It's Christmas tree season again! Time for the great debate: do you have a real tree, or do you go with the artificial?

Since there's not much to do with an artificial tree but buy it and put it up, we'll stick with where to get a real tree for now. According to the Maine Christmas Tree Association, the days of heading out into the woods and cutting down your own wild Christmas tree are mostly in the past. The association says that Christmas trees, which take 4-10 years to grow to maturity, are mostly grown on tree farms, in fact, the association says about 98% of Christmas trees are grown on farms.

So, for those of you still looking for a tree, here are some local places in and around Augusta where you can get the traditional real tree for your house this Christmas season.

      • Evergreen Acres Tree Farm, 208 Back Street, North Monmouth, phone 933-2293. Located one mile off Route 202, look for signs. Features balsam firs.
      • Holmes Tree Farm, 54 Crosby Road, Albion, phone 660-7275. Features balsam firs, you choose the tree and they cut it for you.
      • Moose Hill Farm, 159 Moose Hill Road, Fayette, 897-3093. Experience a Maine family tradition by visiting the farm and cutting your own tree. If cutting your own is not for you, they also offer freshly cut trees.

Once you get the tree home, there are steps that need to be take to make sure it stays fresh for the entire season. The Maine Christmas Tree Association has some tips on its website. Those include:

    • Do a freshness test. Gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off in your hand if the tree is fresh. Shake or bounce the tree on its stump. You should not see an excessive amount of green needles fall to the ground. Some loss of interior brown needles is normal and will occur over the lifetime of the tree.
    • Once you've chosen your tree, keep it in a sheltered, unheated area such as a porch or garage to protect it from the wind and sun until you are ready to decorate it.
    • Before you set up your tree, make a fresh, straight cut across the base of the trunk (about a quarter inch up from the original cut) and place the tree in a tree stand that holds a gallon of water or more.
    • Warning: Keep the tree stand filled with water. A seal of dried sap will form over the cut stump in four to six hours if the water drops below the base of the tree, preventing the tree from absorbing water later when the tree stand is refilled. If a seal does form, another fresh cut will need to be made.
    • In addition, keep your tree away from heat and draft sources like fireplaces, radiators and television sets. Test your light cords and connections before hanging them on the tree to make sure they're in good working order. Also be sure to unplug the lights before you go to bed or leave the house. Never overload electrical circuits.