Farm.

Trees collected Dec. 26-Jan. 13 will be "chipped" into mulch or given to be used as wildlife habitat in ponds. Be on the lookout for more information on this.

For more information, contact the Liberty County Extension office at 912-876-2133 or uge3179@.uga.edu.

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