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      Select a Fresh Christmas Tree This Season for Safety and Longevity

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      LINCOLN, Neb. -- Many Nebraskans will head out this weekend and try to findthat perfect Christmas tree for the season. However, UNL Extension ForesterDennis Adams says whether it is a pre-cut tree from a retail lot or acut-your-own tree, freshness is key.

      "If you want to enjoy your Christmas tree during the entire holidayseason, buy a fresh tree and keep it fresh," Adams said. "To preventdisappointment and potential hazard, check for freshness before you purchase aChristmas tree."

      Obviously, cutting one's own live Christmas tree ensures freshness and quality,but even pre-cut trees from Nebraska are much fresher than trees cut andshipped from western and northern states, often long before Thanksgiving.

      "Buying a Nebraska-grown tree also ensures freshness and supports thelocal economy," Adams said.

      To check for freshness when buying a pre-cut tree, Adams recommends to gentlystroke the needles. If green needles drop off, the tree is not fresh. Brightgreen foliage does not ensure freshness. Almost all pre-cut Christmas trees aresprayed with green colorant to enhance their natural color.

      Another test is to lift the tree and strike the butt on the ground. Too manygreen needles dropping indicate the tree is not fresh and it might be wise toreject it.

      "After you have selected a tree and brought it home, store the tree in acool, protected area, preferably outdoors," Adams said. "Keep thebutt in a pail of water until you are ready to bring it inside todecorate."

      Before erecting the Christmas tree, take a few precautions to ensure freshness:

      • Saw about one-half inch off the butt of the tree stem straight across (notat an angle). The fresh cut removed clotted resins that could prevent the treefrom absorbing water.
      • Mount the tree in a stand that holds plenty of water and add water daily tokeep the stand filled. A fresh Christmas tree may absorb a gallon or more ofwater daily depending upon size and condition. If the water level in the treestand drops below the cut surface of the stem, a fresh cut may be necessary.

      After the holidays are over, a Christmas tree's usefulness can continue.

      With some imagination a discarded Christmas tree can be put to a number of usesaround the home, Adams said.

      The tree can be erected in the yard adorned as a winter bird feeder.

      The boughs may be stripped and used for mulch around flower beds or the trunkmay be sawn into firewood.

      For a list of Nebraska Christmas tree farms contact any UNL Extension office,Natural Resources District, Nebraska Forest Service office or visit thesewebsites: www.agr.ne.gov/publications/promotion/christmas_trees/trees.html or http://nebraskachristmastreegrowers.com/findafarm.asp.

      Courtesy: University ofNebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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