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Maine Forest Service Christmas tree care and safety tips

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AUGUSTA Governor Paul R. LePage and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) are again urging holiday shoppers to purchase natural Christmas trees locally. Maine-grown Christmas trees are freshly cut, support local tree farms and most importantly, visiting a Maine 'Choose and Cut' Christmas tree operation can be a memorable family experience. The DACF's Maine Forest Service offers tree purchasing, care and safety tips.

'The Christmas season is an important time to give thanks for the many blessings we are given and show appreciation for the contributions of others,' said Governor Paul R. LePage. 'Nothing says Maine more than a locally grown fir tree that graces a family living room. The Maine people are truly fortunate to call this state home and to create products enjoyed beyond our borders.'

Commissioner Walt Whitcomb reflected on the unique experience that tree buyers can have harvesting their own tree from a Maine family tree farm. 'Maine tree growers grow a product that symbolizes the Maine outdoors and the Christmas holiday,' said Whitcomb. You can support local businesses by buying a Maine Christmas tree. You can also create a new family memory from the shared experience of harvesting a tree from a Maine family tree farm.'

Naturally grown Christmas trees are also much less harmful to the environment than artificial Christmas trees. Considered a 'renewable resource,' Maine Christmas trees provide fresh air, wildlife habitat and scenery while they are grown. After the holidays, most Christmas trees are returned to the forest where they can provide wildlife cover, reduce erosion and add nutrients to the soil.

Here are some tips for purchasing fresh cut Maine Christmas trees:

Always ask the seller 'where and when' the Christmas trees were cut. In general, the closer the location and the most recent shipment, the better.

Don't wait until the last minute to purchase your Maine Christmas tree. In the past few years, there have been shortages of Maine-grown Christmas trees.

Check to make sure the Christmas tree is fresh. The needles of a freshly harvested balsam fir tree should bend about 30 40 degrees before breaking.

Some information on transporting and storing a Christmas tree:

Make sure the Christmas tree is tied securely to your vehicle and that the butt end is facing forward.

Avoid transporting the tree when the roads are wet. The spray from road can shorten the life of your tree and dull the color. If necessary, wrap the tree in a tarp.

Once you transport the tree home, try to set it up inside soon. If you can't, make sure you store it outside in a cool, dark location out of the sun and wind. A garage is a good place.

Safety tips for setting up the tree at home:

Before bringing the tree inside to display, cut off at least 2' of the butt end. This will help the tree stay moist and last longer.

Make sure you have the correct tree stand for the size tree you have purchased. For most trees, the stand should hold at least a gallon of water.

Keep the tree watered, especially the first few days after it is set up. There are inexpensive devices that can be purchased that help maintain a constant water level in the stand.

Proper disposal of your Christmas tree:

Completely remove all plastic and metal items from the tree.

Do not burn the tree in your fireplace or woodstove. If all other recycling options are not practical, check with your local fire department, get a burn permit and burn it outdoors when there is snow on the ground.

Recycle your tree at your local transfer station. If they don't accept trees, consider leaving the tree in the woods (landowner permission is required) or near your birdfeeder to provide cover for songbirds.

If possible, chip the tree and use the chips as mulch.

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