"Fresh or precut, your Christmas tree should last the holidays," stated Bartow County Extension Coordinator Paul J. Pugliese in his article titled "Merry Christmas Trees." "If you want to make sure your Christmas tree is fresh, cut it down yourself. But if you can't, you can still make sure the tree you pick stays fresh and merry until next year.
"If you go to a cut-your-own farm, you know it's fresh. You won't find a fresher, healthier tree anywhere else. Georgia has more than 100 Christmas tree farms. To find the ones closest to you, visit the Georgia Christmas Tree Association website at www.gacta.com. Buying locally also helps support our farmers in Georgia. Christmas tree farms have been in decline in recent years. The rise in land values leaves little room for growing holiday trees for profit. We can't provide even half the amount of Christmas trees needed for our own state. With such a high demand for trees every year, current research efforts are under way to introduce new Christmas tree species for the Southeast."
In Bartow, Noel Forest Christmas Tree Farm offers Leyland cypress trees from 1-foot to more than 20 feet tall. Open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day through Christmas Eve, the Cartersville farm is located in between the Cartersville Golf Driving Range and Cracker Barrel Restaurant on Highway 20. According to www.pickyourownchristmastree.org, Young Road Christmas Tree Farm, 139 Young Road, Cartersville, also offers residents the experience of choosing and cutting their own conifer. Operating from 10 a.m. to dark each day through Dec. 25, the farm carries Leyland cypress, Eastern red cedar, Virginia pine and white pine.
Leyland cypress, Virginia pine, Arizona cypress and Eastern red cedar are the four top trees grown in Georgia, while the Fraser fir is one of the most preferred imported cut Christmas trees, Pugliese said.
"If trekking through a tree farm isn't appealing, precut Christmas trees are springing up at supermarkets, home and garden stores and empty lots around Georgia," Pugliese said in "Merry Christmas Trees." "Most trees sold at home improvement stores were grown somewhere in the North or West. They can cut a tree and have it shipped to Georgia in five days. Depending on the cost of gas, this can increase the cost of trees grown out of state.
"To get the best prices and quality, buy a tree at the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Retail stores want to sell ornaments and lights and often give discounts on trees. Live tree prices are good the week before Christmas Day. But you'll sacrifice quality for price."
While the number of residential fires typically increase due to real Christmas trees, Cartersville Fire Marshal Mark Hathaway said this is not true for the city of Cartersville. He credits the lack of incidences to public awareness and newer LED lights, which use less power than their predecessors.
However, residents still need to take heed when purchasing a live Christmas tree. Hathaway said it is important to follow various safety rules so the tree does not become a fire hazard.
"When you pick your Christmas tree, you need to make sure that the tree is still good and live, and it was chopped as recently as possible. Of course [when] you go to these retail outlets, [you] don't know exactly when they were cut down," Hathaway said. "But a good way to tell on a tree is to actually lift the tree up and kind of drop it down 6 inches or so and give it a good jolt. If the needles stay on, the chances are your tree is good and live. If a lot of needles fall off, chances are that tree is already dying or dead and that's not a tree that you want.
"So that's the first thing to do, is make sure you pick a good one and also if you take the needles and you bend the needle, if that needle breaks real easy, it's probably dead. If it bends as opposed to breaking, then it's probably still alive as well so that's another way of telling. You [also] want to make sure you check the water every day. Make sure you have it in a stand that's able to hold at least a gallon of water. Trees suck up a lot of water, especially when you first put them in there. They'll drink a lot more water than you'd anticipate. So check that water level every day."
Hathaway also advises residents not place trees near a heat source, such as a fireplace or vent.
"I always recommend that you don't put it in a corner and the reason for that is -- and I've seen the actual burn test on it -- if it's in a corner, if it catches fire, it's actually hitting two surfaces plus the ceiling, where if it's on an open wall it's only hitting that one surface," Hathaway said. "So the surface area is double [what] it would affect. So the fire grows so much faster when it's on a corner as opposed to on a flat wall."
For more information on selecting and maintaining Christmas trees, contact Pugliese at 770-387-5142. More details on Noel Forest Christmas Tree Farm and Young Road Christmas Tree Farm can be obtained by calling 770-956-9787 or 770-382-9780, respectively.