Updated: Oct 14, 2019
Ready for Christmas 2027? Some wait until Christmas Eve to get ready for the next day, but not Indiana Christmas Tree Growers. From late March through early May, these choose and cut, and wholesale growers are busy planting Christmas trees for the 2027 cutting season.
To produce a 7 foot real Christmas tree, it takes about seven years in the field. The trees usually spend the first two or three years of their life in a tree nursery. They are “lifted” early in the spring as the ground thaws. All of the dirt is removed from the roots of the 10 to 18 inch tall seedlings. The seedlings are sorted and neatly bundled for shipment to the farms.
There are about 200 Christmas tree farms located throughout Indiana. These farms will plant well over ¼ million seedlings this year. About 200,000 trees are sold in Indiana each year. Thus, growers routinely plant more new trees than the market demands. Not all seedlings survive the first year, and some of those that do survive, do not develop into trees acceptable to the consumer.
Depending on the number of seedlings to be planted, two methods are usually used—manual planting or with mechanical planters. In manual planting, the operator uses a special heavy duty tool called a dibble. The dibble is like a spade but a lot stronger. The dibble, using 18 inch deep foot pressure is inserted into the soil and a “V” shaped hole made by pulling the handle back and forth. The seedling is inserted into the hole to the same depth it was planted in the nursery and with the roots straight down. If the roots become “J” rooted or turned up, the tree will die in a year or two. The ends of the roots are sometimes pruned to prevent “J” rooting.
An auger is used in the mechanical method. The auger prepares holes to cant seedlings with large root systems. If more than a few hundred seedlings are to be planted, the mechanical planters are normally used. These planters are pulled by a tractor and use a coulter and shoe, much like a corn planter, to open a trench. A person rides on the planter and inserts the seedlings into the trench and at the proper spacing. Soil is then mechanically raked into the trench and wheels pack it tightly around the seedlings roots. If air pockets are left around the roots, the seedling may die.
After planting, weeds and grass in the plantation must be controlled by the use of herbicides or mowing. As the seedlings grow each year, they much also be shaped. By November of 2027, the perfect real Indiana grown tree will be waiting for you and your family.
For more information about Christmas trees or to locate a farm near you, please go to http://www.indianachristmastrees.com.
Dan Cassens, ICTGA member, West Lafayette, Indiana
Cell phone: 765-412-6844