Christmas Trees Grow Close To Your Home (350)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Even if the selection of Christmas trees is beginning to be slim at the street-side sales lots, you’re not out of luck.

 “The easiest way to get a fresh tree is to cut one at a Christmas tree grower’s farm,” University of Tennessee forester Wayne Clatterbuck said Thursday.

 Tennessee has more than 120 Christmas tree farms where customers can “choose and cut” a tree of their choice, Clatterbuck said.

 About one-fourth of the 37 million live Christmas trees bought nationwide last year came from choose-and-cut farms, according to the Milwaukee-based National Christmas Tree Association.

 A state directory of Christmas tree growers is available from each of UT’s 95 county agricultural extension offices or the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (615-360-0160).

 “Trees in (street-side) Christmas tree lots come from Michigan, the Pacific Northwest, Colorado and New England,” Clatterbuck said. “These trees have been cut four to six weeks before they appear on the lot.”

 Christmas trees bought from lots should be tested for freshness, Clatterbuck said. “Allow the branch to slip through your fingers. The needles should bend, but not break, and stay on the branch, not fall off in your hand,” he said.

 “A second test is to lift the tree a few inches off the ground and drop it on the stump end. If needles fall in abundance, find another tree.”

 Clatterbuck said Christmas trees can be kept fresh in the home by cutting 1-2 inches off the bottom of the trunk and keeping water in the tree stand at all times.

 “A cut tree can absorb 2-3 quarts of water the first day indoors,” he said.

 “If the base of the tree dries out, sap from the tree will form a seal that won’t allow water absorption. Make a new cut.”

 Clatterbuck also advised:

 * Placing the tree in a cool area of the house.

 * Keeping it away from fireplaces, heat registers, heaters and television sets.

 * Unplugging tree lights when people are not in the house and before bedtime.

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 Contact: Wayne Clatterbuck (423-974-7346)