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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Live Christmas Tree Buying Guide

Oh tannenbaum, oh tannenbaum, how lovely is thy tax situation.

Less than 24 hours after the Department of Agriculture announced they were slapping a 15-cents per tree tax on Christmas tree growers, the Obama administration backed off on the plan. The idea, hatched by the tree growers themselves was to fund a promotional push similar to the successful "Got Milk?" campaign from dairy producers.

Naturally, consumers would get stuck paying any such tax, bloating tree prices even further. Maybe it's time to try that Festivus aluminum pole from "Seinfeld," instead of a tree? So before you break out the band saw blades maybe it's time to consider these guidelines for buying that Christmas fir.

1. Ask Where It Came From
Some Christmas tree lots buy trucked-in trees before Thanksgiving, meaning they'll drop needles faster than airlines can raise their baggage fees. Weeks may have passed since those trees were originally cut, so always ask the vendor where and when they buy their trees.

2. Check for Freshness
Is the tree green and healthy with a fragrant scent and moist, flexible needles? Does it have damaged bark or broken branches? When you bounce it lightly on the ground, does it shower you with needles?

3. Weigh It
A heavy tree -- proportionate to its size -- means it contains a higher water content, and is therefore fresh.

4. Buy Locally Grown
Is there an area farm that sells freshly cut trees? You'll still want to give them the bounce test, but just the fact they were cut on-site means the trees are fresher. Enter your zip code under "Find My Tree Now" on the National Christmas Tree Association's website to find your nearest provider.

5. Cut Your Own
It takes some effort and a good axe or saw, but there's a great deal of satisfaction in harvesting your own tree, from an approved location, of course. Finding just the right tree and tackling the job as part of a team also makes for a fun outing.

6. Buy Online
You can buy anything online these days. Companies like Christmas Trees Galore offer free shipping and you won't have to cart the tree home on top of your car. Check FreeShipping.org for delivery deals and while you're there, find free shipping offers on ornaments and other decorations.

7. Treat It Tenderly
Keep the tree outside in a shaded, cool place for a couple days, preferably standing in water. Before bringing it indoors, cut half an inch or so off the butt end to open up its pores, much as you would with cut roses. Once inside, remember to keep the tree stand topped up with water each day. For more information about caring for your live tree, check out The Ohio University's Extension Fact Sheet.

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