By Stephanie SchupskaUniversity of GeorgiaIf you want to make sure your Christmas tree is fresh, cut it down yourself, said a University of Georgia specialist. But if you can’t, you can still make sure the tree you pick stays fresh until next year.“If you go to a cut-your-own farm, you know it’s fresh,” said Matthew Chappell, a UGA Cooperative Extension horticulturist.Georgia has more than 250 Christmas tree farms. To find the ones closest to you, he said, visit the Georgia Christmas Tree Association Web site at www.gacta.com.If trekking through a tree farm isn’t appealing, precut Christmas trees are springing up at supermarkets, home and garden stores and empty lots around Georgia. Most trees sold at home improvement stores grew up somewhere in the North or West. “They can cut a tree and have it in Georgia in five days,” he said.The best time to buy a cut Christmas tree is “anytime, if you keep water on it,” Chappell said. To get the best prices and quality, buy a tree at the beginning of the holiday shopping season, he said. Retail stores want to sell ornaments and lights and often give discounts on trees. Tree prices are good the week before Christmas Day. “But you’ll sacrifice quality for price.”To test a cut tree for freshness, he said, take a branch and lightly pull down it. If you get one or two needles, it’s OK. If you get a handful, the tree is not fresh.Chappell’s tips for a merry Christmas tree are:• Measure the area that you need it to go before you go buy the tree. The tree could end up taking up half of your living room if you don’t.• Pick the right kind of tree. Red cedars, for example, aren’t good. They dry out very quickly if not watered properly. • Cut a half-inch off the tree’s base when you get it home.• Water the tree within 20 minutes of making the cut at home. Secure your tree in its base first. A tree will consume a gallon of water the first two days, and as much as two pints per day after that. Don’t let the water dry out.• Recut the base another half-inch if the water dries out. Don’t do this on a daily basis or by Christmas your tree will be much shorter.