Christmas Tree Ecology
Christmas trees begin their life in a nursery. Here, seeds are taken from cones of mature trees, planted, and covered with straw. They are also covered with a shade cloth to prevent them from being damaged by frost or sun. After three years, the Fraser fir trees, or seedlings, are ready to be moved to the line-out beds for further growth. Line-out beds allow the seedlings to grow without competition from larger trees. With all the trees being relatively the same size, they have an equal opportunity for sunlight and water. The seedlings will stay in the line-out bed for two years or until they are strong enough to be transplanted into the field. During the seven to eight years the trees remain in the field, the grower, or Christmas tree farmer, will spend time and effort in shaping them. After the trees reach a height of three feet they are sheared for the first time. During the shearing process, the top of the tree, or leader is cut back. By slowing the upward growth process, the tree will branch out more quickly. As the tree beings to branch out, the grower will trim the branches to shape the tree and give it a fuller appearance.
Shearing the tree is not the only management practice that the grower will engage in. Integrated Pest Management, a system of pest control methods that uses appropriate cultural practices and pesticide selection to reduce pests, is another management technique that Christmas tree growers are using successfully. Growers also follow sound soil conservations practices, protecting soils from erosion and being careful not to deplete its nutrients.
At harvest time, growers identify finished trees by placing a ribbon on them. The ribbons are color coded with each height being assigned a different color. Often a whole field is not ready for sale in any one year. It often takes two to four years before a field is cleared and ready for new trees to be planted.
The tagged trees are cut and then bundled during a process called baling. During the baling process, the trees are placed in a machine that ties them in twine so that they are easier to ship. After being baled, the trees are taken to the loading yard where they are placed on trucks and shipped to retail lots all across the country.
Producing the best tree for your family that nature and nuture can provide takes much time and effort. It can take anywhere from twelve to fifteen years for a tree to be ready to harvest. Yet, Christmas tree growers agree that this long hard job is worth it when their trees become the decorative centerpiece of your home during the holiday season.