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The Perfect Tree: Experts offer Christmas tree shopping, safety tips

RANDY PARKER/THE DAILY TRIBUNE NEWS
Travis Cochran of Young Road Christmas Tree Farm in Cartersville checks the growth rate of a tree on his farm.
For many, adorning their homes with a freshly cut Christmas tree is a must for the holidays. However, as local experts attest, there are many points to consider regarding selecting and safely maintaining the seasonal conifer.

“To ensure that you’re getting the freshest, highest quality Christmas tree, consider buying it from a local tree farm,” Bartow County Extension Coordinator Paul Pugliese said. “Buying local helps support our local farmers and is a more sustainable choice than buying a tree that was shipped from hundreds of miles away. Trees grown outside of Georgia are often more expensive because of the added cost of shipping and handling. Also, the experience of selecting a tree and cutting it fresh from the farm is more authentic than just picking one out that was precut at a store.

“To find local farms, visit the Georgia Christmas Tree Association website at www.gacta.com or the Georgia Forestry Commission website for a directory at http://www.gfc.state.ga.us/resources/. There are five Christmas tree farms in a 20-mile radius of Bartow County: Lyle’s Christmas Tree Farm in Rockmart, Moss Family Farm in Adairsville, Silver Creek Tree Farm in Silver Creek, Young [Road] Christmas Tree Farm in Cartersville and Noel Forest Tree Farm in Cartersville.”

While the main homegrown conifer species are Leyland cypress, Virginia pine, Arizona cypress and Eastern red cedar, Pugliese said the Fraser fir ranks at the top of imported cut trees for Christmas.

Whether celebrating the holidays with a fresh or precut Christmas tree, he advises area residents to “properly” maintain their conifers throughout the season.

“To test a cut tree for freshness, take a branch and lightly pull down on it,” Pugliese said, referring to selecting a tree. “If you get one or two needles, it’s OK. If you get a handful of needles, the tree is not fresh. Cut a half inch off the tree’s base when you get it home. This unseals the sap residue on the trunk and allows the tree to take up water.

“Water the tree within 20 minutes of making the cut at home. A tree will consume a gallon of water the first two days, and as much as 2 pints per day after that. Make sure the end of the trunk stays at least 1 inch below water level at all times. Preserve the tree by keeping the tree out of direct sunlight and away from direct contact with heat registers.”

Chief Mark Hathaway — fire marshal for the Cartersville Fire Prevention Division — also stresses area residents need to practice safety measures during the Christmas season.

“We are fortunate and we typically do not see a marked increase in holiday fires, but we have had some holiday-related incidents in the past,” Hathaway said. “Most times, these holiday-related fires can be avoided by following general holiday fire safety rules: care for [your] tree; do not overload electrical circuits; use nonflammable decorations; do not leave Christmas lights on unattended — inside or out; avoid using candles, but if used, do not leave them unattended; [and] do not leave cooking unattended.

“An incident that sticks out in my mind was a fire involving a live Christmas tree too close to a space heater. Luckily, the fire was caught quickly and the fire department was notified so the fire did not get out of the room it started in. We have also encountered some unattended cooking fires in the past. Unattended cooking fires are the No. 1 accidental fire cause across the United States and the numbers increase during the holiday season.”

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