Choose and care for your perfect Christmas tree with these pointers

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URBANA, Ill. – Start a family tradition and think about purchasing a real Christmas tree this year.
“Why should you purchase a real Christmas tree? Christmas trees remove dust and pollen from the air,” said University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Ron Wolford.
“An acre of Christmas trees provides for the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people. They also provide a habitat for wildlife.
“Recycled trees have been used to make sand and soil erosion barriers.”
Artificial trees may last for a few years in your home, he noted, but they will last for centuries in a landfill.
That scent. “Plus, what can beat walking into a room with a real tree and smelling that wonderful Christmas tree aroma?” he added.
“For example, the Scotch pine has excellent needle retention with the needles hanging on for weeks even when they are dry, plus it keeps its aroma throughout the season,” Wolford said.
Decide on where you will place the tree, he said.
Will it be seen from all sides or will some of it be up against a wall? Be sure to choose a spot away from heat sources, such as televisions, fireplaces, radiators and air ducts. And place the tree clear of doors.
It is important to choose a tree that fits where it is to be displayed.
For example, if the tree is displayed in front of a large window, then all four sides should look as good as possible. If the tree is displayed against a wall, then a tree with three good sides would be OK. A tree with two good sides would work well in a corner.
The more perfect the tree, the more expensive it will be.
Size. “Measure the height and width of the space you have available in the room where the tree will be placed, but remember to subtract the height of your stand and the tree topper you want to use to get the maximum tree height you can fit,” he said.
“Trees on farms are trimmed to an 80 percent taper, so a 10-foot tall tree would be 8 feet wide at the bottom.
“There is nothing worse than bringing a tree indoors only to find it is too tall.”
Wolford recommended taking a tape measure along when going to pick a tree. Also, bring along a cord to tie your tree to the car and a tarp to cover it to avoid exposure to drying winds.
“If choosing a tree from a retail lot, remember that trees sold on retail lots in urban areas may have come from out-of-state and may have been exposed to drying winds in transit,” he said.
“On my way to work in mid-November, I have seen flat-bed semi-trucks piled high with trees coming from Michigan.”
Buying tips. Most Christmas trees are cut about three to four weeks before they arrive on a retail lot, usually the weekend after Thanksgiving, he said.Ask the retailer whether his trees are delivered once at the beginning of the season or are they delivered at different times during the selling season.
Buying a tree direct from a local Christmas tree grower ensures the freshest quality.
Choosing a fresh tree. A fresh tree will have a healthy green appearance with few brown needles. Needles should be flexible and not fall off if you run a branch through your hand.
Raise the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it on the butt end. Very few green needles should drop off the tree. It is normal for a few inner brown needles to drop off.
“If you decide to go to a cut-your-own farm, prepare for a day in the country,” said Wolford.
Wear comfortable shoes and old clothes. Bring gloves and a camera. Go into the field and choose the tree that fits your predetermined needs. Make sure the handle or base of the tree is straight and at least 6 inches to 8 inches long so it will fit easily into the stand.
“Keep in mind that pines will usually have, at least, some crook in their trunks,” he said.
Most farms will provide saws. After you cut down the tree, many farms will net the tree to make transporting it easier.
Storage. If you are not putting the tree up right away, store it in an unheated garage or some other area out of the wind and cold temperatures.
Make a fresh, 1-inch cut on the butt end and place the tree in a bucket of water.
When you decide to bring the tree indoors, make another fresh, 1-inch cut and place the tree in a sturdy stand that holds at least 1 gallon of water, he said.
Keep the tree watered. A fresh tree can take up to a gallon of water the first couple of days.

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