Christmas tree farms gearing up for another busy season

Yes, it is a bit early to begin to think about Christmas. The pumpkin season just ended and Thanksgiving is lurking around the corner.

But America’s Christmas tree farmers are just beginning to get warmed up. They produce a true “real green” product that will create jobs, is grown in the USA and is recyclable.

Puget Sound Christmas tree farmers and local retail lots offer a wide variety of species. To help select your favorite tree, the characteristics of the more popular species are listed below.

Douglas fir: This tree is generally available as a sheared tree and is the most common species found on tree lots.

It has a nice fragrance and a medium-to-good shelf life. Because of the thick, bushy crowns, they do not lend themselves to large or heavy decorations.

This species is the easiest to grow because it is relatively problem free. It requires seven to eight years to mature as a Christmas tree.

Noble fir: This species is considered the Cadillac of Christmas trees. It grows in a more open pattern, has stout branches, luxurious green needles, a long shelf life and has a nice fragrance. It is popular with families that have large or heavy ornaments.

It is usually the most expensive tree because it takes eight to 10 years to mature and is more difficult to grow than other species.

Grand fir: This sheared tree is the most fragrant of the native species. It has an attractive needle that makes it a popular choice as a flocked tree.

Grand firs require eight to nine years to grow and have a medium shelf life.

Fraser fir: This species is one of my favorites. It has fairly strong branches that will hold heavier ornaments. The needles have a pleasant fragrance. It also has a long shelf life that is comparable to or better than a noble fir.

Fraser fir trees are difficult to grow because of the many pests that constantly threaten them. They require eight to 10 years before they are ready for harvest.

Norway and blue spruce trees: These are generally available only at choose-and-cut farms. They are sheared and will hold heavy decorations. Some consumers think they are child and pet proof because of the stiff, prickly needles.

Spruces require eight to nine years to mature as Christmas trees and have a medium shelf life.

Where to Find Trees

To enjoy a fun experience with the family, visit a local choose-and-cut farm. Locations can be obtained from the Puget Sound Christmas Tree Grower’s website, www.pscta.com. In addition, many nurseries, stores and charity groups offer trees at retail lots.

Proper Tree Care

Once home, cut one-quarter inch off the butt and place the tree in a water stand. The stand should large enough to hold at least one gallon of water after the tree is placed in it. Check the water level daily. A typical six-foot tall tree can drink one gallon of water each day.

Well cared for trees will drink water for to two to three weeks.

Do Trees Really Cost So Much?

A tree farmer invests many dollars and hard work for six to 10 years before earning any return. Not all trees will become salable. Some will die. Others will be damaged or ruined by insects, diseases or other natural occurrences before they reach harvest size.

For example, out of 1,000 trees planted, 900 to 950 Douglas fir may be salable. However, only 700 to 800 nobles may be marketable because of losses to the above factors. Therefore, a grower needs to receive more money for nobles than Douglas firs to make them profitable to grow.

One interesting way to view prices is to look at how much a tree costs and how long it can be enjoyed by a family compared to other regular activities.

For example, if you pay $30 for a Douglas fir or $60 for a noble, they will bring joy and good smells to your home for two to four weeks. If you spend $30 to feed a family of four at a fast food establishment or $50 to attend a movie and eat popcorn, the enjoyment may last from one to four hours.

When viewed in that perspective, trees no longer seem to be so expensive for the time that they bring enjoyment to millions of families.

Dennis Tompkins is a certified arborist and hazard tree risk assessor from the Bonney Lake-Sumner area. He is a nationally recognized expert and consultant to the Christmas tree industry. Contact him at 253-863-7469 or e-mail at dlt@blarg.net. Website: evergreenarborist.com.

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