Growing Christmas trees is a lengthy, involved process. Approximately 60 of our farm’s 300 acres is open land where we grow the trees. For the most part, we have different tree species planted in different fields to ensure an adequate supply of each type. We only plant in the spring to allow time for seedlings to overcome “transplant shock” before the onset of winter. Planting has become a family tradition with our grandchildren lending a hand.
Next comes fertilizing in the spring which gives the trees a rich color, encourages growth, and builds a lasting bond between the branches and the needles. It used to take a full crew carrying pails of fertilizer and spreading it by hand, but now we’re able to do this with a tractor and fertilizer spreader.
However, when it comes to pruning, there is no alternative to doing it by hand. Each tree is individually basal pruned when it is about three feet tall. This painstaking job ensures that the tree will have a nice “handle”, keeps the branches up away from the grass, and allows for good air circulation in the plantation. While work intensive, this really makes a difference to the full grown tree. Further, we reuse the boughs from basal pruning to make our wreaths.
In July and August, we focus on shaping the trees. Although many growers are now using machines to do this, we still prefer to do each tree by hand using a shearing knife. it takes longer, but we can study each tree to shape it as perfectly as possible.
We also mow the entire planation twice each summer to keep it in grass and to discourage hardhack from growing. Besides looking nicer for us and our visitors, it makes walking the plantation easier and creates a safer place to work.
There is a short but welcome break after mowing when we tag and grade all the trees that we will sell and prepare for harvesting the trees.
Harvesting begins in mid-November. It is a exciting and intense time for us. We take every precaution to assure everything goes as smoothly as possible. The first people out in the plantation are the cutting crew. They cut trees tagged as ready to be harvested.
Trees are taken next to the baling crew. Trees are baled in netting for transportation. There are two sizes on the baler according to the size and fullness of the tree. Still, some of our trees just don’t want to fit in either one.
The trees are sorted by their tags and height. Trees are then loaded onto trucks to be shipped out. Needless to say, we are very happy to see a loaded truck leaving our farm.
Also, while the trees are being harvest, we’re also hard at work making wreaths and bows. We start selling wreaths and trees the day after Thanksgiving, and stay open until Christmas. Growing Christmas trees is a four-season job that has given back more that we’ve put in. For us, it is a labor of love. It has brought us friendships over the years and created family traditions.