How to Grow Christmas Trees
Many landowners have decided to start growing Christmas trees. It's not that hard to do, and you can't argue with the results, however, it does require some planning and attention to detail.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor Kathy Bosin adds, "Growing Christmas trees can be a rewarding and profitable experience. Before digging into a project like this, though, be sure to do your homework and investigate the kinds of trees, equipment, and soil amendments you'll need. Think ahead about mowing and maintenance."
Here are all the gritty details, from planting to pest control, starting with choosing a variety of tree for your future tannenbaum.
Step 1—Deciding Which Kind to Grow
Make yourself familiar with the most common kinds of Christmas trees and the reasons for their popularity, so you can choose which one to grow.
This is one of the most common species of Christmas tree. It's seedlings are available in most nurseries and prefer a slightly acidic soil. The tree itself has thick bark and can grow to 8 feet in under 5 years.
This is the second most common kind of Christmas tree. Its seedlings prefer slightly alkaline or neutral soils. It grows just as fast as the Virginia pine, but is a bit more tolerant to harsh soil and climatic conditions.
Other common species of Christmas trees include the red cedar, deodar cedar, sand pine, and Arizona cypress.
Step 2—Soil Requirements
Christmas trees are tolerant to most varieties of soils, but will do best in fine, sandy loams and worst in soils that are either coarse, dense, and sandy or heavily clayed. The ideal pH range for a Virginia pine is 5.5–6.5, for an Afghan pine, 7.0–8.5.
The soil must remain permanently moist: even small periods of dryness could be detrimental to the trees' growth, especially when they are seedlings. At the same time, though, drainage is critical: low-lying soil beds with poor internal drainage cannot support Christmas trees.
Step 3—Preparing the Site
The amount of hard work you invest during this preliminary stage will be directly proportional to the overall health of your Christmas trees.
Picking a place
Do not choose a site near man-made structures; even mature timber stands could cause unwanted shading. Avoid steep slopes also, since they could contribute to soil erosion or poor soil drainage.
Getting it ready
The pocket gopher is an unusual pest, which is destructive during the planting time only. Toxic baits will eliminate it. Clear your site of disruptions like logs and stumps, and dig up any wild shrubs or bushes growing on the site.
Step 4—Ordering Seeds
The best time to order seedlings is February–May, as this is the best time to plant Christmas trees. Summers are not a good time to plant, since the seedlings are vulnerable to the rise in temperature.
You can either plant by hand or use a planting machine. Check for J-rooting, a phenomenon wherein the roots are curved backward, toward the topsoil. It is highly damaging and can kill a developing tree. Spacing is critical, and usually a 6x6–foot plot is allocated for each seedling.
Unless your soil bed is highly deficient in some particular nutrient, you don’t need extensive fertilization. You can add compost, but it is not critical.
Step 7—Pest Control
The most common insect that attacks the Christmas tree is the Nantucket moth, or pine tip moth. Its presence can be confirmed by checking the tips of the lateral branches during the growing season. Pest-inflicted branches have hollowed tips. Christmas trees are highly sensitive to a wide range of chemicals, so make sure you know what the side effects of any insecticide would be before you use it.
Step 8—Weed Control
Weeds can severely harm the tree by draining the soil of vital moisture. They also tend to shade the lower branches, harming the development of a tree’s foliage. Try pulling weeds by hand before resorting to herbicides. If you must do so, spray herbicides during fall or spring.