It’s easy to grow a few Christmas trees for your family use at the edge of a lawn or field. Some advance planning is required because it takes 8 to 10 years to produce an average-size tree. You may want to plant all of one type of tree or have variety from year to year. Among the best varieties are balsam and Fraser fir, white spruce, and Scotch pine, the latter two being the most adaptable to climate extremes and soil conditions. Christmas trees are often available through county extension service offices or through nurseries specializing in seedlings.
A well-drained site is essential, as is full sunlight. Unless you plan to supply many friends and neighbors with trees, just install four or five the first year, and add one or two each year thereafter. Plant the trees at least 4 feet apart. During the time that the trees are growing, they are of course part of your landscape and can also serve as a windbreak or privacy hedge. If you decide to let some of the trees remain permanently, bear in mind that they will grow up to be “real” trees.
Plant the seedlings early in the spring so that roots can become well established. Once set in, your trees will need surprisingly little care. An annual feeding of a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) will nourish them adequately. If seedlings should heave out over the winter (a result of inadequate drainage and/or a snowless winter), try setting them back in, packing the soil firmly. Keep young trees pruned to one leader; otherwise, don’t prune until the trees are 3 to 4 inches high. A tree left to its own (and nature’s) devices may turn out fine, but plantation quality can be ensured by removing the bottom whorl of branches (which also facilitates mowing around them) and by pruning each year to the desired shape. This shearing will also provide for denser foliage.
Your own homegrown Christmas trees will be shapelier than trees in the wild, while saving you the considerable expense of buying commercially raised trees, thus making the season even jollier.