They are available! There is nothing like their fragrance, which triggers wonderful memories. Yes, fresh cut and balled and burlapped Christmas trees fill the sales area. Preparing your fresh cut or ball and burlapped tree provides enjoyment and keeps it safe.

When choosing a fresh cut tree to buy, take a handful of needles and carefully bend them back. Needles on a fresh tree should be flexible. If they snap and break easily, select another tree. Keep in mind that any needle will break if bent too far.

The tree should be green or the typical color for that species. Expect a few older, yellow needles from the inside of the tree to fall. If the tree produces a shower of green needles after gently bouncing it on the ground, the tree is too dry.

When transporting your fresh cut Christmas tree, protect it by covering with burlap or a large piece of unwanted fabric, tie the tree with twine and place it in a sleeve of plastic netting, or put it inside a covered part of the vehicle. Wind dries out the needles, reducing the time it can remain safely inside your home.

When you get the tree home, cut 1 to 2 inches off the bottom of the trunk. Then place it in a bucket of warm water to allow water uptake. Keep the tree in a cool garage or shed out of the sun and wind until you are ready to decorate.

Before bringing the tree inside, cut off another 1 to 2 inches from the bottom of the trunk to improve water uptake. Place the trunk in a sturdy, water-holding stand with widespread legs.

Place the tree in the house where room exits and major pathways are not blocked. Keep it away from heat sources to prevent drying out.

Fill the reservoir of the tree stand with the following solution recommended by Dr. Deborah B. Hill, retired University of Kentucky Forestry Extension specialist: 1 cup of corn syrup plus 3 tablespoons of liquid bleach in 1 gallon of water. Corn syrup supplies the tree with a carbohydrate for food. Bleach tends to thin out or remove the sticky pitch from the tree's water-conducting channels and allows the water to enter the tree.

Check the tree stand reservoir daily; continue to add the solution listed above to the reservoir as needed for as long as the tree remains in the house. A fresh tree can easily take up a gallon or more of water each day.

Remove the tree when it becomes dry, brittle or when needles begin to fall. A dry tree is a fire hazard. It is better to be safe than sorry.

A live balled and burlapped tree can be planted in the yard after Christmas. Buy a healthy tree and one that you can handle due to the heavy root and soil ball. Be sure to protect it by covering it or placing it inside a covered vehicle when bringing it home.

After purchasing your tree, keep it outside in a protected, cool location. Gradually move the balled and burlapped tree indoors. First, take it into a garage or unheated room for a day or two before taking it into the house. Place the tree inside a large plastic tub before entering the house to keep floors or rugs clean and dry. Remember that seven to 10 days is the limit for keeping balled and burlapped trees indoors.

Keep the tree out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources such as stoves, radiators, heat vents, and fireplaces. Heat may injure the tree. Use miniature lights for decorating since big lights are heavier and much hotter.

Remember to water the tree enough to keep the root ball from becoming dry and causing the tree to die. However, too much water combined with indoor warm temperatures may encourage new growth. The new growth could be damaged by cold temperatures when it is moved back outside.

After seven to 10 days indoors, move the tree back to the garage or unheated room to allow it to adjust to colder temperatures for several days. If the tree is moved outside right away, it will be very sensitive to cold temperatures and may be injured.

Dig a planting hole two and a half times wider than the soil ball and as deep as the depth of the soil ball. Plant the tree and water thoroughly. Mulch the roots with 2 to 2.5 inches of shredded leaves, shredded bark or pine needles. Continue to check the soil moisture during the winter, and water when needed.

For more information about caring for your fresh cut or balled and burlapped Christmas tree, contact the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Service.

Upcoming Event

"Pumpkin Production in Kentucky" webinar classes are scheduled from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Dec. 5 and Dec .19 at the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Service Office at 4800A New Hartford Road, Owensboro. The first class covers market potential and field preparation. The second class covers insect, disease, and wildlife management.

Commercial pesticide applicator CEU's are offered during the training from 8 a.m. to noon Dec. 10 at the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Service Office. The program is free of charge. Register by calling 270-685-8480 to help with seating arrangements.

Annette's Tip:

To locate a site to cut your own Christmas tree, visit The Kentucky Christmas Tree Association's website at http://www.kychristmastreefarms.com. Go to Member Farms and then Find-A-Farm.

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