The Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland offers the following suggestions for buying Christmas trees.
You can expect to pay between $20 and $35 for the tree, or less if you consultthe "Maryland Christmas Tree Directory," published by the Maryland Christmas Tree Association in cooperation with the Extension Service and the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
It is available for consultation at public libraries and the County Extension offices.
If you're going to buy a precut tree, go early in the day, when there is ample light. Look for a sign that reads "Maryland Grown Christmas Tree -- Green, Fresh, Fragrant," and for the "Maryland with Pride" logo. This indicates that none of the trees was cut before November.
* Check the color -- gray-green or yellow indicates a dry tree.
* Bend and pull the needles at the ends of the branches. If they pull or snap easily, the tree is sure to drop its needles in the warmth of your home.
* Bang the base of your prospective purchase on the concrete. If the exterior, new-growth needlesplummet, the tree is a potential tinderbox.
* Once home, cut 1 to2 inches from the base of the tree, and put it in 80 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit water. (The tree won't absorb cold water.)
* If you arenot putting the tree up right away, store it on the north side of your home so that it gets shade, and completely replace the warm water periodically. When it's time to bring the tree in, cut another half-inch off the bottom and repeat the warm water treatment.
* Keep thetree away from radiators and other sources of heat.
* A plain, galvanized tree stand is best because it releases zinc, which inhibits bacterial. If you don't have such a stand, add a teaspoon of bacteria-killing household bleach to each gallon of warm water. Otherwise, the bacteria will clog the tree's pores and prevent it from absorbing water.
* Avoid gimmicks; adding sugar, molasses, honey, aspirin or pennies doesn't extend the tree's life. In fact, adding sugars may stimulate bacterial and fungal growth, producing unpleasant odors.
Properly prepared, a Christmas tree can last up to three weeks indoors. When it comes time for disposal, think about using the limbs for winter cover for outdoor plants and use the stump for firewood.
Or you might even stand the tree up in the back yard and string it with popcorn for the birds.
Information: 222-6759 or (800) 342-2507.