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The hard work behind a real Christmas tree

ByDave Stopher

Nov 17, 2019 #life

It’s the time of year where we start thinking about trekking into the loft to get out the Christmas decorations. Or, for those of us particularly keen, you may already have your living room a-glitter and your halls thoroughly decked out. Whether you’re yet to decorate or you’re ready for Santa’s arrival, you will have thought about what type of Christmas tree should get centre stage in your living room this year. Artificial or real?

Real Christmas trees are touted as having many benefits, such as being wholly renewable and recyclable. But it’s no easy thing to grow a Christmas tree! Join us as we follow a Christmas tree from seed to your living room in order to fully appreciate the level of work that goes into arguably the best type of festive tree!


Like all good crops, a good foundation is needed. At the start of the year, a Christmas tree farmer will start to work on his fields while the rest of us are worrying about working off those extra calories we consumed over the holidays!

Plots that previously held plants are stump-grinded, which removes the tree stumps from the last harvest. The ground is then subsoiled, which stops the soil from compacting and promotes good crop growth. Then it’s time to get out the chisel-plough to aerate the soil and loosen it up nicely, before it is harrowed smooth.

Gathering seeds

Christmas trees produce cones which carry seeds, so tree farmers collect these for a source of seeds. These seeds are treated to a soft bed of straw and mulches, before being covered up with a cloth to protect them from the harsh sun or biting frost. After three years, the seedlings can be moved to line-out beds. Alternatively, some tree farmers opt to buy-in seedlings that are already two to four years old to plant them instead.

At this stage, either cultivated or bought-in seedlings need another two years to grow strong root systems to survive field transplantation.

To the fields!

With the seedlings now ready for the field after five or six years of growing, the real journey can begin. Weed and pest control is paramount during the next three to four years, and it can take seven to eight years from the seedling being planted in a field to fully grow into a Christmas tree!

Over these years, weed killer and compound fertilisers are sprayed and nitrogen fertiliser is used to ensure a good, green colour for the growing trees.

All shapes and sizes

Depending on the type of tree, different treatments are needed to keep them growing right.

A Norway spruce needs its branches hand-hooked or sheared after around four years, where the Nordmann fir can keep growing for five or six years before needing similar attention. Tree farmers will also tend to trees depending on trends and customer demands, shearing the trees for certain shapes and top whorls and bodies.

The classic signs of a good Christmas tree, according to one Christmas tree farmer, is a good top, a 60-degree A-shape to its body, no irregularities, and having a width half the size of the height.

The trees are later colour coded with ribbons tied to them. This allocates the tree to a certain price bracket or height.

Making it last

After around 12 years of cultivating and growing, a real Christmas tree will stand happy and proud in your home. With all that work and time spent on making it perfect, you’ll probably want it to last more than a week before it sheds its pines and wilts, right?

Gardening Know How has some fantastic tips for keeping your Christmas tree looking fresh:

  • Look after it on the way home! This tree has survived pests, frost, heat, hungry rabbits, and more to grow for more than 10 years to get to you. Don’t let the poor thing dry out in your car trip home, especially if you’re carrying it on the top of your car. Cover it up for the journey home.
  • Cut the trunk. Just like with a bouquet of flowers, a Christmas tree needs a little trim at the bottom to keep it healthy. Trim off at least the last ¼ inch to help your tree drink up that much-needed water.
  • Just water. You don’t need anything fancy added. Water is all your Christmas tree needs. Be sure that the stand is filled and check on it twice a day to make sure there’s enough water in there.
  • Give it a good spot. You want your tree away from heating or cooling sources. Make sure it’s standing in a position that doesn’t suffer from changeable temperatures too!

So many years of hard work for a few weeks on display, and yet, Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without the iconic tree!






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