While most of us think about Christmas trees only in December, for growers of cut-your-own trees, it is a year-round commitment.
The Business of Christmas Trees
Growing quality Christmas trees is a serious business requiring lots of hard work. Trees are fertilized in the early spring and late summer. Grass in the rows and between trees needs to be mowed. Pests such as balsam twig aphids and red spider mites need to monitored and dealt with. Many growers hand-shear their trees with a sharp machete-like knife and use clippers to give them a natural look rather than an artificial cone-shape. For every tree harvested, two or three seedlings are planted making them a renewable resource.
Most Christmas tree varieties need 6 to 10 years to grow to a marketable size. Christmas trees are grown in every state, even Hawaii, and this year more than 35 million trees will be cut.
For many years we would trudge out to our local tree farm to choose and cut a tree. It was a fun day out when my son was little but as the years went on it became a chore. That is when I tried buying a potted living tree. We prepared a place to plant it well in advance, digging the hole and insulating it by filling it with a bag of leaves. We kept the dirt to refill the hole in the basement in buckets. The living tree was pricey but I looked at it as an investment. After enjoying it indoors for about a week, we hustled it out to the shed to acclimate to the cold before planting it in the prepared hole.
Luckily that experiment worked and the tree thrived outside where it stands as a reminder of that long ago Christmas.
I have since invested in seedling trees from our local state nursery. They are taking their time growing but my hope is to have trees for the grandchildren (which I don’t have yet) to cut in the future.
Keeping a Christmas Tree Fresh
It all comes down to water. Whether you choose an already cut tree, cut your own, or use a living tree, the most important thing to remember is to keep it well watered once it is in the house. Trees are very thirsty and will use up to a gallon of water a day.
- If you have a cut tree, make a fresh cut by sawing a half inch or so off the bottom before setting it up in its stand. Fresh wood absorbs water more readily. If the butt is allowed to dry it will seal over and not be able to draw up any liquid.
- Your tree will drink 65% of its water in the first week it is in the house. A fresh tree, like a sponge, contains more weight in water than the tree itself weighs when dry.
The Myth About Artificial Trees
If fear of fire keeps you from having a real tree, be aware that less than one tenth of one percent of residential fires involve a real tree. Artificial trees are made from petroleum. When they catch fire they exude thick black smoke and toxic fumes. A freshly cut tree is actually difficult to set ablaze. As long as it is kept in water it will be fire retardant.
Enjoy bringing the outdoors inside this holiday season with your festively decorated tree!