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Selecting perfect Christmas trees
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It's December. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and Christmas songs are popping up on every radio station. This means it is time to pick a Christmas tree.

Many folks like the convenience of an artificial tree, but I encourage you to join the almost 30 million families in the United States that choose live Christmas trees.

Real Christmas trees offer advantages that no artificial tree can. Live trees have an incredible fragrance that embodies the holiday season.

Real trees also make great memories for children. Some of my fondest memories of childhood holidays come from picking out and cutting down our own Christmas tree with my father. It is also just plain fun to have a real living tree inside the house.

There are several options when it comes to finding the perfect Christmas tree. If you are looking for the experience of cutting your own, there are several within a reasonable driving distance.

If you are looking for a pre-cut tree, by far the most popular option, they can be found at local big box stores, hardware stores, garden centers and commercial Christmas tree lots.

Picking a tree variety is a matter of personal opinion, and we usually have several to choose from.

Frasier firs, grown in the mountains of North Carolina, are popular at commercial tree lots. They have soft needles which is more pleasant when hanging ornaments.

Virginia pines, Scotch pine and white pine are all commonly available at Georgia tree lots. Arizona cypress and Leyland cypress hold up well and rarely show wilt.

Before you head off to find your tree, you should first measure the height of your ceiling where you plan to place the tree. This will save a lot of hassle later on. Select a tree that is at least 1 foot shorter than the ceiling height. Also, subtract a few inches based on the height of your tree stand.

Check available trees for freshness by running your hand over the braches. Fresh branches will immediately spring back to their original position.

Excessive needle drop is a sign that the tree has been too long without water. Check the handle, or base of the trunk, for straightness, as this will make for easier mounting in the stand. A good handle will be between 6 and 8 inches long.

When you get your tree back home, cut an inch off the handle before placing in the tree stand. This will open up the vessels that take up water.

Place your tree in the stand and immediately water. Make sure your stand is big enough for your tree, and never let the water line go below the base of the handle.

If it does, you should cut another inch off the bottom to allow for proper water uptake.

There are many recycling options for Christmas trees after the holiday season. You can use the main stem for firewood or chip the tree for mulch.

Some big box stores will chip used trees and donate the mulch. If you have a pond, old trees make great fish habitat when sunk.

Local organizations will often host events where used Christmas trees can be recycled.

I hope these tips will help you choose the best tree for your family to enjoy this Christmas.

Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.